Are “Mission: Impossible” Movies Too Focused on Stunts?

Matthew Loffhagen
Paramount Pictures
(Photo: Paramount Pictures)

The newest “Mission: Impossible” movie is right around the corner, and with it comes an understandable marketing push that centers on the film’s big breakout stunt.

I really feel like someone needs to be asking Tom Cruise some difficult questions by this point. In previous “Mission: Impossible” movies, he’s scaled the side of a building, and clung onto the side of an airplane as it took off.

In “The Mummy”, he jumped through a moving bus and fell off an exploding building. His stunts are getting more deadly, and I’m concerned that he might be disregarding his own safety – and the safety of others – in pursuit of a bigger and better adrenaline rush.

It’s not Cruise I feel bad for. It’s the cameramen. When he jumps out of a plane dangerously close to the ground, they have to do it too.

A new video shows Cruise and his team rehearsing, and then filming, an incredibly dangerous stunt in which the star leaps out of a plane at 25,000 feet before pulling a parachute chord just 2,000 feet from the ground.

The HALO (High Altitude Low Open) jump is a move that’s normally reserved for paramilitary special forces, because it’s so incredibly dangerous.

But, Tom Cruise gotta do his thing. Even (and especially) if it’s a matter of life-or-death.

Is It Worth It?

I can’t help but wonder if these stunts are actually necessary. Or, indeed, if they end up making a positive impact on the film overall.

Movies are about fantasy. They’re about playing make-believe, and as such, nobody ever expects a big stunt in a film to be a genuine moment of action.

Tom Cruise films, though, are punctuated more and more with these moments of genuine death-defying action. The line between fantasy and reality is being broken.

This doesn’t exactly help the narrative of the film. Now, going into this movie, audiences are going to be acutely aware of the moment that the fake drama is interrupted for a moment of Cruise actually risking his life in a parachute drop.

It’s almost like a commercial break in the middle of a film, but the “product” the segment is selling is the notion that Tom Cruise is an idiot.

It doesn’t help that these big setpiece moments of genuine danger work best in isolation.

Moviemaking For YouTube

Because of the nature of the spectacle involved, the best way to enjoy a Tom Cruise moment – and to truly appreciate just how ridiculous a stunt might be – is to watch it on YouTube.

It’s on YouTube that we gain a full understanding of the lengths that Cruise and the movie directors have gone to in filming a scene. The context is the whole point of these moments of movie magic, as they exist more for the sake of marketing than anything else.

Imagine a troupe of magicians who explain how they do their tricks in a separate YouTube video every time they put on a show. Learning how things were achieved is even more tantalizing than seeing the show itself – especially when you learn that the “trick” was genuinely achieved by throwing a guy out of a plane.

Tom Cruise’s continued attempts to test the limits of human endurance are sideshow oddities, included in movies for the sake of marketing.

They do little to actually aid the storytelling in any given film, and they’re best enjoyed in isolation so that audiences don’t have to sit through two hours of Henry Cavill’s moustache just to get thirty seconds of watching Tom Cruise fall out of a plane.

I don’t think the quality of these movies would suffer without seeing Cruise’s latest sparring match with the Grim Reaper.

Besides, these scenes aren’t even the best bit about “Mission: Impossible” movies.

That theme tune is enough to fill seats for a hundred movies.

That theme tune is worth the price of admission alone!