Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation–

Every director who has made a film of the  Mission: Impossible franchise tries to bring his own stamp, or personal signature.

Though each starts with the same iconic lead character and ticking-clock set-up, distinctive styles and tones have made each new adventure different and unpredictable.  Says J.J. Abrams:  “One of the things that Tom decided early on about the ‘Mission’ movies was that he wanted different directors for each one. He wanted each to have its own creative life, so while the movies always follow the continuum of the spy genre, each film has its own character and personality. You always get the characters that you like, a great bad guy, and incredible action sequences — but it’s fresh every time.”

Director Christopher McQuarrie brought his skills as one of today’s most original action screenwriters and his renown for sharp, taut, suspenseful storytelling.  He came in with the desire to pay homage to the most beloved characters and high-flying attitude of “Mission: Impossible” while forging the next step in its future.

It all started with his screenplay. Says McQuarrie:  “I wanted this film to pull together the Dream Team of ‘Mission: Impossible’ and give all the members of the IMF a major role.  Each of the four movies so far has had a different team dynamic — but for this one, I wanted to reach back into the franchise to bring back the best of them all to create a kind of supergroup of players … of course starting with Ethan Hunt, but including Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt, Simon Pegg’s Benji and Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell.”

He also aimed to take the series into unexplored territory.  “Two things jumped out at me that we hadn’t seen before:  a villain who was a real physical threat to Ethan and a strong, independent woman who would give Ethan Hunt a run for his money,” McQuarrie points out.  “So those were priorities for me. I really wanted to bring in a woman in an equal role.  Until now, women have played a more functional role within the IMF universe, but with Ilsa Faust, we’ve changed things up a bit.”

It is the enigmatic Ilsa Faust who alerts Ethan Hunt to the reality of a grave threat:  The Syndicate, which has ramped up to become a major terrorist crime empire.  At the end of “Ghost Protocol,” the existence of The Syndicate is mentioned briefly as the IMF’s next mission, but McQuarrie took that idea and ran with it in “Rogue Nation.”

“At first, Tom and I decided we didn’t want to follow the thread of the Syndicate,” McQuarrie admits.  “But the more we fought against it, the more it became organic to the screenplay.  As soon as we began working on the story, we felt it was crying out for that kind of greater threat The Syndicate poses.  What I have found is that the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise is this living, breathing thing that makes demands of you and really does kind of push you in the direction it wants to go.”

The denial of The Syndicate’s existence by the CIA and the U.S. government also allowed McQuarrie to keep Ethan Hunt and the IMF in their classic underdog position.  “Ethan and the IMF will always be at odds with authority,” McQuarrie observes.  “The government will always be about maintaining order, but the IMF team is governed strictly by what’s right and what’s wrong. This is a big, entertaining summer thriller full of fantastic spectacles, but it also plays a bit on the feeling of the real world, where justice and government are sometimes at odds.”

Echoing Tom Cruise, McQuarrie approached Hunt as an evolving man who has reached a new sense of what makes him tick in “Rogue Nation.” “I think Ethan has come full circle at this point and accepted that this life is his destiny,” the writer-director observes.  “Throughout the whole franchise there has always been a sense that he is a very reluctant hero.  That’s long been a central part of his charm; he’s always asking ‘is this really what I’m meant to do?’  But he has never been able to stay away from the missions when he is needed and I think he has come to acknowledge that the IMF is his family and this is who he is.  He understands now that this is where he belongs.”

The producing team was thrilled with McQuarrie’s insights.  Says Don Granger:  “The most special thing Chris brings to this movie is his ability to write a scene in a way very few people currently working can write. Above and beyond that, he has a vision for action that is extraordinary in that he wants to do everything practically as much as possible. There’s always a CGI-enhanced element, that’s undeniable. But unlike other directors, Chris must get everything in camera. Sets, stunts and physical action – we were doing it all for real.”

David Ellison comments:  “Chris wrote and directed an unbelievable movie in which audiences experience an unparalleled level of tension, jeopardy and high stakes. He and Tom have made a lot of movies together so they bring to the set a tremendous creative shorthand, which is coupled with Don Granger, who has worked alongside Tom for 20 years.  It makes for an incredibly special brain trust and we hope to continue making films with them for as long as possible.”

Adds Dana Goldberg:  “Chris’s screenplay creates a wonderfully intricate story where you never are quite sure which side people are on and that’s a very exciting combination with ‘Mission: Impossible.’  We worked with him on ‘Jack Reacher’ and we knew he was insanely talented.  But to take on both writing and directing a ‘Mission’ movie is itself a nearly impossible task.  It’s hard enough to prep all of the sequences and work with the actors – but then he would also go home each night and tweak the dialogue!  He and Tom never stopped perfecting the script.”

From the first words on the page to the moment the cameras started rolling, McQuarrie worked in tight collaboration with Cruise.  The writer-director notes that as a creative pairing, the two have an unusual synergy, fueled by opposite energies.

“Tom really has been the core of ‘Mission: Impossible’ in every sense – and he’s so inherently involved in the character and the storyline that he has a unique sixth sense we all rely on,” states McQuarrie.  “I love to work with him, yet we approach filmmaking in two different ways.  I’m all about logic, order and problem solving.  Tom is all about emotions and challenge building.  And together that really seems to push us both.  Tom always says to me, ‘How do we get character and humor into this moment?’  He might be walking across the street but he wants to jam-pack every single second, every gesture, every line with character, and that’s what makes this series work above and beyond the fantastic, thrilling action.”

The entire cast was taken with the McQuarrie-Cruise synergy.   “Chris brings  fluidity to every scene – there’s a movement and a musicality to the way he directs,” says Rebecca Ferguson.  “But the way he and Tom work together … it’s like salt and pepper in food – they are such a good team together.”