One of Hollywood’s biggest action stars is risking his life for the sake of authenticity in entertainment.
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has taken over the film industry with its seemingly endless list of special effects. But with cinemagoers’ thirst for action reaching an all-time high, it seems CGI is no replacement for the thrill of a daredevil stunt.
As Hollywood stunt coordinator and author of Action Movie Maker’s Handbook explains: “When CGI first came about, stunt people thought, ‘That’s the end of our business, everyone’s going to be replaced by computers’. That hasn’t happened, because there’s still a certain authenticity to seeing a real human do something.”
But whether it’s the actors themselves or a stunt performer, pulling off an action sequence in the name of entertainment doesn’t come without risks.
Viggo Mortensen of Aragorn fame was known as ‘the walking wounded’ while filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The actor performed all of his own stunts and lost a few teeth along the way. Halle Berry filmed her own fight scenes in Gothika, which resulted in a broken arm, while in 2009, Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter stunt double, David Holmes, was left paralysed when a broom-flying stunt went awry.
While fatalities have been few and far between in recent years, it’s safe to say that injuries are an occupational hazard – and no one knows this better than Tom Cruise. Yet, despite all his on-set injuries, Cruise refuses to let CGI rule his movies.
Taking his role in Mission Impossible unbelievably seriously, he’s filmed a slew of nail-biting stunt scenes over the years that have defined the series from scaling the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol to dangling from a flying plane in Rogue Nation.
So when it came to Mission: Impossible – Fallout, due to hit UAE cinemas on 26th July, we were expecting nothing less than the usual death-defying antics from the 56-year-old.
In the sixth instalment, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team are racing to prevent a group of terrorists called the Apostles from carrying out a simultaneous nuclear attack on three cities.
With the bar having been set pretty high in previous instalments of the iconic film series, the pressure was on to deliver, and with no less than five action set pieces in the film, it seems they’ve done just that.
One of the first stunts, known as the Long Line, sees Cruise jump onto a rope that’s hooked on a moving helicopter.
“We could’ve done this with green screen,” said the film’s stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood, “but in true Mission Impossible fashion, we flew and we dropped Tom Cruise off of it.”
Then there’s the infamous Rooftop Chase, where Cruise’s stunt-gone-wrong went viral last year, with a cringe-worthy video showing the moment the actor broke his ankle as he slammed into the side of a building.
“I was never supposed to make the jump, I was supposed to hit the wall like that and grab the top of the building,” Cruise recalls. “I broke it and then had to do the rest of the stunts on that broken ankle.
“I came back 11 weeks later and I was doing all the rest of the sprinting that you see in the movie. Every step I was taking I was thinking ‘ow ow ow ow’ but if things are easy I’m not that interested.”
For Cruise, it’s all part of the job, and it’s this commitment to his films that makes his action scenes so exhilarating, something CGI could never replace.
“On this [film], there were multiple times when I flat out just said, ‘Are you genuinely going to do this, because this isn‘t entirely safe’,” co-star Simon Pegg admitted.
“He was just so dedicated to bringing it, and giving the audience the sense of authenticity that you don‘t get from films where it’s all done in special effects.”
Also starring: Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan and
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Running time: 150 mins
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