Tom Cruise Reveals How He Stays Fit as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s …

24 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mission: ImpossibleIn the previous Mission: Impossible films, Tom Cruise climbed mountains, braved explosions in Shanghai and scaled Dubai’s Burj Khalifa — all without a stunt double. The theme that runs like a quick-burning fuse through “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is the tricky relationship between inevitability and chance — or luck, rather, as signaled by the brief appearance of a rabbit’s foot in one of Tom Cruise’s more brutal action sequences.And let’s just say that the fifth Mission: Impossible film, starring Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt alongside Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Jeremy Renner, does not disappoint.Mention Mission: Impossible and there’s a good chance you’ll flash on that image of Tom Cruise suspended over a computer terminal, trying not to trip an alarm.First appearing as a TV show on CBS in 1966, Mission: Impossible ran for 7 seasons and introduced the Impossible Mission Force – a team of secret agents tasked with taking on missions which the government couldn’t.

From hanging onto an Airbus A400M plane at 5,000 feet as it takes off, to jumping off the rooftop of the Vienna State Opera house, Tom’s stunts – mostly done by the actor himself – will take your breath away. But unless you’ve recently watched Brian De Palma’s 1996 first entry in the series, chances are you don’t quite remember what got him in that dangling position. Together with its iconic theme tune, the show created the self-destructing mission briefings and intro sequence with clips from the upcoming episode, something director Brad Bird borrowed for 2011’s Ghost Protocol. It’s a remarkable scene, as if he and director Christopher McQuarrie have taken heed of the words spoken to Cruise’s all-action spy Ethan Hunt when he’s told “this may very well be our last mission — make it count”.

The result is an existential quandary that writer-director Christopher McQuarrie negotiates with characteristic cleverness and a sly respect for the sheer durability of genre; at once questioning and reaffirming the pleasures of cinematic espionage, this is the rare sequel that leaves its franchise feeling not exhausted but surprisingly resurgent at 19 years and counting. As Ilsa Faust, the Swedish actress – not to be mistaken for the British soul singer – proves to be a match for Tom’s character Ethan, and she is amazing. But before all that, in the 90s, movie superstar Tom Cruise started to look into a big screen revival of one of his favourite TV shows, Mission: Impossible.

Despite early reports of soft tracking, this late-summer Paramount release should meet with a solid embrace worldwide, and could demonstrate considerable B.O. resilience through the doldrums of August. Best known for playing Elizabeth Woodville in the BBC’s Golden Globe-nominated 10-part historical drama The White Queen, she has shaken off her corsets to show off fighting skills you’re more likely to associate with MMA stars Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano. Likewise, this latest Mission is about a shadowy outfit, The Syndicate, looking to destroy Hunt and the IMF (that’s if Alec Baldwin’s CIA bigwig doesn’t get there first).

It’s worth recalling that the Brad Bird-directed “Ghost Protocol” overcame a slow start to become the series’ highest-grossing entry (nearly $700 million worldwide), suggesting there was still plenty of life in “Mission: Impossible” — and in Tom Cruise’s career, whatever personal embarrassments and professional setbacks he may have suffered along the way. The impressive results, which include his rock-hard abs, a shirtless torso and some strong biceps, can be seen within the first 30 minutes of Rogue Nation. One of the most suspenseful episodes takes the audience to the city’s ornate opera house where Cruise, as Ethan Hunt, plays a deadly game of hide-and-go seek members of The Syndicate, a dark force bent on destroying the earth — and while they’re at it, killing Austria’s chancellor.

After a few lackluster recent vehicles (“Jack Reacher,” “Oblivion”) and one terrific, underappreciated thriller (“Edge of Tomorrow”), it’s clearer than ever that Ethan Hunt is not just one of Cruise’s signature roles, but also a commercial oasis to which he can reliably return in between riskier attempts to extend his personal brand. The real intrigue, however, comes with Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, a British agent deep undercover in The Syndicate who helps Ethan but seemingly can’t be trusted. Our very own capital features in a lot of the film, and some of the scenes will make you look at London with a fresh perspective and give you a new appreciation for the city. That much is clear from a set piece that has already figured heavily into Paramount’s marketing campaign, and which is wisely dispensed with in the opening scene: Bent on retrieving a cache of nerve-gas missiles from a band of Chechen separatist fighters, Ethan leaps onto a military cargo plane mid-takeoff and hangs on for dear life as terra firma recedes behind him — an astounding piece of airborne staging that Cruise, with his distaste for green-screen effects and his fondness for performing his own stunts, pulls off in typically sweat-free fashion. From exhilarating car chases in fancy BMWs and speeding along in motorbikes, the viewer is thrown into the action from the film’s opening sequence and there’s no let up.

