By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Since last year, the media and the internet has been abuzz, not necessarily about Mission Impossible: Fallout, though after watching the film, the movie is as buzz worthy as a giant bee hive, it was about Tom Cruise breaking an ankle during the filming of a stunt that fell short, which was the shot’s intention, but not the stunt’s intended result. The remarkable aspect of the stunt was how he climbed up over the top of wall onto the roof and dragged his broken leg, toward then out of camera. Not acting, the limp and face were real. Production was halted for three months. It’s a shot deserving of legendary status.
After five months of healing, Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt, still with a weakened ankle, was sprinting full throttle through the streets of London and on building rooftop-pathways leading up to the stunt. Based on the different angles and time length before cuts, it’s safe to say that Cruise sprinted several miles over the days the shots were taken.
Cruise in several interviews has said, “The press thought that I was supposed to land on the other side of the wall (thus the notion of coming up short when he leaped toward it). I was always supposed to hit the side of the building. We wanted to show impact. We did the stunt two times before and the impact feels like getting hit by a baseball bat in the stomach. I looked at my ankle and knew it was broken. The first thing I thought about was, ‘Just get the shot, keep going and run past the camera.’ We had to get the shot. We did, I said my ankle is broken, that’s a wrap and take me to the hospital.”
It’s the same line I’ve heard from Jackie Chan, since 1992, when I was invited to the set of Drunken Master 2 to learn how he does what he does. Then, and over the years, when he’s shared with me about his stunt mishaps and he’d being lying broken on the ground, he’d say, “I don’t care I hurt, I always ask, ‘Did you get the shot?’ If they got the shot, good, I’m happy, take me to hospital.”
Also similar to Chan’s work, camera position guarantees the authenticity of his stunts and fights, whether it’s a single shot or shot from different angles. Cruise is the first Hollywood A-lister I’ve heard chat the Chan man cheekiness.
In fact, although Fallout stands to be the highest grossing of all the IMF films, the centerpiece of the movie, interviews, trailers and even the movie’s opening credits are all about the blazing, put his life on the the line crazy stunt work that Cruise put himself through for the good of the film. Oh, BTW, he’s 56-years-old. All you folks out there on diets and healthy lifestyles need to ask yourself, “What is he doing differently from me?”
So in case you came in late, as a writer, here’s the beauty of all MI films. Using the classic tape recording of the mission sent to the head of the IMF team, we all have the plot clearly defined for us through the self destruct recording finale.
“Good morning Mr. Hunt. The mission if you should choose to accept, is recover three plutonium cores before [villain] Lark and a terrorist organization known as the Apostles can use them to target the Vatican, Jerusalem, and Mecca in a single coordinated attack.”
To the point and we always knew that Phelps on TV and Hunt in the films, would repeatedly accept the missions regardless that if they were ever caught, they’d be disavowed by the U.S. government. One of the other engaging attributes about Fallout is that we finally learn the core impetus as to why Hunt always accepts the missions.
An added twist to the mix is Henry Superman Cavill as August Walker, a bearded and muscled babysitter sent by the CIA to keep his on eye on Hunt to make sure he doesn’t screw up the mission and if Hunt goes off script, he’s authorized to assassinate him.
From that point on there’s more double agent shenanigans going on than in an chemistry set. I was on the edge of my seat so much that I lost the feeling in my legs.
From two feet to two wheels. Indeed that’s Cruise breaking motorcycle speed records through Paris’ most popular section, which French officials closed off on a Sunday giving the crew two hours to complete filming. Since Cruise’s motorcycle safety rig broke (it attaches to a car), with no helmet or safety gear, he jumps onto the motorcycle and they film him speeding by traffic, into traffic, between traffic and smashing into traffic. We see his hair flapping in the wind like a tent on top of the Himalayas. Definitely not a wig.
Then there’s the dizzying HALO (High Altitude Low Open Jump, special parachuting skill used by elite military units to land undetected in enemy terrain, where they leap from 25,000 feet and open the chute at 2,000 feet.
Before the sequence can be shot, Cruise can only be cleared to jump after doing a required minimum of 100 jumps. Since time was tight Cruise did 4-7 jumps/day. Then for the scene, Cruise did 4-6 rehearsal jumps/day, then before sunset, when the light was ideal and within a 3-minute window a final jump would be shot. It took six days to get the shot. When Cruise jumps off the plane, we see him doing it in full frame and done in a single take.
And finally there’s the long-line stunt, which involved Cruise climbing up a rope dangling from a helicopter flying at 2,000 feet and then free-falling 40 feet onto the payload at the end of the rope and bouncing off of it.
In reality, the action and stunts surpasses anything Marvel/DC have done this year. As it’s quite obvious to any fan and critic posting or writing about the film, the stunts and fight scenes are physically real, often lack safety measures and use no CGI/motion capture. Try doing a great comic book hero film without those. Cruise put his life on the line for the movie. It’s like director Christopher McQuarrie says in regard to insisting Cruise does all of his own stunts because if he didn’t, “It would be a Mission Almost Impossible film.”