My father would exclaim “Cine, oh, cine,” whenever something happened in a film that seemed to defy logic. I often hear his voice in my head saying just that when watching movies, but with the advancement of technologies like CGI, it is happening less and less. A lot looks real even when it couldn’t possibly be real. It has become even harder to figure out what was created with stunt professionals on the streets vs in front of a green screen. It is neither good nor bad, but I do miss a good, old-fashioned action flick with unbelievable stunts that have you second guessing yourself and trying to work out how they did it.
Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films fall within that category and, with the seventh instalment, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning (Part One) coming out a few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about a big stunt that he did riding a motorcycle — a custom-made Honda CRF250 — off the 1,246m high Helsetkopen mountain cliff in Norway. To prepare for the jump, Cruise is said to have done 13,000 motocross jumps and 500 skydives.
This is the fifth time a motorcycle features prominently in a Mission: Impossible, reflecting Cruise’s lifelong love for two wheels. It is the first time in the MI franchise that a Honda crops up. I do have a soft spot for the CRF250 with it being one of the motorcycles I rode when learning how to ride off road, culminating in riding trails in a privately owned game farm in the Hartbeespoort area. There’s something about viewing kudu and springbok on a motorcycle.
Though I started riding long after the first MI movie in 1996, the motorcycles that have featured in the movies have been some of my most enjoyable rides, at least the more contemporary versions of them. In Mission: Impossible II, Cruise (as Ethan Hunt) rides the Triumph Speed Triple 955i, a naked motorbike built on the frame and 955cc, three-cylinder engine of the Triumph Daytona sports bike of the time. Known for great handling, braking ability and punchy torque, the scene in the film showcased all of these, serving as a great advert for the Speed Triple.
In MI III, Hunt rides a custom-created 2005 Triumph Bonneville Scrambler with knobbly tyres. The Bonneville has retained its classic styling with improvements to the engine, and other bells and whistles, and the 2022 T120 was one of my favourite rides when I had the chance to spend a week with it.
The motorcycle chase scene in the 2015 Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation is, by far, one of the most epic scenes that involve a motorcycle, with Hunt on a BMW S1000RR. As far as superbikes go, I went from being terrified, on a ride through the back roads of Mpumalanga to loving it — with a healthy dose of respect — on a ride to Sun City and back. Initially made to compete in the 2009 Superbike World Championship, the first commercial version went on the market in 2010. The current S1000RR has a four-cylinder, four-stroke in-line engine, 999ccm capacity and maximum torque of 113Nm at 11,000rpm. It has Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and slide control, ABS and various riding modes. For MI Rogue Nation, all the safety features were switched off and Cruise did all the riding in the scene.
Finally, for Mission: Impossible Fallout, Hunt rode the BMW R nineT, which I have always had a soft spot for because the Scrambler version was the first motorcycle launch I was ever invited to. I also spent a week with the standard R nineT, during which I joined a group to ride out to Nigel’s Spaarwater Pan for the day. Customisable with a modular design, nifty in traffic with a lovely grunt to the engine through the exhaust, the R nineT is both a beautiful motorcycle to look at and ride.
With Tom Cruise having been quoted as saying he would like to continue to film Mission: Impossible films for many more years, it will be interesting to see how he continues to push the envelope on two wheels.