LOS ANGELES — After six movies, 22 years, countless bruises and a broken ankle, Tom Cruise’s death-defying “Mission: Impossible” stunts continue to pay off at the box office.
“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” easily took the No. 1 spot on the US domestic charts this weekend. Paramount Pictures estimates that it earned $61.5 million from 4,386 North American theaters.
Not accounting for inflation, it’s a best for the long-running franchise, which has grossed $2.8 billion worldwide, and one of Cruise’s biggest too (just shy of “War of the Worlds'” $64.9 million debut in 2005). Internationally, the film earned $92 million from 36 markets which is also a franchise best.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, “Fallout” has scored some of the best reviews in the series and has been in the news cycle for almost a year. Talk about the film started early, in August of 2017, when Cruise broke his ankle performing a stunt in London with video to prove it.
“Paramount was strategically perfect in their marketing and publicity game,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “They showed how important a star’s presence is in marketing the movie early on. Tom Cruise broke his ankle and they made that into a positive for the movie — it fed the Tom Cruise ‘Mission: Impossible’ mystique.”
The latest installment begins, as always, with a new mission for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt: The evildoers are the Apostles, terrorists who aim to nuke the world’s top religious sites — the Vatican, Jerusalem and Mecca — and bring on an apocalypse. They’re in league with Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the criminal mastermind from the last film, who stayed alive and now wants revenge against Hunt, not to mention the global destruction thing.
Hunt must get his hands on three missing plutonium cores. He actually manages this, for a second — but has to give them up to save a cherished team member. Thus is launched an overarching dilemma of this installment: Should Hunt save one life that is dear to him over millions of others?
We don’t get much time to ponder. Hunt has to start from scratch. His IMF team includes, as always, loyal Luther (Ving Rhames), and tech whiz Benji (the wonderful Simon Pegg), who provides needed levity. It’s safe to say that never before has Benji’s life hung so precariously in the balance.
IMF secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is back, clashing with Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett), certainly the most stylish person ever to head the CIA, onscreen or off. Sloane forcibly injects her own agent, the very handsome but shady Walker (Henry Cavill), into Hunt’s operation, causing all sorts of complications.
Crucially, we also have former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, who made such an impression in the last film). She’s back, but working for whom, exactly? Regardless, it’s fun to watch her take down a succession of brutish men. A welcome newcomer is Vanessa Kirby (“The Crown”) as the mysterious White Widow.
Of course, it’s the stunts that really matter. And the scenery. Paris has always been beautiful, but there’s a certain frisson you get when arriving with Cruise by way of a plummet from a plane onto the roof of the Grand Palais. And that motorcycle chase around the Arc de Triomphe? Let’s just say that getting through that traffic circle alive on a real-life day is a Mission: Impossible.
Then we’re off to London, where Cruise shattered his ankle bone filming a rooftop chase. At a recent screening, McQuarrie explained that most of what we see the actor doing here, including that sprint, was done after the injury. Feel free to consider that as you watch.
The most dramatic stunts were filmed in New Zealand, standing in for Kashmir. Many people go bungee-jumping there; probably relatively few do it from a moving helicopter. We also see Cruise piloting another helicopter into a seemingly irreversible plunge. A climactic physical fight was shot in Norway, on a cliff that drops into a fjord. And Cruise’s 25,000-foot jump from a plane was filmed in Abu Dhabi.
Much ink has been spent analyzing this enduring phenomenon called Tom Cruise, and what motivates him, onscreen and off. “I just want to entertain people,” he said recently. That’s one mission this film if proving he can still nail.