This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
It seems like for my entire adult life Tom Cruise has been going through a midlife crisis. Just the other day, I sat watching this guy during an early screening of Mission: Impossible - Fallout perform a HALO (High Altitude-Low Opening) jump from 35,000 feet above ground that screamed all kinds of “hell no.”
Since the Mission: Impossible series started 22 years ago, Cruise has famously done his own stunts in a seemingly endless mission to prove he’s still got it. I’m a long way from my midlife crisis, and I don’t know about you, but I’m good with my future sports car.
While Cruise may be a bit of a problematic weirdo, he also might be Hollywood’s last movie star and certainly, no one tries harder to entertain you. In advance of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, here’s a quick ranking of the best MI stunts to prep your heart for what’s to come.
11. Knife Fight - M:I-2
Instead of going for a normal Hollywood fake knife fight, Cruise and director John Woo decided that only a real steel knife would do. In a fight between his character Ethan Hunt and evil protagonist Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), Cruise heads as far he humanly can by allowing the pointy edge of Ambrose’s blade to stop just short of his milky white eyeball. Tom apparently has Scott holding the knife which is connected with a measured cable, just a quarter of an inch from his exposed eye. The knife is real, Scott’s pressure is real, and Cruise’s lower balls are harder than ever.
10. Motorcycle Chase - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
There’s bullets, emergency brake, and sideswipes at foolish speeds in this scene. Through it all, it’s Cruise, swerving in and out of lanes without a helmet. I won’t ride a motorcycle regardless of the situation because I enjoy living without brain damage, but it isn’t a legit Tom Cruise film without a motorcycle somewhere in the mix, and this one tops them all.
9. UAV Missile - M:I-3
Damage: Injured Ribs
This happens toward end. There’s this bridge scene that involves a drone that shoots a missile just a few feet away from Cruise with a blast radius that completely lifts him off the ground, tossing him into the side of a nearby vehicle. He’s running faster than any time in the series, all the while rigged to wires that yank him toward the exterior of a white Dodge. The sides of the car are padded, of course, but looking at how hard he hits it, he‘s lucky to have just gotten away with injured ribs and not a body cast.
8. Suspension Wire - Mission: Impossible
So Ethan and crew go in to steal an undercover agent list from CIA headquarters—a list that’s kept on a computer, locked in a vault, accessed through voice identification and a six-digit access code, retinal scan, along with a key card. The alarms will trigger by any sound above a whisper with a sensor that detects an unauthorized person’s body temperature.
Easy shit right?
So somehow Ethan gets in, drops down 30 feet through a conveniently placed air vent, dangling face first, red-faced and vain-ey, without an instrument or soundtrack to assist the tension. So, of course, some fool fucks up as usual and he comes inches close from alerting the alarms as he spirals down, but in peak “good haircut” Cruise fashion, he gets his list, thanks to his A-plus core strength.
The real kicker is that Cruise apparently went full on MacGyver by borrowing some loose change to place inside his shoe which helped to weigh his feet down for balance. Cruise thought of that, Ethan Hunt fans.
7. Shanghai Jump - M:I-3
J.J. Abrams isn’t as negligently dumb as past directors who let Tom play stunt devil from high places. As the plot goes, Ethan needs to Tarzan his way off a skyscraper to another just because it’s more convenient or some shit. Through the whole scene, Ethan has the face of a guy who knows he’s made a terrible mistake, which I imagine is his resting career face. He swings off of a relatively high green-screened platform, wires and all, and just throws himself in the air while just wearing a singular safety harness. It looks ridiculous and satisfying in the most cartoonish way.
6. Train Scene: _Mission: Impossibl_e
As far as one-liners go, “Red Light! Green Light!” ranks high. Here, he’s hanging for dear life off of a moving train as villians Jon Voight and Jean Reno attempt to escape. Yeah, it isn’t a real train, or a real helicopter, but Cruise is jumping in front of a damn 140 MPH wind machine in order to sell the idea that a human body can be whipped back from the force of an eventual chopper explosion. This scene is just the silliest kind of shit in the way that only a 90s MM film could get away with, but damn it has charm.
5. Exploding fish tank - Mission: Impossible
Damage: Hurt Ankle
This scene isn’t big time as far as theatrics, but I love it for a couple of reasons. Cruise looks peak-desperate. He understands that he’s to be framed for a horrible crime, so the violin instrumentals start elevating to a high, disorientating pitch, camera angles get all screwy, and my man Cruise is about to do something really stupid (establishing the mood for all things stupid moving forward). He reaches for that explosive gum with his ‘fuck it’ mug—explosions, shattered glass and 16 tons of water dancing in his head. Meanwhile, he’s got this suit talking down to him like a parent to a spoiled brat. He, of course, tosses the danger gum, the aquarium explodes, and he’s darting out of that bitch in comic fashion which caused him to hurt his ankle in the process.
4. Underwater - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Damage: Sore Lungs
In Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt is infiltrating an underwater vault because it’s Mission: Impossible. So he leaps from a 120-foot ledge into some water which, for reasons completely benefiting to the plot, is completely absent of underwater equipment. Naturally, Cruise has to hold his breath for six (SIX) minutes, which he spent months training his Scientology-enabled super lungs for.
3. Scaling Dubai: Ghost Protocol
Damage: Sore Muscles
Tom decides to scale the tallest skyscraper in the world because he has to access a server on a higher floor without all the standard security checks. Whatever. And hey, the Dubai Burj Khalifa is only 2,723 feet tall, right? He’s wearing Spider-man-like adhesive gloves, which on cue begin to malfunction requiring him to perform risky acrobatic moves for our viewing pleasure. It’s over the top, beyond any sane person’s dreams, and if you are in any way scared of heights, probably the most terrifying of these stunts.
2. Rock Climb - M:I-2
Damage: Torn Shoulder
This is a younger Cruise, but still stupid—what’s most disturbing about this moment besides the flowing hair is that this isn’t even a mission. Ethan Hunt is just doing peak white boy shit by climbing a mountain without a harness because that’s what vacations for special agents supposedly look like (also see: Captain Kirk in Star Trek V). In reality, I read that Cruise wore a harness but without a safety net. Even director John Woo couldn’t stand to look at the viewfinder as this guy went for the perfect shot at the height of 2,000 feet, sacrificing his shoulder in the process. Too bad it was wasted on one of the weakest entries in this series.
1. Dangling off of a plane - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Rogue Nation starts off this way. No build up, no dossier to prep for the ridiculous. You’re just watching 53-year-old Tom strapped to the side of a cargo plane. You try to squint your eyes for the CGI-ness as he hangs on for dear life, and it’s at that point when you remember who you are dealing with—that Oprah couch hopping, real plane hugging fucker. As for the why? Why ask why, when it comes to Tom? During the whole thing, my man had to wear “sclera” contact lenses just to keep his eyes open from tiny stones which he claimed almost took out his damn jaw. What other stunt can allow you to say this? I assume, none.
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