Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation–Fifth Chapter in Action Series

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_posterWith each new film, the team led by dedicated star and producer Tom Cruise has uncovered ways to match, then exceed, audience expectations, each time in different ways.  Having begun as a cult phenomenon on 1960s television, “Mission: Impossible” has become a 21st Century cultural phenomenon – a filmmaking event that consistently pushes that border where the classic drama of spy-versus-spy intrigue meets creative action sequences that have become legendary.

Cruise’s iconic character, Ethan Hunt, finds himself in non-stop peril – physical, mental and emotional — from the film’s literally high-flying opening moments through one relentless situation after another.  Hunt’s situation is precarious on every level.  The IMF is on the outs, the CIA doesn’t trust him, and now he’s discovered a rogue agency with the spy-power to bring down any nation it targets – and they want him to join their crusade of destruction or they want him dead.  On the brink, Hunt must test his team’s loyalty, his own illustrious endurance and the agenda of the alluringly secretive spy who saved his skin:  Ilsa Faust.

For Cruise, a fifth time playing Hunt and serving as producer presented another chance to see just how far he can take the character, and the entire genre of sophisticated global espionage games.  He loves moving the bar, often hurling the bar, with each new “Mission: Impossible” film.

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_2_cruise“Each time I think ‘I’ve seen it all’ and I’ve been through every action challenge a film can have, the next film introduces new challenges of every kind–because we’re constantly pushing not only the action sequences, but the storytelling and characters,” Cruise says.  “To me the ultimate ‘Mission’ movie is never just about action and suspense – though we love innovating in that area.  It’s really about the combination of action, intrigue and humor with this very specific, breathless kind experience we create for the audience.  It’s about giving audiences the greatest sense of adventure and scale — while keeping a classic sense of cinema. We do that more than ever in ‘Rogue Nation.’”

From its start as a TV show in 1966, “Mission: Impossible” has always centered on the extreme pressure of the ticking clock – the urgent deadline to stop deadly plots.  With the film franchise, that idea has blossomed into an entire movie-making philosophy based on amplifying the pressure on Hunt, and thereby increasing the creativity, nerve and maturity he needs to pull off his mission.

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_3_cruiseThis has created a tough challenge for Cruise and all the filmmakers who have joined the series, but it’s one they adore.  As executive producer Jake Myers puts it:  “’Mission: Impossible’ is not just a franchise, it’s an entire ethos of it’s own. I think that’s the reason behind the popularity of the films – the audience knows they’ll see something different in this film from any that’s come before.”

While the previous film in the series, “Ghost Protocol,” saw Hunt transforming from a lone wolf to a team leader, now he must hone his newfound leadership skills under fire. Hunt must keep the IMF team from fraying – even while he’s trying to keep the world safe from The Syndicate. Says Cruise: “This installment is about the complications of friendship that happen when enormous pressure comes down on these guys. Who do you trust and who should you not trust? Who is really going to be there for you when the chips are down? Who is going to keep their head under fire? And how can they work together to make things happen?  I think ‘Rogue Nation’ is about finding that intimate aspect of true teamwork in the face of pure evil.”

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_1_cruiseProducer J.J. Abrams, who directed “Mission: Impossible 3,” says:  “There is something about the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise that is incredibly delicious and has evolved over time – this group of people who use all of the resources and tools at their disposal to fight for good.  We get to join them in a world that is kind of a vicarious thrill ride.  And then Tom always brings to that a great sense of humor as Ethan Hunt.”

That sense of humor is honed further in “Rogue Nation,” says producer David Ellison, founder and CEO of Skydance, the company that also produced “Ghost Protocol.”  “I think one of the big surprises of this movie for audiences is going to be how fun and humor-filled it is – there are so many great laughs. In addition to the humor, there is also a level of intelligence to the story and how the characters interact; and of course there is always a sustained level of tension and high stakes. This film goes to such great lengths to create practical action live and in-camera, which makes for a hugely entertaining experience for audiences on all levels.”

mission_impossible_rogue_nation_4_cruise“Rogue Nation” also finds Ethan more dedicated to defusing the destructive power of evil than ever – in part because he’s grown as an agent and a person.   “Ethan has evolved,” Cruise observes.  “He’s learning to listen to everyone else while still following his own instincts. I think he’s really progressed in terms of understanding people for who they are, including himself.  I’ve always seen him as someone’s who’s highly skilled, who has a high level of athleticism and who will be relentless in pursuing what he believes is right all the way to the end – but he’s not a superhero, he’s very human.”

Ethan’s humanity is put under duress as Hunt confronts a nemesis who is his dark mirror image – an agent who has tossed his moral compass.  “In this film, Ethan and his team come up against a terrifying villain who is a match for them, someone who challenges them physically, intellectually and emotionally,” Cruise says. “Right from the film’s first moments, Ethan and the team are on their heels, desperately moving from one situation to the next.  The action is gripping but true to ‘Mission: Impossible,’ within the suspense, there’s a lot of humor and romance.”

Producer Dana Goldberg, Chief Creative Officer of Skydance, observes that for Cruise, embodying Ethan Hunt is something that he never sees as a completed job but as an evolution.  “Tom always has a high bar of excellence in everything he does, but I think it is even higher when it comes to ‘Mission: Impossible,’” she observes.  “He approaches Ethan by asking:  what is the real way that Ethan Hunt would respond given this situation and under this amount of pressure?  That’s one of the things that Ethan has always been good at – handling extreme pressure that never relents.  But Tom also is revealing Ethan as a bit older and smarter, a spy who has grown up in some ways, who has come to accept what his role is and what the costs are.  He’s a man who has learned to truly rely on his team, and he’s learned to reach out.  You can feel the synergy between character and actor.”

In his bid to continue the series’ reputation not only for blending genres but also for innovation and visual pizzazz, it was Cruise who wanted to bring in director Christopher McQuarrie – with whom he worked as a screenwriter on “Valkyrie” and “Edge of Tomorrow” and as a director on “Jack Reacher” — for the first time.

“Chris has an incredible mind. He’s an extraordinary writer and an extraordinary filmmaker and to see his sensibility applied to this genre is something I was excited about,” Cruise summarizes.  “What Chris and I share is that both of us have that need to make every moment the best it can be.”

As the brains and heart behind the entire franchise, Cruise’s total commitment is not just to the role and to the stunts, but equally to the filmmaking, notes Skydance Executive VP of Production Don Granger, one of the film’s producers. “It’s so impressive that in the middle of a ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie — which has the most demanding stunts and the most physically exhausting schedule for Tom — he not only gives an amazing performance as Ethan, but he’s also there all day and all evening after we shoot, and he’s always involved in an incredibly productive way with the big picture of the movie.”