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WASHINGTON —Tom Cruise’s latest action installment of Mission: Impossible Fallout follows operative Ethan Hunt, the daredevil spy, on an extremely perilous quest to save the world.
Cruise and the rest of the Mission: Impossible cast, along with the powerful visuals and the megastar’s mind-bending stunts, keep audiences on the edge of their seats for almost three hours.
The film starts with a dramatic failed operation in which Hunt, an operative of the fictional independent espionage agency “Impossible Mission Force” — or IMF — loses three plutonium bombs to the enemy. With nuclear devastation looming, Hunt teams again with field agents Benji and Luther, played by Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, to reclaim the missing bombs. They are not alone. The CIA’s deputy director, Erica Sloane, played by Angela Bassett, insists on sending along one of the agency’s own with Hunt’s team.
Enter CIA assassin August Walker, played by Henry Cavill, of DC Comics Superman fame. He portrays a large, powerfully built fighter and something of a wild card in the movie.
Rebecca Ferguson returns as operative Ilsa Faust, an antagonist and a love interest for Hunt, who more often than not, saves his life.
“Oh, I always save Tom’s life. I’m tired of saving Tom’s life, actually,” she joked during a red carpet event.
Ferguson, smart and funny, told VOA how happy she’s been to work on the set with the rest of the cast in an action film that respects and elevates women.
“They brought back incredible women and introduced women, who, all of them, have a character and a reason and a purpose for being in this film, and that’s gender equality,” she said.
Her feelings are echoed by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett.
“What my character brings to the movie is gravitas, her brilliance, her mystique, her strength, her integrity and her ability to play chess very well when she is being underestimated by those around her,” Bassett said. “But she also does not mistake her presence for the be-all and end-all. If she is right, she is right. And if she is wrong, she can admit that, too.”
From Europe to India, the action-packed film offers a tight storyline and a stellar cast, but the franchise’s secret weapon is Cruise himself, who performs his own jaw-dropping stunts — from a skydive 27,000 feet above ground, and a plane flying 167 miles per hour, to a vertical helicopter fall he himself is piloting.
He flashes his trademark smile when VOA asks him about his fearlessness.
“I don’t know where it comes from,” Cruise said. “I just have a tremendous passion for what I do and I can’t stop unless I know it’s really there and it’s working.”
He describes his two greatest stunts on film.
“Both of them are very intense,” he said. “On the helicopter, I spent a year and a half training, and I trained with aerobatic helicopter pilots. I’ve trained in airplanes before, I fly aerobatics in airplanes, but the airplanes are very different than helicopters, so I went through grueling training, and I did anything I could to make sure that I was as competent as possible.”
And for a good reason: his life depends on it. Co-star Ferguson recounts her terror when she saw Cruise fall during the helicopter stunts above New Zealand’s mountain peaks.
“And I scream. I was terrified, absolutely terrified until he says, ‘That’s great, that’s a cut, we got that.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is Mission. Phew!’ I’ve done some of the stunts, but nothing compares to what he does,” she added.
Cruise tells us he saved the most difficult stunt for last. He jumps off a C-17 military transport plane airplane.
“It took over 106 jumps to get it. One-hundred-and-six jumps, and you know, we planned to be there for a week and ended up being there almost a month trying to get that sequence. It is significantly more challenging than I anticipated. I have to say, it was pretty exciting, too,” Cruise said.
So, how long does Cruise plan to keep going? And how can he keep outdoing his previous exploits? Smiling, he says, “As long as I can.”
Film's value in story, characters
Mission: Impossible producer Jake Myers says that although it is stressful to watch Cruise do all these impossible feats, “We wouldn’t have the movies without them. But obviously there is a nail biter every time he does a stunt, so that’s what we are here for.”
Since Cruise assumed the role Hunt in the Mission: Impossible movies, he has infused the franchise with extremely dangerous stunts that bring audiences to the theater. At this point everyone is wondering about the personal risks he takes. During the shooting of this installment, Cruise broke his ankle jumping out of a window and over a wall.
Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie does not hide his concern.
“Yes, I mean, when you look at what happened in this movie, when he broke his ankle when he was doing the simplest stunt. There are no small stunts. So, when you are doing a helicopter chase or you are jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet, it’s all pretty nerve-wracking,” McQuarrie said.
Stunts aside, the Oscar-winning filmmaker says that the film’s value lies in its unpredictable storyline and its complex and endearing characters. One of them is Pegg, who plays the witty, loyal but often skittish Benji.
“I think he is like the most kind of an audience member, Benji, that is why people relate to him,” Pegg said. “That is why sometimes he can be funny because he says the things we are thinking in these incredible situations, where the cool guys are just getting on with it, Benji is the one who asks ‘why are we doing this?’”
Mission: Impossible FALLOUT offers stellar cinematography, which as filmmaker McQuarrie says, was incredibly sophisticated based on the action he had to tape.
“It is very challenging, especially because you have an actor who is willing to do all those stunts,” he said. “It gives you the freedom to put the camera wherever you want and sometimes it is very challenging to find the right place to put it.”
Especially when his team had to capture the star fall from the sky just as the sun was setting. The efforts have not gone unrewarded. Critics are calling the movie one of this year’s best action films.