SA is a perfect fit for filming Mission Impossible 8; a world in one country in perpetual existential crisis

There are a lot of South Africans a helluva lot more excited about the news that film star Tom Cruise is to film his latest Mission Impossible film – the 8th in the franchise – in SA than perhaps they were about the State of the Nation Address or the budget.

The franchise, which some heretics dare to compare and even consider better than James Bond, is about Ethan Hunt, a secret agent who goes around saving the world whether it’s the weaponised form of COVID (MI#2), imminent nuclear war (MI#4) or even his own organisation from  factionalism (MI#5). We’re a perfect fit; a world in one country (as SA Tourism tells us); in perpetual existential crisis. The hands on the Doomsday Clock always hover between quarter to and five to 12. Sometimes, like last July if you lived in parts of Durban, you’d have been excused for wondering if the hands weren’t 30 seconds from midnight.

But I digress. South Africa is becoming a firm favourite for foreign films, we’re cheaper and Cape Town can be anything from North Africa to southern Europe and even California. Johannesburg didn’t even require set dressing for the dystopian District 9 and was perfect for Avengers Age of Ultron when Iron Man tried to subdue the Hulk. Some of us in Joburg are still trying.

But the thought of Cruise (spotted getting out of a helicopter and excitedly snapped by an amateur pap in a Limpopo game reserve at the weekend), even considering shooting part of the next MI instalment here has put people’s minds into overdrive. From Hollywood to Hoedspruit, what should the Mission Impossible (South Africa edition) be? Renewing his driver’s licence? Cruise trying to get an ID book at Home Affairs? Dodging potholes? Surviving load shedding? Contacting a living person at a call centre? 

As for the villain? Forget a high-speed chase down the motorway, s/he can just flag down a Quantum taxi and disappear. Then again, Cruise won’t have to cling onto an Airbus A400M as it takes off, he can survive being dragged for a couple of kms. Actually, forget that. He can try his own high speed escape trying to drive one using a monkey wrench as a steering wheel, while using his other hand to keep the door closed, pumping the brakes feverishly to stop in time to find coke money for the speed cops and then haring off belching blue smoke on bald tyres.

When you think about it, the permutations of MI#8 are almost limitless. He could save Cyril in the Union Buildings; he could launch Msholozi’s autumn career as a giggling arch villain from the fire pool at Nkandla. There might even be a role for Carl as a walk on extra (non-speaking preferably), which would be a relief to everyone since Luthuli House hasn’t paid him for months. 

Or we might just get Cruise to fix the Blue Train. That’s right, Minister Fokop added that to his list of achievements this week, derailing it because his rail network is too unsafe to run it.

Mission Impossible? Tom Cruise might never leave.  

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 19 February 2022.