Cruise has a gift for spotting talent, with each film doing huge numbers at the box office and the entire franchise already earning more than $2 billion dollars worldwide. Following previous Mission alumni — including Kristin Scott Thomas, Thandie Newton, Maggie Q and Léa Seydoux — she’s the most dynamic female presence ever to grace the series. The sequence is at once a tasty appetizer and a total red herring, and “Rogue Nation” swiftly gets down to business by putting Ethan and his fellow operatives out of commission. Having portrayed a psychopathic killer stalking the London Underground in Creep, serial killer Ian Brady and a murderous shooter in Channel 4 drama Southcliffe, for which he won a Bafta, he’s clearly no stranger to playing baddies.

We are introduced to Ferguson’s agent Ilsa Faust (British, despite the German name) as she blasts past the camera in a ludicrously gorgeous gown at the Vienna Opera House. Ferguson, who trained intensely for weeks for the physicality she displayed in the film’s fighting scenes, called the experience “exhausting, exhilarating and … intoxicating,” adding: “Now I’m sort of decommissioning, realizing what actually has happened.” McQuarrie said Pegg was “able to really invest the script with a sense of impossibility and adventure — but also with character and things that made the characters more relatable and more real. Citing the destruction of the Kremlin and other extensive property damage from “Ghost Protocol,” brash CIA boss Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) succeeds in dismantling the IMF and absorbing it into the Agency — a move that effectively paralyzes two of Ethan’s old pals, top analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and tech genius Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and proves serious enough to bring Ethan’s trustiest ally, Luther Stickell (an underused Ving Rhames), back in from the cold.

He’s best known as the Oscar-winning writer of 1995’s The Usual Suspects but has formed a close relationship with Tom Cruise in recent years, working on the script for Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow and directing the action adaptation Jack Reacher. Still, those guys are doing relatively well compared with Ethan himself, who barely makes it through the opening credits before he’s accosted in London, tied up and repeatedly pummeled by a chrome-domed torture specialist called the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten). Wearing contact lenses to protect his eyes from specks of debris, Cruise hangs on the Airbus, scrapes his knee on the asphalt in a breathtaking motorcycle chase and holds his breath for a full six minutes under water as he battles — and ultimately destroys — The Syndicate.

It’s the work of a wide-ranging shadow organization known simply as the Syndicate (the “rogue nation” of the title), which has been setting off destabilizing waves of violence, civil unrest and catastrophe across the globe, some of which — far-flung industrial accidents, jetliners vanishing into thin air — have deliberately uncomfortable real-world echoes. The action scenes are plentiful, with a colourful globetrotting story that bounces from Minsk to Vienna to Casablanca to London, though arguably there isn’t anything quite as heart-stopping as the computer-disc heist from the Brian De Palma-directed first film back in 1996. The curtain comes crashing violently down on that episode, but the movie’s second major action sequence is a marvel of precise execution and quietly fraught suspense, forcing Ethan to swim his way into a highly pressurized underwater cavern in order to lay hands on a weapon that could make or break the Syndicate.

Here, McQuarrie, who directed Cruise in Jack Reacher, is proficient and punchy — though at times it feels like the wow factor was all stacked on that opening Cruise-on-the-plane sequence. It’s a remarkably taut bit of business (shot on the large-format Alexa 65 6k digital camera), literally breathless in its intensity, yet executed with the sort of deftness and economy may remind you of Ethan’s early reference to the great jazz drummer Shadow Wilson and his famously “light touch.” Even when the characters are diving into giant water turbines or ripping up the streets of Morocco on motorcycles, that intricate, improvisatory lightness is a quality that McQuarrie’s film has in spades. McQuarrie introduced the scenes with some wit and a few caveats – it’s been just a month since the shoot ended so the music was temporary, the effects weren’t finished and all the elements were a little rough. It doesn’t help that the script by McQuarrie and Iron Man 3’s Drew Pearce has some unintentionally mirthful moments — not least Baldwin’s character ranting that Hunt is the “living manifestation of destiny”.

To be sure, McQuarrie isn’t as flamboyant a stylist as his predecessors Brian De Palma and John Woo, and although it shares with “Ghost Protocol” the same superb cinematographer (Robert Elswit), the new film has an altogether darker, more workmanlike palette, with little of the previous film’s eye-tickling compositional flair. (And whereas “Ghost Protocol” boasted 27 staggering minutes of footage shot on Imax cameras, the image stays strictly widescreen in “Rogue Nation,” gaining relatively little from the giant-screen format in which it was screened for review.) But whatever the filmmaking may lack in visual or visceral impact, McQuarrie (whose past collaborations with Cruise include directing “Jack Reacher” and scripting “Edge of Tomorrow”) more than compensates on the written front; his screenplay (based on a story conceived with Drew Pearce) achieves an admirable complexity without sacrificing coherence in the process. Good rather than grand in what is a busy year for espionage films, this latest Mission: Impossible never quite does enough to stand out from the crowd. On the face of it, “Rogue Nation” is another patchwork of Hitchcockian tropes and James Bondian cliches, as familiar as the recurring strains of Lalo Schifrin’s classic musical theme: Carefully encrypted messages are transmitted, bank-account numbers are copied and deleted, and high-tech explosives are armed and disarmed.

