Tom Cruise shouldn’t get all the credit for his career comeback

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Few actors in Hollywood today rival the power and adoration commanded by Tom Cruise. With blockbusters like “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and “Top Gun: Maverick” soaring in popularity, Cruise has become a self-appointed champion of cinema itself. In an era where movie stars seem scarce, Cruise stands out as one of the rare few capable of drawing massive crowds to theaters for his films.

His status as an industry titan is well-deserved. Over the past decade, Cruise has starred in a string of acclaimed movies, leveraging his innate star charisma and fearlessness in performing daring practical stunts, akin to legends like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton. When audiences watch a Tom Cruise film, they can expect pure entertainment, a rarity in today’s cinematic landscape.

With a little help from a usual suspect

While Tom Cruise’s late-career successes are without a doubt impressive, it is important to recognize that his current revival is not all his doing. In addition to his personal charm and daring tenacity, the actor’s victorious comeback to the forefront of Hollywood may also be ascribed to his very fruitful partnership with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie. Together, they have been crucial to Cruise’s comeback in the business.

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Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s collaboration dates back to 2008 when Cruise starred in “Valkyrie,” a film written by McQuarrie. Their partnership continued, and in 2012, they teamed up again for the action movie “Jack Reacher,” with McQuarrie directing this time. While “Jack Reacher” received mixed reviews, it marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.

Over the past 12 years, McQuarrie has been an integral part of almost every critically acclaimed and beloved movie that Cruise has been a part of. Notably, he didn’t receive official credits for 2011’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” yet it’s widely acknowledged that his uncredited contributions played a significant role in turning the film into a well-rounded blockbuster. Even the director of “Ghost Protocol,” Brad Bird, has publicly recognized McQuarrie’s valuable contributions to the movie over the years.

After a few years, McQuarrie was called upon for last-minute rewrites on 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” a movie that stands tall among Cruise’s finest action films. This successful collaboration led to his appointment as the writer and director for 2015’s “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.” Since then, he has reprised these roles for both 2018’s “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and this year’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” all of which have been hailed as some of the finest action movies ever made in Hollywood. Along the way, McQuarrie also contributed to script rewrites for “Top Gun: Maverick” and played a key role in producing a hit film in 2022.

In essence, McQuarrie has emerged as Cruise’s most significant and trusted collaborator. While not every film they’ve worked on together has been a smashing success (e.g., “The Mummy”), it is evident that Cruise has immense faith not only in McQuarrie’s talents but also in his artistic vision. Observing the films McQuarrie has directed with Cruise in the lead, it becomes clear why the two have formed such a strong bond and achieved remarkable results.

Is Christopher McQuarrie the MVP of the Mission: Impossible franchise?

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McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible movies are not just a showcase of awe-inspiring practical stunts but also a display of exceptional narrative and visual craftsmanship. In their joint commentary track for “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” Cruise repeatedly lauds McQuarrie’s work as “elegant,” a description that perfectly captures his style. Across “Fallout,” “Rogue Nation,” and “Dead Reckoning Part One,” McQuarrie maintains complete control, even when chaos unfolds on the screen. Remarkably, the films never lose their sense of order or become excessively frenetic.

Maintaining such balance is a daunting task, especially in movies that heavily rely on explosive action sequences. However, in McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible films, action never overshadows character development. Take, for instance, the extended Paris chase in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” driven by Ethan Hunt’s (played by Cruise) challenging decisions, a testament to McQuarrie’s skillful storytelling.

Beyond his unparalleled visual sense, McQuarrie possesses an innate understanding of harmonizing action and character, spectacle and emotion. This talent is evident not only in the Mission: Impossible films but also in “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” where his involvement has been most significant post-“Valkyrie.” Furthermore, his admiration for cinematic legends like Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and John Frankenheimer aligns perfectly with Cruise’s own aspiration to emulate such greats, making McQuarrie a steadfast and well-matched collaborator for Cruise throughout his career.

A fruitful partnership

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Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie share a true creative partnership, and it’s evident that their collaboration goes both ways. Each deserves credit for the other’s recent successes, as their influence can be seen in all of Cruise’s best late-career movies.

McQuarrie possesses a filmmaking style perfectly aligned with Cruise’s current ambitions, making him the ideal director to bring these visions to life. With Cruise’s star power, ample resources, and unwavering determination, McQuarrie has found the ideal partner to turn their shared ideas into captivating on-screen realities. It’s undoubtedly a win-win situation for both.

As of now, “Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One” is captivating audiences in theaters.

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