Film music

Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ theme has kept the fuse lit for over 50 years

The iconic composition has been reinterpreted numerous times by other musicians, including Schifrin.

There are few compositions in film and television history as iconic as the Mission: Impossible theme. Lalo Schifrin’s composition is, perhaps, the second most popular tune associated with the spy genre after Monty Norman’s James Bond theme. Originally composed as a Latin jazz piece for the 1966 television series that ran for seven seasons, the Mission: Impossible theme has seen many iterations over five decades.

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The first Mission: Impossible theme by Lalo Schifrin.

The latest example is the track used in the trailer of the sixth film in the Tom Cruise-led franchise Mission: Impossible – Fallout. The tune has been incorporated into the song Friction from Imagine Dragons’ hit 2015 album Smoke + Mirrors. In line with Mission: Impossible tradition, the final film is likely to have a brand new rendition of the Schifrin tune that will be played over the opening credits, which always begin with a fuse being lit.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

The opening credits of the 1966 television series featured three versions of the theme. After four seasons, Schifrin produced a new version that featured a heavier sound with a booming bass guitar.

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Mission: Impossible season five theme.

In the seventh and final season, Schifrin found a middle ground between his first and second iterations.

One of the most interesting cover versions was released in 1979 as part of French singer-songwriter Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s album Press Colour. The highlight of Descloux’s funky reimagination is the inclusion of a percussion track. It is also the first of several covers, both from within and outside the franchise.

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Mission: Impossible theme by Lizzy Mercier Descloux.

Between 1988 and 1990, the Mission: Impossible series had a two-season revival. The theme tune featured rock and electronic elements with an electric guitar thrown in.

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Mission: Impossible theme for the 1988-'90 series.

This laid the foundation for U2 members Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr’s electronic dance music-inflected version for the first Mission: Impossible movie in 1996, directed by Brian De Palma. Influenced by ambient music maestro Brian Eno’s work with U2 in the 1990s, the Clayton-Mullen Jr collaboration was a global chartbuster and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1997.

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Mission: Impossible theme by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.

Rap rock band Limp Bizkit used the signature tune as the main riff for their song Take A Look Around, which also came with a Mission: Impossible-themed music video. The band members are seen working undercover in a coffee shop from where they need to retrieve a disc from secret agents.

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Take A Look Around by Limp Bizkit.

This was the last time a popular band or artist got to reinterpret Schifrin’s tune for the official franchise. In 2011, DJ Tiesto’s remix was released by Paramount Pictures to promote Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but it wasn’t a part of the film or the soundtrack.

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Mission: Impossible theme remixed by DJ Tiesto.

The versions of the Schifrin tune used for the opening and end credits of the third, fourth and fifth films are well-done but conventional rehashes. John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II was the last film for which the makers tried to give the theme a personality separate from the franchise’s roots.

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Mission: Impossible II theme.

The composition has been covered by a range of artists operating across diverse genres. Russian group Bugotak produced a wild, one-of-a-kind cover mixing it with Limp Bizkit’s Take A Look Around and Pink Floyd’s Empty Spaces.

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Madai Kara by Bugotak.

Other popular cover versions include a piano, cello and violin-based production by The Piano Guys. The video went viral at the time of its release in 2013. In a video by the Belgium band The Trilogy, the musicians wore disguises and launched a flash mob-like performance amidst an unsuspecting audience.

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Mission: Impossible theme by The Trilogy.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.