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Expert Reaction: Tom Cruise on a mission for authentic action

Posted on 18 July 2018

An expert in Hollywood blockbuster movies comments on the high-stakes stunts in the latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise.

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Dr Nick Jones, from the University of York's Department of Theatre, Film and Television, said: "It's not surprising that Mission: Impossible - Fallout is garnering such rave reviews - Tom Cruise and his production company have been honing this franchise for over two decades now. 

"The first film, released in 1996, may have been a big star vehicle for Cruise, but it was also an auteur piece by genre master and Hitchcock devotee Brian De Palma, as well as a gritty(ish) spy thriller, sowing the seeds that led to Jason Bourne.

"Subsequent entries have modified this template with more or less action, and more or less camp, but they have all offered the pleasure of Cruise putting himself in harm's way for our pleasure.

High-stakes 

"Indeed, Fallout is being released weeks after Avengers: Infinity WarDeadpool 2 and Skyscraper - action films in which spectacular digital effects take the place of physical risk. But Cruise uniquely wants to assure us he really is performing these stunts like a latter-day Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan.

"Witness his climbing of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) in the fourth entry, or his clinging to the side of military plane in the fifth, or the footage released this time last year of him breaking an ankle as he filmed Fallout in London, footage which even made its way into the trailer

"This is also the first of the franchise released in 3D, a decision which indicates not only the growing importance of this exhibition format for today's blockbusters, but also the franchise's relationship with the Chinese film market - Cruise is popular in much of Asia, as is 3D, and the Mission: Impossible franchise has in recent years been part-funded by Asian media company Alibaba Pictures. 

Risking life and limb

"Overall, the positive response to the film indicates the continuing appeal of authentic physical risk and carefully staged action choreography amid a wider cinematic landscape of superheroes and green screens, an appeal also evinced by the success of more modestly-budgeted, but no less bruising films like John Wick and Atomic Blonde.

"Digital special effects may make it possible to replace actors with digital stunt doubles, but this will never replicate the considerable fairground-like thrill to be found in watching someone risk life and limb for our entertainment, especially when the risk-taker is an A-list star."

Dr Nick Jones is author of Hollywood Action Film and Spacial Theory.

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