Behind the Syndicate lurks a calculating uber-villain (played with understated menace by the protean Sean Harris) deluded enough to confuse mass annihilation with salvation, and even after he’s defeated, the film acknowledges, there will be many others like him waiting in the wings. Indeed, when the four are eventually side-by-side, the camaraderie reminded me of the tail end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and how those final shots make you suddenly realize a team has formed before your eyes. Everyone is wearing a mask, and not just of the latex variety: As Ethan and Ilsa’s pointed conversations remind us, these agents are professional con artists who must decide anew each day whether they owe their highest allegiance to their cause, their employers, their friends in the field, or the civilians who are always at risk of becoming collateral damage. Hunt isn’t sure what to make of her at first, as she chats in Swedish to a hulking henchman, and his confusion continues when she slips off her stilettos and starts to beat the living hell out of a group of supposed allies in the room.

And so the characters’ sense of defeat becomes a metaphor for the essentially formulaic nature of the action-thriller, calling into question the viability of a genre of which we’ve already seen countless iterations and will certainly see countless more. While the most recent “Die Hard” and “Terminator” movies have playfully acknowledged that their once-strapping male stars are well past their physical prime, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is having none of it. Whatever combination of stunt work and digital trickery was involved (very little, if reports are to be believed), Cruise remains as deft a physical performer as ever, and projects nary a shred of self-consciousness or vanity; he is, no less than Ethan Hunt himself, an incorrigible daredevil and a consummate professional. Baldwin’s blustering, antagonistic CIA man lends the proceedings a welcome punch, while Pegg, previously seen in “Ghost Protocol” as a comic-relief figure with a full arsenal of malfunctioning gadgets, comes fully into his own here as an indispensable and uniquely courageous member of Ethan’s team. Renner and Rhames are rather sidelined by comparison, though they get considerably more screen time than Zhang Jinchu, whose prominently billed, blink-and-you-miss-it performance as a CIA underling feels like a sop to the film’s Asia-based investors, China Movie Channel and Alibaba Pictures Group.

We’ll have to wait a few months to find out what that’s all about but right now it’s time to chase after Ferguson who is escaping on a motorcycle. She definitely has something everyone is after, but the guys on bikes also seem pretty intent on putting her to death, with plenty of automatic weapons fire.

Cruise puts his car and himself in harm’s way to keep the bullets of her back, careening down incredibly narrow passages and even using a spiralling car to take out multiple opponents, in a scene you might remember from the trailer. Camera (Deluxe color, Arri Alexa digital, Panavision widescreen, Imax), Robert Elswit; editor, Eddie Hamilton; music, Joe Kraemer; production designer, James Bissell; supervising art director, Paul Inglis; art directors, Andrew Bennett, Stephen Carter, Amanda Dazely, Matt Gray, Ben Munro, Helen Xenopoulos; set decorator, John Bush; costume designer, Joanna Johnston; sound (Dolby Atmos), Chris Munro; supervising sound editor, James Mather; re-recording mixers, Mike Prestwood Smith, Gilbert Lake; special effects coordinator, Dominic Tuohy; visual effects producer, Maricel Pagulayan; visual effects supervisor, Ken Hahn; visual effects, Double Negative; stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood; associate producers, Thomas Hayslip, Helen Medrano, Pagulayan; assistant directors, Toby Hefferman, Tommy Gormley; second unit director, Gregg Smrz; second unit camera, Jonathan Taylor; underwater camera, Peter Romano; casting, Mindy Marin, Lucinda Syson. This scene ends with the car flying backwards and launching into the air, a huge car stunt that looks very scary indeed and also earns a few more laughs from Pegg’s reaction.

And then there’s the action, which is more couched in realism than many similar films and that’s mostly down to the focus on extensive practical stunts. By the time we see this kind of film in the cinema, it’s been polished through post-production to an incredible sheen, perfect for projection onto the incredible IMAX screen.

And there were also a few shots with camera car mounts visible, a reminder that each and every shot in this sequence had to be set up and captured and repeated, sometimes for a scant second of screen time.

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