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Last edited 25 Aug 2021
Infrastructure and film: Five iconic movies that civil engineers helped bring to life
There’s nothing like the magic of film to transport us to another world. We rarely think about how a film is put together, but did you know that civil engineers have played a part in the creation of some movies' most iconic scenes?
As the UK emerges from the 2020/2021 pandemic lockdown and cinemas re-open, we thought this was the perfect time to re-visit some of our favourites – and show how civil engineers are responsible for bringing the magic of the movies to life.
 The Dark Knight Rises
There are few films as reliant on infrastructure as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012). When we first meet super-villain Bane, who has set out to destroy Batman and his beloved Gotham City, he decides to set up the headquarters of his army – where else? – but in the underground sewer system.
The ferocious Bane is cunning enough to realise that the complexity of the sewerage system is sure to give him a strategic advantage – after all, who could be smart enough to foil him underground? His plan works out remarkably well, as Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon demands that the entire police force descend underground, leaving Gotham vulnerable to threat.
Aside from highlighting the importance of our sewerage systems, Gotham City – which in Nolan’s imagining is a nightmarish, apocalyptic version of New York – is also awash with engineering marvels from London’s Senate House to New York’s Queensboro Bridge.
 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Not one for the vertiginous amongst you, Brad Bird’s 2011 offering, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, sees Tom Cruise scaling the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Mission: Impossible films are known for their heart-stopping action scenes, but few moments in the franchise offer quite the same adrenaline rush for filmgoers as this one.
At 2,722 feet – that’s roughly a mile – you could forgive Cruise for relying on a team of world-class stunt teams, but he decided to do the scene himself. Skydance Productions, the studio behind the film, had to seek permission to drill holes in and break the windows of the Burj Khalifa to make the stunt possible.
Although Cruise's Ethan Hunt is seen free-climbing as a sandstorm descends, in real life, it took teams of engineers, professional stunt artists, architects and, of course, a safety harness, to pull off this spectacular scene.
 King Kong
The Empire State Building is a 102-storey skyscraper in New York, which has become beloved to filmmakers and can be spotted in many a Hollywood outing. One of its earliest and most famous appearances was in the 1933 version of King Kong, then considered one of the greatest horror films of all time.
After escaping from a Broadway theatre, where he has been shackled and presented to the audience as an exhibit, Kong flees before scaling the Empire State Building.
Director Peter Jackson re-created this scene in his brilliant 2005 re-make. With Jackson’s eye for detail and use of stunning visuals, the scene where Kong climbs the Empire State Building, before falling to his death, is just as iconic as the original.
We couldn’t have a list of the greatest infrastructure in film without including 007 himself. The 1995 film GoldenEye opens in spectacular fashion as Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, parachutes off the 220 metre Contra Dam. In 2002, it was voted the greatest stunt in movie history.
Built in 1965, the Contra Dam, also called Verzasca Dam by the locals, is the epicentre of the Verzasca Hydroelectric complex. The dam, located in Locarno, Switzerland, is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, making it the perfect backdrop for GoldenEye’s dramatic opening.
This article originally appeared on the ICE Community Blog portion of the ICE website. it was written by Jessica Beasley, Communications Executive and published on 20 August 2021.
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