Inside The Edit: Mission Impossible 4 Trailer

July 7, 2011 at 11:04 am

Inside The Edit: Mission Impossible 4 Trailer | Film Editing Blog

Mission Impossible 3 was by far my favorite film in the franchise.  J.J Abrams blew me away.  It had the best villain, the best action and the best story.  It was also the first movie to really show Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as a human being with family and love at stake.

XTRA | J.J Abrams Tribute

So how do you top it?

You keep J.J Abrams involved and enlist Brad Bird to direct his first live action film.  The director of The Incredibles takes on Mission Impossible?  I’ve been excited since they made the official announcement.  The fourth film is also meant to hand off the series to newcomer Jeremy Renner and while I was skeptical, I trust this stellar team to pull it off.

Whatever doubts I had were erased by the film’s debut trailer.  In my opinion, this is the leading contender for trailer of the year!  So lets take a closer look.  (I was going to watch it 12-15 more times anyways.)


  • The trailer clocks in at 2 minutes and 24 seconds. (144 total seconds)
  • It features Won’t Back Down by Eminem (feat Pink)
  • There are approximately 130+ shots.
  • An average of 0.9 shots per second.
  • Nearly half of the shots feature action.

Empire has a great breakdown of the actual content of the trailer.


I’ve always been a fan of screenwriting.  It’s my number one passion in life.  However, editing has become a very close second and turned out to be my destined career path.  I’ve been a professional editor in sports broadcasting for more than 5 years now but my interest in editing goes all the way back to my childhood.

It’s all about the trailers.  I’ve always been obsessed with what I consider to be an overlooked art form.  I think that’s how I got into the habit of writing trailers for my uncompleted screenplays.  I’ve always been obsessed with great trailers.

From an editing standpoint, I loved the Mission: Impossible 4 trailer.  When I’m at work, the best way to make my day is to bring me an amazing song and a bunch of money shots to cut to it.  Each and every beat in the song counts and you have so much room to be creative.  Sports is such a great medium to edit in.  There are always big hits, victorious moments and incredible emotion.  It’s one of my favorite styles of editing.

The M:I4 trailer is my kind of teaser.  It’s a fast paced trailer that doesn’t give too much of the story away and it’s absolutely packed with jump cuts, movement and rhythm.  Not only that, I love the progression of the pacing.  It’s a perfect mix of quick cuts and slower sequences.

It begins with a little background on the story.  I actually wish I saw this in theaters first so the reveal of Ethan Hunt and the “Your mission should you choose to accept it” line would have been a surprise.  They structured the first 30 seconds to keep you guessing and it works well if you don’t know what you’re watching at first.

Unfortunately, movie blogs clearly label their headlines and the surprise was lost for me.  There’s really no way around it.  I suppose I could have waited a few days to catch it in front of Transformers 3 but come on!

The trailer really takes off when Eminem kicks in.  Each and every beat of the song ushers in a new shot.  The one issue you get with a song that quick is the inability to really establish a shot before the next beat arrives.  You can get away with 10 frame shots sometimes but not when you’re really trying to set up a movie.  The editor solves this problem with clever jump cuts.  Showing the same shot or sequence multiple times from different angles and framing is a great way to keep the action moving without the trailer becoming a incoherent mess.

There is a phenomenal shot at the 1:10 mark where Ethan is in a car as it presumably crashes.  It’s a fantastic speed change and a good example of using movement on a beat instead of a cut.  In this case, it’s Ethan being whipped around inside the vehicle.

I think the sequence at 1:19 is brilliant.  So many quick shots that fade in and out of black!

At 1:22 the sequence ends with a pretty fantastic edit.  Right on the beat you get Paula Patton’s character punching someone and you also get another character smashing through a window.  Two impacts.  One cut.  Nice.

Like many great action trailers this one has a moment of pause to accentuate a money shot.  This time, it’s Cruise jumping out of a car in the dessert before it crashes nearly crushing him in the process.  It’s extremely effective because the music is lost and with people busy reacting to the flying cars, you’ve essentially given yourself a clean slate moving forward.

They can take the trailer anywhere now from a pacing standpoint.  They definitely needed a moment to establish Jeremy Renner’s character and it works perfectly here.

Of course, what would any Mission: Impossible movie be without a death defying aerial climb up a skyscraper.  You can’t get much bigger than the tallest building in the world.

“Okay now remember blue is glue.”

“And what is red?”


I can’t wait for the poster and the theatrical trailer!  December is too far away!

Inside The Edit: Mission Impossible 4 Trailer | Film Editing Blog