Tom Cruise: action-packed Mission: Impossible 7 is "epic in every sense"

 Rachael Davis speaks to Mission: Impossible stars Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg and Hayley Atwell about the stunts and surprises on offer in Dead Reckoning Part One.

Esai Morales and Tom Cruise.
Esai Morales and Tom Cruise. Esai Morales and Tom Cruise.
Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie.
Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie.

EVER since he was a child, Tom Cruise has had a proclivity for stunts. He would set up ramps to jump his bicycle over bins, and was “always looking for dangerous stuff to do” by his own admission.

It's no surprise, then, that he became the man he is today: the Mission: Impossible star who takes on the gnarliest of stunts for awe-struck cinema-goers.

On the first day of filming for the franchise’s latest instalment, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Cruise brought his childhood dreams to life. Swapping his makeshift stunt ramp and household bins for a custom-made Honda CRF 250 motorbike and Norway’s Helsetkopen mountain, the action hero drove the bike over the edge, plunging 4,000ft into the ravine below and opening his parachute 500ft from the ground.

On screen, the stunt looks majestic. But there is no denying the inherent danger of pulling it off – the epitome of high risk, high reward.

When he is doing stunts like this one, Cruise is thinking about it as a filmmaker – he produced the film alongside director Christopher McQuarrie – but also, obviously, as a performer.

“There’s a lot going on, there’s a lot happening,” says Cruise (61), who plays Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt.

“I am acting, because you can see me going down the ramp. But I’m also thinking about the speed of the bike, I’m looking straight ahead at the end of the ramp, but I’m making sure that I’m watching that helicopter come across, because as I go across, if I’m in the wrong position, it’s gonna literally blow me off the ramp.

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“There’s a drone following me over here, and I’m just thinking, when I depart, just trying to catch as much air as possible, so that I can fly. I don’t want the bike to be close to me, because if it hits me in any way, and I get disrupted, that airflow, that’s gonna be a problem.

“If I get into a tumble, I only have a few seconds before I hit the ground. So that would be a problem.”

“Being up there watching him do that was very memorable,” says co-star Simon Pegg of the moment Cruise performed the motorbike stunt.

“Everybody was just holding their breath.”

“When I jumped off that cliff, we all jumped off that cliff,” Cruise adds, speaking of the Mission cast and crew.

“It was a turning point. It was like: ‘Here is the standard that we are setting. Here is the standard of film we are making. And we can’t back off from that. There’s no going back’.”

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One sets a new standard for the franchise in more ways than one. It is the first time a Mission story has been spread across two films, resulting in an epic adventure for Hunt and his IMF team as they track down a technological weapon that threatens humanity in a terrifying new way.

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise
Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise

Joining the cast and starring alongside Cruise in this instalment is Marvel star Hayley Atwell, who plays Grace – “an artful dodger, a lone wolf” who steals the key to the powerful weapon from Ethan at the start of the film, prompting a global chase and the start of a flirty and fun relationship between the pair.

As she tried to pin down who Grace is and what she wants, Atwell (41) says she discovered the answer was that her character was “consistently inconsistent, and therein lies her mischievousness and her playfulness”.

“So it became a bit cat and mouse,” she adds of Grace and Ethan’s relationship.

“Sort of like siblings who are exasperated by each other, but they still have to sit at the dining room table at night and have dinner together. Our equivalent is being handcuffed in a Fiat 500.”

Naturally, to star alongside Tom Cruise means taking on some epic action sequences – and Atwell was not one to shy away from the challenge.

“I did all the stunts myself,” she says.

“Part of the audition was a stunt audition to see my natural abilities, but also my co-ordination and the kind of things that I might want to learn how to do. And the five months of training I did beforehand – it was a real surprise to me how much I enjoyed drifting and took to it quite quickly.”

Esai Morales and Tom Cruise.
Esai Morales and Tom Cruise. Esai Morales and Tom Cruise.

The film culminates in an epic action set piece involving a steam train, which was purpose-built for the sequence. The incredible stunt sees Cruise and Atwell battle zero-gravity and try to escape each carriage before it tumbles off a bridge, as well as Cruise’s breathtaking fight scenes on top of the moving locomotive.

“The train was a whole level of overwhelm, and challenge, and excitement,” says Atwell.

“Because she's also in such a state of panic the whole time.

“There was one moment where, during a train carriage sequence, it goes from horizontal to vertical in six seconds, and we have to run on the steep incline and get to our mark before it gets to the vertical point, otherwise you’re hanging.”

“There wasn’t really any acting required in conveying the terror of the scene," she laughs.

Fellow Mission newcomer Pom Klementieff, best known for playing Mantis in the Guardians Of The Galaxy series, also got stuck into the action sequences in her role as Paris, an assassin and the accomplice of Ethan’s adversary, the terrorist Gabriel.

“I got to do this incredible fight scene with Tom,” says the 37-year-old French actress.

“Now my problem is like: ‘How can I top doing that, doing a fight scene with Tom Cruise?’ He’s the best person to fight in a movie. I had so much fun doing that.

“In Mission: Impossible movies it’s amazing, because you get to do things also in real life and on locations. For example, at some point I run on top of a train, I jump between the carriages. And we did that for real, with a moving train. Usually you do these things in studios, but with someone like Tom, you’re able to really experience the thing for real.”

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise Tom Cruise

While the scale of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is monumental, the best part is that there is more to come.

“This is the first time we’ve ever split a Mission: Impossible story over two movies. It’s something we’ve never attempted before because of the complexity of these stories,” says Cruise.

“The scale of these two movies is epic in every sense.”

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is in cinemas now.