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TOM CRUISE and the midlife crisis. What’s WRONG with the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE?

We are dealing with a sixty-year-old who behaves a bit as if he had taken Viagra and stubbornly tried to show the world how virulent he is…

Jakub Piwoński

5 August 2023

There is a scene in the latest Mission: Impossible (I will add that it is an action scene) in which you can sense a subtle sexual subtext. I mean the moment when shackled Tom Cruise drives a tiny, yellow car together with Hayley Atwell who accompanies him in trouble. Cruise is doing quite well considering the conditions in which he came to escape. For a moment, the action freezes, the car stops, and our hero has to start it again. He does it violently, then apologizes to his partner for not mastering the machine in time. She looks at him understandingly and tenderly lets him know that nothing has happened.

It’s funny, but it seems to me that in this short scene there is a lot of the actor’s motivation and state of mind in which he is currently. We are dealing with a sixty-year-old who behaves a bit as if he had taken Viagra and stubbornly tried to show the world how ravenous he is. Of course, this activity is expressed in spectacular action scenes, in which he does not use the help of his colleagues – stuntmen, and even more so special effects specialists. Cruise wants to give his best in the film, and with this presence and commitment he has established an element of his cinematic and marketing style. After the screening of the last Mission: Impossible, however, I already have the impression of fatigue, which has not yet reached me while dealing with the new Top Gun, although it has already crystallized. This man cares so much about showing himself in the best, most favorable light that it takes the form of a caricature, some sick obsession, or at least self-centeredness.

Why is he making such a strict proposal? It hit me like a bludgeon in the face as I blended into the now famous motorcycle jump off a mountain ledge. Let’s add a scene that was talked about and written about long before the premiere of the film, programming us to receive it and the film itself, for the sake of it. Let us recall, for the sake of clarity – Cruise, left in a situation with limited room for maneuver, decides to speed up his motorcycle and jump out of the natural launcher far enough to be able to freely deploy the parachute while falling, without the risk of crashing against the rocks. Cool? Cool. The only insurmountable problem for me was how to shoot this scene. The camera freezes in concentration, watching very carefully from a distance the moment of gaining momentum and the jump itself. All, of course, without cuts, live, just to once again provide the world with living proof of the thesis that Cruise is a god on Earth, and that’s it.

Leaving aside the very fact that this contemporary push for realism has made us lose this feature of film art, which is the art of illusion. Now the quality is the screen truth, or at least such a lie that the impression of the truth remains in us. Let’s leave it. I consider this a pivotal moment for the movie because I feel like the whole movie, based on a painfully pretentious, extremely weak plot, was made just so Tom Crusie could defeat death again. At the same time, they boost their self-esteem and give the audience a new, impossible to fake quality of film action. Call me ignorant, but I don’t care about Cruise’s increasingly intrusive contortions, I don’t care about his flexing muscles, grinning and proving what a superhero he is without a leotard. The paradox of the whole situation is that the more Cruise tries to be real, the more artificial and bloated he becomes.

After Dead Reckoning Part One, I thought that this series may not have lost its identity, but gained a completely new one. Once upon a time there was intrigue. Today we are entering the amusement park area, designed so that after the visit no one has any doubts about who its owner is and how important it is to the local community. My editorial colleague very nicely and neatly described the entire evolution of the series, I will not repeat after him. I will shorten the whole story by admitting that, yes, this series has always been based on a certain exaggeration, functioning on the principles of spy cinema, where the main character looks through the curtain, discovering secrets, solving cases that cannot be solved by normal means. Now, however, it is not so much the mission, and even impossible, that becomes the center of this story, as the hero, who not only proves that the impossible does not exist with his exploits, but also goes a step further, wanting to cheat death itself. “What, where, when” doesn’t really matter anymore. The enemy is now illusory and impersonal, like numbers in a computer, because from now on, the terms are dictated by the algorithm. Cruise wants to break out of this puzzle, he wants to break out of the clutches of time, technology, while showing his colleagues that he is still one step ahead of them with his intellect and physical fitness, and to the women around him that he is still damn handsome.

In fact, the latest Mission: Impossible is everything. Because the film is full of action, the feats are really virtuosic, and the women are adorable. There was only one thing missing – Cruise took off his shirt at the climax, even tore it, and made a cloth from the obtained material that would wipe tears and sweat from the forehead of Hayley Atwell, who fought bravely by his side. There is something of a disturbing posturing about it that I personally abhor. I am reminded of all the stories from the set of this film, emerging in the pandemic pains, where Tom Cruise yelled at the members of the film crew, calling for concentration and taking the matter seriously. At the time, I thought he just fucking cared. I still think so, but now I know that he just makes these films for himself, not so much for us, for himself, to tickle his ego, to erect a monument to himself, still in his lifetime, even for immortality in this whole rub off in the process.

I started the text with a reference to a certain meaningful scene from the film. I will end it with a quote from another part of it. At one point in the film, the character played by Shea Whigam, who plays the agent hot on Hunt’s heels, likens the target of his pursuit to a force so great that it cannot be killed by normal means. He says directly that here it is necessary to remedy only an aspen stake driven into the heart. I don’t know if this is an intended reference to Interview with the Vampire starring Tom Cruise, but I laughed at this comparison because it seemed to me to sum up my conclusions accurately at the same time. Cruise, paradoxically, playing a vampire, a fantastic creature, was much more convincing, more believable, years ago than he is now playing someone of flesh and blood. At that time, he at least did not hide the fact that he was facing an existential crisis. Now, on the other hand, she shows nothing, but under that façade and powder, I believe, there is a lot of fear.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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