Tom Cruise is an intense dude. We all know that. He's proved it time and time again, risking life and limb to prove how much he loves us, his filmgoing audience.
No character embodies this better than superspy Ethan Hunt, agent of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) in the long-running "Mission: Impossible" film series. Hunt's MO is to infiltrate, expose and take out the intricately crazy worlds of bad guys bent on doing bad stuff. Occasionally he'll get to wear one of those cool fake faces.
Here are nine of the coolest things Hunt's ever done, from the first installment in 1996 all the way to the newest entry, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol."
Escape by Waterfall ('Mission: Impossible')
"You've never seen me very upset." Ah yes, the perfect intro to the crafty methodology of Ethan Hunt. With his entire team toast after a botched mission, the IMF agent is debriefed by Kittridge (Henry Czerny) only to realize he's part of an elaborate setup. Using an explosive piece of gum and possibly the largest, most convenient fish tank ever, our hero manages to escape in the coolest-looking way possible. "Get your boss blown up, grab a stick of Juicy Fruit!"
CIA (Cruise in Action) ('Mission: Impossible')
Hunt and his ragtag team of disavowed agents break into Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia (a few years before it was renamed the George Bush Center for Intelligence), to steal the coveted NOC list. The idea of having Cruise suspended from the ceiling in an acrobatic bit of thievery was "borrowed" from the 1964 film "Topkapi," which had a similar trickwire stunt.
Start a Love Train, Love Train ('Mission: Impossible')
An action sequence to remember, shot on board, on top of, and all around France's luxury TGV rail car. Using state-of-the-art effects and a wind machine pummeling Cruise at 140 miles per hour, director Brian De Palma orchestrated an outrageous scenario in which Hunt clamps bad guy Jean Reno's whirlybird to the moving train as it speeds through a tunnel. Also, a much-anticipated reprise of the "Mission: Impossible" TV theme and explody chewing gum.
Mount Cruisemore ('Mission: Impossible II')
Like the Rolling Stones sang, "I'm the man on the mountain, come on up." For "M:I-2," his first big sequel, the Cruiser wanted a splashy re-introduction to tough guy Hunt, and what better way to announce his masculinity to the world than to climb a big frickin' mountain? For real. Yes, that's Tom actually dangling from that rock, literally causing a hundred insurance agents to pee their pants in unison.
Motorcycle Mayhem ('Mission: Impossible II')
Hunt and the villainous former IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) duke it out on their bikes, swerving through traffic while practicing director John Woo's patented gun fu. The chase culminates in an orgasmic explosion as the two bikes collide, leading to an epic five-minute hand-to-hand combat sequence on an Australian beach that looks pretty punishing for all involved.
Like Water Under a Troubled Bridge ('Mission: Impossible III')
By the time "Mission: Impossible III" had rolled around, the intensity quotient for Ethan Hunt had risen dramatically. Knowing that the last two entries would be hard to top, Cruise and J.J. Abrams conspired to create death-defying sequences like this one, in which Hunt is attacked on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and his prisoner, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is freed. You know it's insane when a jet crash-exploding onto the side of a bridge is treated as a quick throwaway gag.
Shanghai Surprise ('Mission: Impossible III')
As the ever-stalwart Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) looks on, Ethan has to make a daring jump off a trillion-foot-high skyscraper (guesstimate) that would make even Christian Bale's Batman jealous. After being the lone surviviving member of Ethan's team in the first three movies, Luther wryly says, "He made it! I knew he'd make it."
Hunt Joins the Mile-and-a-Half High Club ('Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol')
Oh, but wait! Cruise is not done with buildings, not by a long shot. Saddled with the problem of once again one-upping itself, the "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol" team chose to accept the mission to fly Tom from the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. As he scales Dubai's most hugely phallic monument, Hunt has to get information, or something, and can only access the room he needs to get into from the outside. Typical.
Sandstorm! ('Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol')
One of the shots we're teased with briefly in the "Ghost Protocol" trailer is of Hunt tracking a dude through a desert sandstorm. Car crashes are involved. You'll have to wait until the film opens in just a few days to feel the Cruisetensity for yourself in IMAX.