pilchowice lake in Poland

Don’t burn the bridges behind you – a short story of one Polish fracas with Mission: Impossible 7

A 111-years old bridge, located in Lower Silesia in Poland, is set to be blown up for a scene in Mission: Impossible 7. The agreement between the Polish government and the movie producers has somehow been blown out of proportions though.

In a pristine area of Pilchowickie Lake, in the southern part of Poland, there used to be a railway, and one picturesque bridge. No matter little known that spot is, you wouldn’t mind a postcard with that kind of view, would you?

The story of that bridge might come to a sad end though, and that’s because of one Hollywood blockbuster which is currently in the making.

Earlier in 2020, the Polish government, along with PKP, the Polish railway company, stroke a deal with producers of Mission: Impossible 7. In one of the film’s scenes, the aforementioned relic is to be blown up. While the bridge is no Neuschwanstein castle, it certainly deserves a better treatment than being torn into pieces for a forgettable blockbuster.

The case has become somewhat heated lately, in an already blazing country, which now witnesses a collapse of unity and social peace after its last elections.

Alexander McQuarrie, the director of the upcoming Mission: Impossible 7, has joined the discussion last week. In an open letter, published on Entertainment Weekly, McQuarrie has explained the entire situation from his perspective. Below, you’ll find the entire statement, along with some of my thoughts on the topic.

A statement by Mission: Impossible 7 director, Alexander McQuarrie

Last week, a story broke in the press alleging that the producers of Mission: Impossible had asked for permission to demolish a 111-year-old bridge in Poland and that, in so doing, we were destroying a piece of that wonderful country’s heritage in the name of entertainment. I’ve read a lot of inaccurate stories in which I’m named and I normally just ignore them, but in this case I felt it was important to personally clear up some misinterpretations of our intentions, starting with this: There was never a plan to blow up a 111-year-old protected monument. It’s a pretty good story (with a twist) and to the best of my knowledge it’s true, so bear with me.

First of all, I have lots of respect for McQuarrie for taking a stand in the matter. It’s not very common for directors to engage in media razzmatazz. In this beginning, the director clearly states his goal – clarify that there were no intentions of blowing up the bridge.

Mission: Impossible has come to be known as a franchise that does as much as humanly possible without the use of digital effects, which allows us to create moments in a way audiences have never seen before. At the very start of the film’s pre-production, we had a rough concept for a sequence involving a bridge over a body of water, ideally one that could be (spoiler alert) partially destroyed. While we doubted such a thing would be possible, a broad search was initiated in the unlikely event that any country anywhere in the world might have a bridge that needed getting rid of. Some lovely people from Poland responded with enthusiasm.

As a fan of practical effects, I feel that there’s already a red flag in that part of the statement. Sure, many directors reach for practical effects, and audiences love it. Take Christopher Nolan and his acclaimed Dunkirk (2018), a war epic which featured a French ship built in 1957. The ship was used in an explosion scene, however the monument was not even partially destroyed.

mission: impossible 7 blowing up a bridge in Poland - cultural hater meme

They just happened to know of a non-functioning railroad bridge in an area that suited our purposes. And, better yet, the area in question was eager to promote tourism. Local roads being what they are, their best chance to do this rested in revitalizing an outdated rail system. This included replacing the main decking of the bridge in question, which engineers had deemed structurally unsound. The bridge was not built entirely in 1906 as has been reported.

McQuarrie convinces the reader that the act of destroying the bridge was in favor of local tourism, probably expected to gain traction after Mission: Impossible 7 premieres. You might expect flocks of people taking pictures on Malta and Dubrovnik, where HBO’s Game of Thrones was shot, however how many people visits spots where any of the Mission Impossible movies was filmed?

Please, leave a comment if you do.

