TALKING FILMS

Everything that has gone into Tom Cruise’s Mission: Possible (including all that running)

The ‘Mission: Impossible Fallout’ star is arguably one of the best action movie heroes Hollywood has produced.

As the Mission: Impossible movies have shown us over the years, Tom Cruise loves to hang off mountains cliffs, jump off a speeding motorcycle and get into a fight mid-air, and climb the tallest building on earth. But there is nothing he loves more than running.

Right from his on-screen debut in Endless Love, released 37 years ago, Cruise has run, run, and run some more. Even his breakout film, Risky Business (1983), involved strenuous spirinting. In the Mission: Impossible films, Cruise, as agent Ethan Hunt, has often had to use his legs and his head to save the world on a deadline.

Before the release of Mission: Impossible Fallout on July 27, online movie review-aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes did a study on the amount of running Cruise has done throughout his career. In 37 years, the study notes, Cruise has ran up to 24,000 feet on the screen, excluding Mission: Impossible Fallout.

Cruise’s latest movie, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, has already been declared a global smash hit. “Over the July 27-29 weekend, Paramount’s and Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout opened to $61.5 million at the North American box office and $153.5 million globally, a series high — at least without adjusting the grosses of the previous installments for the effects of inflation,” The Hollywood Reporter noted. In India, distributor Viacom18 claimed a gross box office at Rs 56.1 crores across 1,750 screens over the opening weekend.

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Every Tom Cruise Run Ever.

Films in which Tom Cruise has run over 1,000 feet have a Rotten Tomatoes score of above 71%, the study notes. These films have made more money at the box office than the rest “with an average inflated international gross of $538 million”.

The study also notes that the 56-year-old star has run for longer as he has aged. “He [Cruise] covered almost the same amount of ground in 2006’s Mission: Impossible III (3,212 feet) than he did in the entirety of the 1980s (12 movies, 3,299 feet ran), and five of his top 10 running films were released after 2010 – the year he would turn 48,” the study says.

Among the films where Cruise has not exercised his legs even once are Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble drama Magnolia (1999) and Ben Stiller’s comedy Tropic Thunder (2008). In this category, the study notes, “the rewards are Oscar and Golden Globe nominations; the risks are smaller financial returns”.

Cruise’s three Academy Award nominations for acting have come from Magnolia, the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, for which the actor sprinted for less than 500 feet, as the study notes, and Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July (1989) where Cruise, playing an American soldier in Vietnam, ran a little more than usual.

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Born on the Fourth of July (1989).

The older Cruise has gotten, the more action-oriented his movies have become. In film after film, including the Jack Reacher franchise, the Mission: Impossible productions, and science-fiction action flicks such as Oblivion (2013) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Cruise’s propensity to do his own stunts have been heavily publicised.

These daredevil stunts include climbing the 2,722 feet-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai for Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011) and performing an action sequence on top of a Atlas C1 aircraft 5,000 feet up in the air (with at least eight retakes) for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015). Men’s health magazines have wondered how Cruise continued to defy age, naysayers have wanted him to act his age, but audiences just cannot get enough of him.

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Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011).

In keeping with the standards he has set over the years, Cruise had to up the game in Mission: Impossible Fallout. Four sequences showcase his prowess and fearlesslness. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt does a high-altitude low-opening (or a HALO) jump from a C-17 military plane, flying at over 220 miles per hour, from about 25,000 to 30,000 feet up in the air. Apart from the obvious dangers involved in shooting the sequence, the makers could get only one shot per day since it was a night-time sequence. Shooting had to be done close to sunset.

At CinemaCon 2018, Cruise revealed that he had to jump 106 times from the plane. “In order to fall into his [the cameraman’s] close-up, Tom had to get three feet from the lens,” director McQuarrie said. “There’s no tape measurer that anyone is holding onto. Tom had to remember what that three feet is, and because we’re at dusk, he has a three inch margin of error. If he’s any closer, he’s out of focus and we’re back shooting it the next day.”

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Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018).

Next up in the movie is a spectacular motorcycle chase sequence through the streets of Paris. Cruise rides a BMW R nineT motorcycle, reportedly without protective gear. Ethan Hunt eventually crashes his motorcycle into a car. He is down and out for seconds, before he gets up and starts ... running.

Behind the scenes of the motorcycle sequence in Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018).

As Ethan chases a villain through Paris, he sprints into a church and gets onto its rooftop. From there, he moves on to other rooftops, jumps off the window of a building, and leaps from one rooftop to another. Cruise apparently rammed his ankle into a wall and broke it during the shoot. As revealed in The Graham Norton Show earlier this year, Cruise hobbled on nevertheless to finish the shot since the camera was running.

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Tom Cruise on The Graham Norton Show (2018).

The piece de resistance is the climactic helicopter chase sequence that was shot in New Zealand but is passed off as Kashmir in the film. According to a behind-the-scenes video, Cruise learnt to drive the helicopter in record time and was in the pilot’s seat during the entire sequence. “Every camera position has been designed to show that Tom is doing everything himself,” a voice says in the background in the video.

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The helicopter sequence in Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018).

Cruise’s gravity-defying stunts, apart from being an effective marketing tool, have helped re-position the star as an entertainer who will go to extreme length for his fans. His bravado has deflected attention from the often negative press he has received in the mid-2000s following his controversial public behaviour, his public support for scientology and criticism of psychiatry, which allegedly led to Paramount Pictures breaking a 14-year working relationship with Cruise/Wagner Productions.

In 2008, Paramount Pictures distributed Tropic Thunder, in which Cruise brilliantly plays Les Grossman, an overweight, foul-mouthed and balding Hollywood movie producer. The studio finally made its peace with the global icon by distributing Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol in 2011.

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Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder (2008).

Cruise’s 1980s hits, starting with Risky Business and continuing with Top Gun (1986), Cocktail (1988), Rain Man (1988) and Born on the Fourth of July, established him as a leading star and a bankable actor.

In the mid-1990s, amidst the odd crowd favourite Jerry Maguire, and the rare excursion into arthouse territory with Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Cruise zeroed in on the Mission: Impossible franchise as a surefire way to global blockbuster success. The gamble that began with Brian De Palma’s modest first film from 1996 has paid off not just financially, but also as a means of ensuring lifelong stardom and meme-ability through the ages.

Tom Cruise and Brian De Palma on the sets of Mission: Impossible (1996). Courtesy Cruise/Wagner Productions.
Tom Cruise and Brian De Palma on the sets of Mission: Impossible (1996). Courtesy Cruise/Wagner Productions.
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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.