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Thu, Mar 23, 2023

Filming of New Mission: Impossible Film Halted on Svalbard

Cruise Control Disabled

Tom Cruise has accomplished a great deal over the course of a far-and-away career as a Hollywood actor. He has danced in his underpants, played pool, poured drinks, raced NASCAR, shown the money, handled the truth, failed to assassinate Hitler, pretended to fly a veritable squadron of U.S. Naval aircraft, and revived one of Peter Graves’s most iconic roles.

Notwithstanding his penchant for box office gold and the impenetrable plot-armor of his characters—excepting The Last Samurai’s Captain Nathan Algren—Cruise has been bested by the stewards of Svalbard, the northern-Norwegian archipelago known for its Polar Bears and vast expanses of pristine Arctic majesty. More than half of Svalbard is protected by national parks and nature reserves—the sorts of places in which film crews and their legions of people and fleets of vehicles are emphatically unwelcome.

On Friday, 17 March 2023, the producers of the latest Mission: Impossible film, titled Dead Reckoning Part Two, relented in their attempts to obtain permits for dozens of helicopter landings on Svalbard.

Citing concerns over disturbances to arctic wildlife, Norwegian authorities refused to grant permission for more than forty helicopter landings requested by film production concern PolarX. The decision was predicated primarily upon section 73 of the Svalbard Environment Act, which requires traffic on the archipelago “not to damage or degrade the natural environment … or lead to unnecessary disturbance of people or wildlife.”

According to Norwegian news outlets, Arctic filming of Dead Reckoning Part Two was slated to commence in mid-March 2023. Production crews had been stationed in Svalbard and the maritime vessel PolarXplorer, chartered for the production, had docked in the archipelago’s de facto capital of Longyearbyen.

Cruise, who on 16 March was photographed on the streets of Longyearbyen, declined to discuss the matter of filming with reporters dispatched by Svalbardposten, the local newspaper, stating only: “It’s wonderful to be here.”

Following local gubernatorial denial of its original permit applications, PolarX appealed to Norway’s environmental agency—albeit unsuccessfully.

A spokesperson representing Norway’s environmental agency remarked: “We were just informed that the film production team just dropped the complaint to our agency on this matter. The production company said they had other solutions. We’re not dealing with the complaint now because they have dropped it. They wanted our agency to overturn the governor’s decision but they have dropped the complaint to us so I don’t know what kind of solutions they have found.”

PolarX declined to comment on the matter, alluding to a non-disclosure agreement.

A subsequent letter sent by PolarX’s lawyers set forth that an alternate filming solution had indeed been agreed upon. Subject letter stated: “While a complaint to the Norwegian environment agency was deemed necessary due to the significant time pressure, the production has continuously worked on alternative solutions to meet the governor’s concerns. This work has been successful, and the parties no longer see a need to maintain the complaint.”

Sparsely populated by humans, Svalbard is a haven for numerous Arctic species, including walruses, Svalbard reindeer, six species of seals, 12 species of whales, and approximately three-thousand polar bears.

PolarX reportedly stressed in its application that “previous productions in Svalbard have had a global audience, spreading understanding of the Arctic wilderness and history” and promoting “a positive view … of the environment.”

Svalbard’s authorities, however, held fast to their position, stating that “the purpose of these flights,” was apt to set a precedent contradictory to “the goal of limited traffic on Svalbard.”

Svalbard head of environmental protection Kristin Heggelund asserted that the aim extant conservation measures is to maintain “an almost untouched environment.” Landing permits on the Svalbard archipelago have formerly been granted, but most often to production companies filming wildlife documentaries.

Ms.Heggelund added: “This is a completely different type of helicopter use. … It is a feature film. They want to use helicopter landings as part of the actual film, so with considerable activity on the ground.”

The Norwegian government’s sentiments were not shared by all Svalbard residents. Ronny Brunvoll, who heads the tourism concern Visit Svalbard, questioned whether it was “sensible and necessary to be so categorical in the approach to business activities on the archipelago.”

Mr. Brunvoll stated: “I ask myself if it is necessary every time that conservation interests meet business interests. We recognize the protection of vulnerable nature has priority. But at the same time there must be a Norwegian presence and activity on the islands.”

Svalbard’s local business association posited that exceptions could be made for the occasional high-profile feature likely to boost the image of Svalbard—which has served as a backdrop for numerous films, including the 2002 Bond feature Die Another Day.



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