That bridge was partially destroyed by the retreating Germans during the Second World War before being rebuilt (the current bridge is, in fact, one of two very similar ones in the area, neither of which is a protected monument). Bottom line: to open up the area to tourism, the bridge needed to go. And we were only too happy to help out. As a bonus, the lake which the bridge spans is man-made (providing power to a nearby hydro-electric dam) meaning we could easily take steps to protect the surrounding environment. It was understood that we could only destroy the already unsafe portions of the bridge that needed to be rebuilt, and not the original stone pilings at either end, upon which a new bridge could one day be constructed (just as it had been after the original bridge was destroyed). That suited us just fine. We also had plans to offset any damage the very necessary demolition of the bridge might cause.

Let me put this straight. I whole-heartedly believe that Poland would survive without that bridge. However, it “grinds my eyes” to see that change of the tone of voice that ranges from “There was never a plan to blow up a 111-year-old protected monument” to “It was understood that we could only destroy the already unsafe portions of the bridge that needed to be rebuilt, and not the original stone pilings at either end, upon which a new bridge could one day be constructed“.

mission: impossible blowing up a bridge in Poland - cultural hater still

The people we spoke to were excited by the prospect of our bringing a large film production to Poland and the resources it would inject into the local economy (Poland has just released a new film incentive program, and wanted a known project to promote its film industry). They were also delighted that we’d be making way for a new bridge that might otherwise not be rebuilt, and might lead the government to revitalize the railroad line. And Mission: Impossible (spoiler alert) would get to blow up part of a bridge. In the name of entertainment? Absolutely. And to the benefit of the Polish film industry, the local economy and with the greatest care to the surrounding environment. But not everyone was happy.

Let me shed some more light. This scene, just like any other scene, was not to be set script-wise in Poland. The Lower Silesia, as well as the bridge itself, would represent… Switzerland.

In that case, talking about a boost for the local economy is a fairytale, plain and simple. And let me just emphasize, that in the opening statement, Alexander McQuarrie writes that there was never a plan to blow-up the 111-years old monument.

One individual, for reasons I cannot specify without revealing their identity, claimed they were owed a job on the production for which we felt they were not adequately qualified. When this individual’s demands were not met, they retaliated. After harassing members of our production publicly and anonymously on social media, as well as privately, this individual misrepresented our intentions and concealed their personal reasons for wanting to penalize us. They even tried to have this condemned, unsafe and unusable bridge landmarked in the hopes of preventing it from ever being removed and rebuilt (which we understand would be to the detriment of the area’s economic needs). Then they reached out to us to gloat about it. In short, this individual manipulated the emotional response of the people in a move that has now compromised our ambitions to bring our production to Poland.

It’s hard not to understand the frustration at the whole situation. Nonetheless, it does feel slightly exaggerated that one certain individual – presumably an on-set worker – would go such a long way to conceive that story.

Tom Cruise in mission: impossible

Mission: Impossible is and always has been a global franchise – one that takes great pride and pleasure in visiting other countries to celebrate other cultures (and, with everyone’s kind permission, occasionally make a bit of cinematic commotion). We would never under any circumstances dream of intentionally causing harm to the cultural or historical landmarks we visit, and take great pains to protect those landmarks we feature. To respect and celebrate the places we film is our prime directive. No one involved in the production asked for permission to destroy a historically significant landmark in Poland. In all sincerity, our only agenda is to tell an engaging story as authentically as we can and hopefully entertain the hell out of you. We still very much hope we can come to Poland, work with the good people there, and help in any way we can the local environment and economy. Of course, we’re also happy to get rid of any condemned bridges that might be lying around. Waste not, want not, after all. Obviously, these are all trivial concerns in the face of unprecedented events going on all around us. This is not an appeal to anyone for anything other than the chance to set the record straight.

I can’t help but feel that this statement was written in a hurry. By that point, the bridge went from a landmark to an unsafe construct, and was allegedly not-to-be blown-up to partially blow-up.

mission: impossible 7 blowing up a bridge in Poland - cultural hater meme

If you’ve read this far, I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider our side of things, and am truly thankful to any and all who gave us the benefit of the doubt. On behalf of everyone working on Mission: Impossible 7, I wish you all a safe and healthy future in these frightfully uncertain times.

What do you think about the issue? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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