Tom Cruise and Chris McQuarrie talk MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

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Over the past weekend, in anticipation of the fifth Mission: Impossible movie (which we’ll be getting 5 months earlier than expected!), I went and marathoned all the previous movies in the franchise. Viewed back to back like this, it becomes abundantly clear just how fluid this series has been in terms of tone and scope, with every different director bringing their own flavour to their respective installments (also, how laughably crap M:I2 is in comparison with the rest).

This is why I’m so intrigued to see what director Chris McQuarrie can bring to the table with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, especially seeing how much I enjoyed his last collaboration with star Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher.

The first trailer for Rogue Nation already had us Tom Cruise-running around the office in excitement at that one crazy stunt as Cruise hangs off the wing of a cargo plane way up in the air for real. This is of course nothing new for the 52-year old actor, who has become famous for really doing all the crazy, death-defying stunts that the franchise has thrown at him. This one is remarkably more dangerous than most of the stunts he’s done though, but as Cruise explained to Yahoo UK, he was never going to chicken out of it, no matter how hazardous it was.

“The things we were all very concerned about were particles on the runway and bird strikes. [Another] thing that no one else was thinking about, but I was, was the fuel. You have jet fuel coming right out of the back at me because I’m on the wing above the engine. Even when we were taxying I was also inhaling the fumes and they were going in my eyes.”

“There was no question the [plane] stunt was always going to be me. When you look at Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – when I see the practical things they did as an audience – it brought me more into a subjective reality of the characters in those stories. If you look at the CIA sequence in ‘Mission 1’ – if someone else did it the audience isn’t invested in it.”

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That plane sequence is not the only major action beat of the film, as Cruise also teased an incredible sounding underwater sequence that we haven’t seen yet.

“We have something I’ve always wanted to do: an underwater sequence without cuts. The kind of training I had to do for that was pretty intense. I’ve done a lot of underwater scenes but I’ve never done one [like this] that will get the audience to lean forward and have a visceral reaction.”

I have no idea what the scene could entail, but I’m really holding thumbs that they include some underwater James Bond judo chops to stay true to their superspy heritage. And staying true to the franchise’s heritage – and specifically the last and most successful film, Ghost Protocol – is what inspired McQuarrie to come up with some of the scenes for this film, as the director explained.

“I asked myself ‘what can I do to celebrate all those elements of the franchise?’ A signature sequence the way (Brian) De Palma did, a villain the way JJ Abrams did, the stunts the way Brad did. You’ll see references to all those films throughout the movie. There’s [also] a real Easter Egg for anyone who notices it – it’s almost a reverse of something from one of the earlier movies.”

“I had worked on ‘Ghost Protocol’ with Tom and we found a sort of tone that we loved and really wanted to preserve that over into this movie. I was determined to do something lighter and more fun, but then this villain evolved, the story evolved and our team evolved and took it into a different direction.”

Firstly: Not a single mention of M:I 2. Ouch. It would appear the Mr McQuarrie and I are in agreement on that film’s turdishness. Secondly, I will now be keeping my eyes open for any scene where Tom Cruise gets yanked up to the ceiling of a very loud room, stopping just short with sweat flying everywhere.

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One of the other scenes we do get a glimpse of in the first trailer that also harkens back to an earlier film – ironically enough, M:I 2 – is a motorcycle chase. And according to both Cruise and McQuarrie, that scene is a lot harder than it initially looks.

Cruise: “It was physically the most grueling sequence. We’re going at very high speed with Simon Pegg as my passenger, drifting it through very narrow streets with cameras on [the bike]. I’m not wearing a helmet or pads, and at one point I’m highsiding a guy. It was hairy actually. I come up and I hit him and he is in the air doing it live. It was intense.”

McQuarrie: “That’s part of a much larger sequence that takes place in Morocco. We built camera equipment for this movie specifically to shoot this sequence. It’s stuff that’s never been done before.”

And as for this evolved villain mentioned earlier, McQuarrie is referring to Sean Harris’ mysterious antagonist. Not much is known about the character – we haven’t even seen a shot of him yet – but according to Cruise he is “lethal”.

“Sean Harris is incredibly enigmatic, very powerful on screen. He’s as powerful a villain as we’ve had in ‘Mission: Impossible’. It really is a chess match between him and Ethan, he’s on top of Ethan and crushing Ethan the whole movie. The guy is very charming, intelligent but lethal. It’s delicious. When we knew Sean was interested we wrote it specifically for Sean.”

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What we do know about Harris’ villain is that he appears to be the head honcho in the titular Rogue Nation. But just who are this shadowy organization?

“[Rogue Nation] refers not to the IMF but to the enemy in this movie – ‘The Syndicate’. They’re comprised entirely of foreign agents who have, for whatever reason, withdrawn from the service and come together as a coalition and come together to fight against the system that created them. The anti-IMF.”

This “Syndicate” won’t be the only group on the tail of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt though, as he’ll also be hounded by Alec Baldwin’s CIA, which is now boasting some unexpectedly familiar faces.

Cruise: “Alec Baldwin is the head of the CIA. There’s always been a bit of conflict between the CIA and the IMF and Alec in this is really dropping the hammer and looking at the things the IMF has done and disregarding their successes and using it to put closure on the IMF.”

McQuarrie: “Alec Baldwin absorbs the IMF into the CIA, so Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg are now working for the CIA. Ethan Hunt is out there somewhere; no one knows where he is. Baldwin wants to bring Ethan Hunt in to make him answer for all the previous things he’s done in those movies. Alec perceives them as crimes and he’s determined to bring him in. Unfortunately he can’t find him!”

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One thing that Rogue Nation has apparently found though, is a great new young actress in Rebecca Ferguson, who Cruise points out is not just there as Ethan Hunt’s love interest.

“[Her character] is very much an equal to Ethan Hunt. She’s an amazing character. Very mysterious. Which way is she going to go? Is she good? Is she bad? Rebecca Ferguson is this extraordinary new actress and we feel lucky to have her in the movie.”

And finally, Cruise and McQuarrie explained just why they’re such a good team to be working on this movie, especially considering the tough job of following on from the brilliant Ghost Protocol.

Cruise: “[Chris McQuarrie] is a genius at storytelling – understanding structure and story. He wrote ‘Ghost Protocol’ – he really came in and helped crack the story and structure of the film. On ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ he came in and worked with Doug (Liman) and I and really re-wrote ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’. That’s a lot of hard work and a lot of talent to be able to write something like that.”

McQuarrie: “We came from completely different spheres of filmmaking, but the truth is we’re very similar in terms of our appreciation of film. There are a lot of times where we’re finishing each other’s sentences. The crew and there actors at times get lost because we have this shorthand.”

And we’ll able to see this Dynamic Duo’s handiwork when Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation arrives in international cinemas on July 31, 2015. We’ll have to wait a week longer to August 7 though. To make you feel better, here’s that first trailer again:

Last Updated: May 8, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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