Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Why The “Mission: Impossible” Films Continue To Hit Differently

After numerous delays and much anticipation, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise has recently released its seventh installment, “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” making it one of the longest-running franchises in cinematic history dating back to the first film’s release in 1996. In a time where franchise movies occupy multiplex screens in an endless rotation or reboot themselves for more modernized stories for present-day audiences, the “Mission: Impossible” films have continued to stay true to themselves and raise the bar in the quality as an event theater experience. It has become one of the more critical and financially successful franchises in recent years, with each passing installment outdoing the last. What is it about these action films that have continued to dazzle us after all these years? 

It’s no shocker that the “Mission: Impossible” franchise has thrived in its success with star and producer Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt and filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, who comes into his third consecutive directorial effort with this franchise. The franchise has been the home for various directorial visions from Brian De Palma, John Woo, JJ Abrams, and Brad Bird. However, it’s Christopher McQuarrie’s writing and direction that have helped bring out some of the best installments of these films and have been a part of some of the best years of Tom Cruise’s career, both in and out of the franchise. Most recently, with “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and the billion-dollar Oscar-winning hit film “Top Gun: Maverick.” Cruise has dedicated decades of his life to these films, and his extreme commitment to the film’s high stakes and dangerous stunts is nothing short of awe-inspiring, especially now that he’s 61 years old. With each installment, Cruise and McQuarrie have constantly strived to one-up themselves with more gripping on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertainment that begs to be seen on the most giant screen possible.

The director-actor duo has made it a point to go fully practical in making their films, making their massive action set pieces as realistic as possible. Now that’s not to say there is a complete absence of visual effects within the “Mission: Impossible” films, as the famous halo jump scene in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is aided by some visual effects for the storm during the sequence. However, witnessing this practical nuts-and-bolts filmmaking approach on such a large scale has given the “Mission: Impossible” films an edge over the CGI-infused blockbusters we have come to expect nowadays. Seeing these missions that seem to be impossible take place for real, right before our very eyes, makes the experience even more intense and nerve-racking because of the grueling efforts we know each member of production is putting into getting the shot, story, and sequence right. Having actual locations, no green screen, and real actors add an immersive quality you can never replicate with computers. We know it’s Tom Cruise jumping off the world’s tallest building, hanging off the side of an airplane, and even ridding off a cliff into a base jump (also a shout out to the stunt teams who aid Cruise in making all this possible).

The “Mission: Impossible” films have also proved time and time again that the franchise is more than just its stylistic daredevil sequence. Yes, much of the audience goes to the theater to see what crazy thing Tom Cruise will do next. Gratefully, this franchise offers an enveloping character study with Ethan Hunt, which we started to take shape in J.J. Abrams’ “Mission: Impossible III,” and it’s only continued with McQuarrie and Cruise’s collaboration. McQuarrie’s storytelling constantly raises the stakes for Ethan Hunt and his team, and this is most heavily felt in “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.” With this most recent entry, we continue to see how Hunt’s place in this world of global terrorism and espionage is tough and forces him to make impossible decisions. When the film slows down, it grounds us in Ethan Hunt’s emotional headspace as he’s forced to confront an enemy he cannot outmatch (“You’re playing four-dimensional chess with an algorithm”), and the results could cost him dearly.

Lately, other franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the D.C. Extended Universe, or the Fast Saga, have been criticized for their lack of clear direction and the lack of stakes, forcing the audience’s interest in the various stories and characters to decline. Even if “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two” may or may not be the official end for the franchise after its release next year (here’s hoping it doesn’t get delayed too far out), it’s pretty clear Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie have a precise direction of where they’re going to complete this part of Ethan Hunt’s storyline, which is exactly what audiences want to see nowadays.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” shows that these creatives have only excelled and exceeded in their achievement to deliver top-tier blockbuster entertainment for audiences. With a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, the franchise continues to bring a balance of self-awareness, humor, action, and a deeper understanding of these characters and their place within the world of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). The long-lasting power and legacy of Tom Cruise in this career-defining role has reaffirmed why he’s truly one of the only few traditional definitions of a movie star. His partnership with Christopher McQuarrie has elevated these films to become one of the greatest blockbuster franchises of all time and proceeds to offer more missions we can’t help but choose to accept. 

What are your thoughts on the “Mission: Impossible” franchise? Have you seen “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” yet? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Where do you think the franchise will go next? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

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Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington
Aspiring Screenwriter & awards season junkie. If you don't hear from me, I'm probably busy watching a film.

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