Fallout, the new movie in the Mission Impossible series, has been appreciated for various aspects, but there’s one thing everyone’s talking about.
A review of the movie opened with “It’s probably worth mentioning before I tell you anything about the new Mission Impossible movie that Tom Cruise is 56 years old,” and closed with the line “56 has never looked this good”. Another critic, while reviewing the movie makes it a point to say, “Did I mention that he is 56?”
Fallout has been made on a budget of over $170 million. It boasts a stellar cast that includes Henry Cavill, the actor who currently plays Superman, and some brilliantly staged action set-pieces, a majority of which have been performed by the actors themselves. While all these do find a mention, it seems that people can’t but drool over the fact that a leading man who’s crossed 50 is doing all that daredevilry himself?
It is a fact that being part of action sequences becomes increasingly difficult with age. So, 56-year old Cruise doing those stunts all by himself is no small feat, but using that as a lynchpin to argue for the greatness of a movie takes away from everything else that’s good about it. If the quality of the action set-pieces and the movie are good enough, the audience does not need to be reminded of the leading man’s age.
An example would help illustrate this point. In Kerala, when Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan released, a typical fan, after having backed his idol throughout, would finally resort to: “Can’t you see Mohanlal doing all these stunts even at this age. Who else will be able to do that? What else do you need?” Chances are that people half the age of Mohanlal wouldn’t be able to do half the things he does. Unfortunately, the fan purchased the ticket to a movie and not a circus show, and must therefore understand it would take a little more than acrobatics to engage people in a movie hall.
The Mission Impossible series, with its well-executed action sequences, is not one of those exercises for its leading man to stay relevant. As anyone would admit, it is genuine fun. Just when the series seemed to be fading out, it got a lease of life with its fourth instalment, Ghost Protocol. Cruise was 49 when he did the famous Burj Khalifa scene in the movie.
Since then, Cruise has been forced to up the ante with every Mission Impossible movie. Rogue Nation had Cruise stuck to an aeroplane and the latest one has him dangling from a helicopter. It’s a perpetual struggle to better himself with every film. That can be quite a struggle when action is involved, and Cruise has always been known for his action movies.
Image Courtesy: CNET
In constrast, Liam Neeson, who famously reinvented himself into an action star with his Taken series, was 56 when the first movie in the franchise came out. Unlike Cruise, Neeson is not out to save the world; his cause is strictly personal – saving a kidnapped daughter or wife. This also gives him the luxury of playing his age, unlike Cruise.
As if taking a cue from Neeson, actors back home are also trying their hand at performing their own stunts. Kamal Haasan, 63, recently said that he performed his own stunts for Vishwaroopam 2. Like Mission Impossible, where Cruise has the freedom to give suggestions and inputs to director Christopher Mcquarrie whom he has known for 12 years after having worked on six films together (Mission Impossible: Fallout and Rogue Nation, Edge of Tomorrow, The Mummy, Valkyrie and Jack Reacher), Vishwaroopam 2 too presents Haasan with a similar opportunity, since he’s the writer as well as director.
In the Hindi film industry, Akshay Kumar is known for performing his own stunts. His jump from one elevator to another during an action sequence in Singh is Kinng became news when he had a narrow escape performing it. Since he has a background in martial arts, even advertisements featuring him lean towards action.
While Shah Rukh Khan’ tryst with action in the form of Ra.One failed to pay off, with one critic calling it his mid-life crisis (ticking him off), Aamir Khan found success with Ghajini.
John Abraham is the latest to follow this pattern. The actor has been churning out one action movie after the other for the past couple of years. His latest release Parmanu was an exception; he had some action sequences, but his character was more about putting a team together.
Unlike Cruise, today’s top Hindi heroes have ventured into action only in the later stages of their career, barring Hrithik Roshan, who did Dhoom 3 when he was still in his 30s. Most people known today for their action avatars took on softer roles early on before getting ready for stunts their 40s! Did you know, for instance, that Dharmendra was renowned for his tender onscreen romance?
However, things have been changing. Younger actors who don’t believe in the image trap have been venturing into action right at the beginning of their career. Tiger Shroff’s Baaghi series has been welcomed by the audience. Sidharth Malhotra has been taking up action-oriented movies such as Brothers and A Gentleman, though he is yet to find success in the genre. Vidyut Jammwal, who is trained in many martial arts forms, including Kalaripayatt, struck gold with Commando and Commando 2 and is now working on Junglee.
So, does age really matter? And, must we get into the 28, 56 or 65 debate at all? Not quite. For, Cruise sure looks like he has another couple of MI films in him. And, Akshay does not seem to tire of action too!