The fuse is lit for the July 10th release of one of the most anticipated movies of the year – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE. Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hawk as he and the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) face down a new slate of villains in a high-octane thriller. It’s the latest installment in a franchise that has grossed over $3.5 billion at the box office. Let’s unmask the adventure, celebrate MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE with TiVo by stepping into the “Golden Age of Espionage.”
Rediscover the Original Mission Impossible
Tom Cruise was just a youngster in Syracuse, NY when the MI legend started in 1966 as a spy action TV series created by producer Bruce Geller and starring an ensemble cast including Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, Greg Morris and Peter Lupus. Legendary STAR TREK cast member Leonard Nimoy also joined for 2 seasons starting in 1969. MI came about after the massive success of the James Bond films spawned several spy-centric American TV series – 1964’s THE MAN FROM UNCLE and I SPY in 1965. However, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, took espionage to the next level with intricate plots and a cast of specialists who came together to do the impossible.
A Spy Show with Legs
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ran from 1966 to 1971, airing 171 hour-long episodes which enjoyed high ratings. After its initial run, MI did so well in syndication that new episodes were commissioned, and it ran for two more seasons starting in 1988 – a testament to the show’s tightly written characters and intricate plots, as well as the skilled actors, writers and directors who kept the vision fresh for all those years. The original episodes are still playing which means that somewhere, people are listening to the iconic MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE theme right now! Originally written by Argentinian composer, Lalo Schifrin, that title track has become synonymous with the series, lasting for almost 50 years – although it was given a 90s update by U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. for the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film in 1996.
From Small Screen to Big Screen
After the success of their STAR TREK films, Paramount Pictures was eager to mine their TV vault and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was an obvious choice – especially when megastar Tom Cruise got involved. The first film, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, directed by Brian DePalma, was released in May 1996 and was a worldwide smash. Cruise has starred in and produced every film since. Original cast members Peter Graves and Martin Landau turned down roles in the reboot – Graves because his character became a double agent and Landau because he didn’t like the idea of a cameo.
Moving to the big screen meant bigger budgets and the filmmakers have taken full advantage, traveling the globe from the Czech Republic to the UAE, China, Norway, the U.S. and all over Europe. Adrenaline junkie Tom Cruise now had almost unlimited freedom to do any stunt he and his team could dream up, bringing a heightened sense of realism – and danger – to the globe-trotting series. (And no doubt giving the studio’s insurance agents heart palpitations!)
Every action film has stunts, but the MI series has turned them into an art form – especially with a hands-on star who insists on doing his own death-defying scenes. As Tom Cruise once told an interviewer, from a very early age he was diving into snowbanks and racing his bicycle over ditches – so obviously adventure is in his blood! It also helps that he’s a certified pilot, able to fly conventional planes and helicopters. So, with that in mind, let’s review some of the series biggest set pieces that have earned their place in movie history…
- 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE was highlighted by a giant exploding fish tank that almost swept away star Tom Cruise. Although taking place in a Prague restaurant, the actual stunt was filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and used a reported 16 TONS of water!
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 opens with Tom Cruise freeclimbing some serious cliffs in Utah. There was no stuntman – it was all Cruise who refused to shoot the scene with fake cliffs or even netting (although he did have a small safety cable). The risk was so high, director John Woo said he was too nervous to watch the scene as it was shot.
- In MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, Tom Cruise was filmed hanging onto the side of a cargo plane as it took off. Although he wore a safety harness, Cruise really DID hang onto the plane as it rose to 5,000 feet at over 200 miles per hour. If you think THAT took nerves of steel, Cruise had to shoot it 8 separate times before director Chris McQuarry felt he had what he needed!
- “HALO” stands for “High Altitude, Low Opening” and that’s exactly what Tom Cruise did in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT. It took 106 separate jumps to get the famous high-altitude parachute jump from a plane in the can with Cruise falling 200MPH towards a skydiving cameraman. The script called for the scene to happen at dusk, giving the filmmakers just a 3-minute window each night to get their shot at 25,000 feet. Luckily their mega star had no fear of heights!
- For MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL, Tom Cruise’s character climbs the sheer class side of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s knife-like Burj Khalifa. To shoot the star 1,700 feet in the air required a special harness tethered to key points on the building. The filmmakers also had to break 18 windows to get their shots. Originally Dubai authorities gave permission to shoot on the exterior for ONE day… but who says no to Tom Cruise? They wound up shooting multiple days at the Burj where the glass would get up to 120 degrees during daylight hours.
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART 1. Paramount Pictures is billing it as “The Biggest Stunt in Cinema History.” We won’t spoil the surprise, but we can tell you that it involves a speeding motorcycle, a parachute and Tom Cruise! In fact, Cruise prepared for it by doing 500 training jumps. Talk about commitment to his craft!
Mission Influence: A Global Impact
In the 27 years since the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film burst onto movie screens, the series has had a major influence on action filmmaking. Tom Cruise, who executed his own stunts in every film has set a VERY high bar for other action stars who used to be content to shoot a closeup or two and let the stuntmen take over. Now, to keep up with Cruise they must step into the Danger Zone. The series’ use of practical effects rather than CGI has also pushed other filmmakers to up their game. Take
the highly successful Jason Bourne series, which also features a complex hero and exotic locations. Star Matt Damon did many of his own stunts. The rock ‘em sock em car chases were done for real, not computer-generated. The James Bond franchise used to have the field of breathtaking stunts all to itself, but the MI films have really stepped things up with world class set pieces that have forged new ground and given the 60-year-spy old series some serious competition.
The MI series also pushed filmmaking technology to its limits– from specialized drones used in the upcoming MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE DEAD RECKONING to custom camera rigs and a purpose-built helmet with recessed lighting to show Tom Cruise’s famous face in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT. Of course, this constant commitment to filmmaking excellence has won the series a legion of devoted fans all around the globe and it’s been cited as one of the very best series in the entire action film genre. MI fans recently got a boost when director Christopher McQuarrie said that even more installments are in development – which means Ethan Hunt WILL be accepting future missions!
If you’ve come this far, there is only one last project left to complete before you are certified Mission Ready…
Before MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE hits theaters, get up to speed on the entire franchise by using your superhero device – your TiVo remote – to catch the previous films, now streaming on Paramount+. All you have to say is “Mission Impossible” and your TiVo remote’s award-winning voice control will drop you into the exciting and dangerous world of the MI series. Want to binge them all? That’s a mission that is definitely not impossible!
So, let us raise a glass to the daring IMF agents, their impossible missions, and the timeless spirit of adventure that continues to make Mission Impossible an unrivaled force in the world of espionage entertainment. As the famous catchphrase goes, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to immerse yourself in the captivating world of Mission Impossible and embrace the thrill of the impossible becoming possible This blog will self-destruct in five seconds…