Tom Cruise Doing His Own Stunts Is Hurting Mission: Impossible

By Jacob VanGundy | Updated

Tom Cruise is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, known for his role in the long-standing Mission: Impossible franchise, his natural charisma, and his insistence on doing increasingly risky stunts himself. I have always found his commitment to practical effects and stunt work admirable, even in movies I didn’t particularly enjoy. That said, I think his big, dangerous, spectacles are now making Mission: Impossible worse. 

A Commitment To Realism

Tom Cruise Burj Khalifa stunt

While other Tom Cruise movies have featured big stunts, the Mission: Impossible movies have become a platform for big spectacles that put their lead actor in real danger. The first of these scenes to become a major news story was his climbing of the Burj Khalifa building in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Since then, the series has leaned into bigger and more dangerous scenes with each entry, including the actor doing real motorcycle jumps, helicopter piloting, and HALO jumps. 

The justification for these risky stunts tends to be that they increase audience immersion because the scene doesn’t need to hide doubles or use special effects people might notice. If the audience can see Tom Cruise himself physically doing the amazing thing happening in the movie, it helps them buy into the incredible action happening on screen. This commitment to realism is admirable, and while it worked well for a time, it’s starting to backfire.

Tom Cruise Is Tom Cruise In Tom Cruise

When I see one of these big stunts happen in a Mission: Impossible movie, I’m pulled out of the story because there’s so much media attention around Tom Cruise’s stunts. I don’t see Ethan Hunt doing something amazing for a mission, I see an actor doing an impressive stunt. Realism is maintained, but in the process, narrative immersion is sacrificed. 

The Tom Cruise Logistical Conundrum

Tom Cruise Motorcycle stunt

While a momentary lapse in immersion isn’t a big deal, it becomes a problem when it regularly happens during a franchise’s biggest action scenes. Mission: Impossible stunts are meant to be heart-pumping and tense, but that emotional response dies the instant you’re thinking about the logistics of Tom Cruise doing them instead of the narrative stakes of the scene. While these interruptions may be less cheesy than noticing a double, they’re just as disruptive.

Stunts Are Hurting The Storytelling

Tom Cruise HALO jump stunt

The notoriety of Mission: Impossible’s stunt work has overshadowed everything else about the franchise, which makes it hard to take them seriously as movies. When people talk about the franchise it’s almost exclusively in terms of Tom Cruise’s stunts, making them seem less like movies and more like Evel Knievel shows. It makes it hard to know if a new entry in the series is any good from a narrative perspective. 

Ruining Mission: Impossible

Tom Cruise Mission Impossible 7 stunt

I don’t think the original intent of Tom Cruise’s stunt work was wrong, and they remain impressive displays of physical skill and practical filmmaking, but they’re ruining Mission: Impossible nonetheless. The result of seeing an A-list actor risk his life repeatedly has garnered so much attention that it’s impossible to watch the movies without thinking about their real-life production. That media attention may keep the franchise fresh in people’s minds, but it also strips them of their narrative weight by distracting from the biggest moments.