Since the original Mission: Impossible hit theaters 27 years ago, Tom Cruise and a rotating squad of directors have continually redefined what the spy thriller saga is all about. Brian de Palma kicked things off in 1996 with a high-tension conspiracy throwback, then John Woo swung the franchise into slow-motion frenzy four years later. A decade later, Cruise found himself dangling off the Burj Khalifa — and he was prepared to one-up himself with each subsequent sequel. Going into Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1, the star made very clear that his penchant for death-defying practical stunts was not slowing down. Later this month, he’ll be motorcycling off a cliffside for our enjoyment.
But if you look back at the Mission: Impossible films, there’s a clear connection between them, a commonality that gives each movie core: running like all hell.
Ethan Hunt’s personal mythology has become more knotted over the years, and the things that go boom have gone boomier thanks to 30 years of advances in moviemaking technology, but the real thing Cruise brings to every picture is his two high-speed feet. The man loves to run — and run and run and run. Then he takes a break. Then he keeps running! Fans of the series have picked up on the actor’s devout belief in racing to a MacGuffin finish line on camera. Eating is to Brad Pitt as sprinting like there’s no tomorrow is to Tom Cruise. At this point, Cruise knows his reputation; his Instagram biography reads “Actor. Producer. Running in movies since 1981.”
The running in Mission: Impossible movies can go overlooked when squeezed under the tentpole sequences of each movie, but they are there, and when watched in succession in this mesmerizing supercut stitched together by Paramount Pictures’ crack team of archivists/editors, it becomes evident why the franchise has... legs. (Ahem.) No director shoots Tom Cruise running in exactly the same way, and the contextual circumstances of why Ethan Hunt has to run in a given moment demand a certain amount of nuance from a performer who is also going harder than any of us ever have at the gym. Set to the tune of Lalo Schifrin’s original M:I theme, the edit, debuting here on Polygon, is bliss for fans of this stuff.
See Tom Cruise run. Run, Tom. Run. Run run run!
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 hits theaters on July 12.