One of the best movies of the year is arguably Mission: Impossible Fallout. The sixth entry in the action/spy franchise was once again directed by Christopher McQuarrie and set the bar as to what modern blockbuster action films can do. In fact, the action is the best part of the film and is responsible for some of the best scenes in 2018. Tom Cruise, as we know, is something of a madman when it comes to doing his stunts. He broke his leg while jumping across rooftops and learned how to HALO jump and fly a helicopter for scenes in Fallout, which were filmed with nice wide lenses and didn’t rely on quick edits to mask the action. Liam Neeson hopping a fence in Taken 3, this was not. But when actors put their all into their craft, they usually get some sort of recognition for their work. But Tom Cruise won’t, at least not at any of the prestigious awards that will air in the weeks to come. But should he?
Ever since Casino Royale’s opening parkour chase scene, I’ve been surprised and confused as to why there isn’t a Best Stunt Work award at the Oscars or the Golden Globes. Film awards celebrate all aspects of a film, from costumes, acting, makeup, direction and set design, among others. Together, they all help to make a movie feel alive and real. A truly great film may have mastery over multiple categories, showing how proficient the cast and crew was while working on that particular project. But one area of filmmaking that seems to go unnoticed in the eyes of the various panels is the stunt category.
Getting the perfect stunt on film is more than just practicing a choreography over and over again and having the camera pointing in the right direction. To say that would be an insult to the craft. But creating elaborate stunts requires a team effort of highly dedicated and trained professionals that seeks to make them look as spectacular as possible while also ensuring the move is safe to perform on camera. And that’s just the default way that branch of the industry works. There are some teams that seem to go above and beyond and deliver us scenes that become memorable and beloved as the movies themselves. Case in point, that parkour scene in Casino Royale or any number of scenes in Fallout.
Making these stunts takes months of extensive training and practice and requires utmost trust and teamwork with the stunt team and coordinator. Furthermore, to make sure the action looks clear and cohesive a talented cinematography and editor is needed to give clear shots of the action to ensure it doesn’t have to be chopped to pieces in post-production editing. This is why it’s still surprising the Academy doesn’t honour all the hard work that goes into making these scenes. One may argue that an award show doesn’t wish to recognize stunts due to their dangerous nature and it would encourage pushing the envelope even more for an award, but the nominees of these awards would be the teams who ensured safe practices while also pushing the bar. Heck, the bar is already being pushed without the need of an award, so I don’t think that would be an issue. Arguably, despite a lot of nonsense, the really good action scenes have only been getting better over time, with films like the last few Mission: Impossible entries, John Wick, The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road coming to mind as having truly exceptional stunt work and also being really entertaining films. Sidenote, but despite not getting any stunt recognition, Fury Road was still nominated for ten Oscars and won six.
If there were to be an award in 2019 though, I think we can all agree that Tom Cruise and the Mission Impossible Fallout stunt team would be the obvious winners. Not only was it one of the best films of the year but it had some of the best action scenes period. Tom Cruise did many of his own stunts, which were crazy enough to turn any palm sweaty and raise the hairs on the back of your neck. He spent months learning how to do a High Altitude, Low Oxygen (or HALO) jump for the film, which was done in one shot and enhanced with visual effects. He also spent a year learning to fly a helicopter for the epic final chase scene, where his chopper flies over mountaintops chasing down Henry Cavill in another helicopter. When the camera cuts to an interior point of view of the cockpit, seeing that it’s done for real is enough to let your jaw drop to the floor. And Cruise, along with his team of stunt coordinators and choreographers and instructors, helped make those scenes what they are, which will likely live on as some of the most iconic scenes of 2018. So while there is no official Academy Award for Best Stunts this year, we can at least say that the film is a winner in our book. Well done to the stunt crew on Fallout and all those who made impressive stunts in 2018.
What are your thoughts though? Should stunts be recognized and awarded at the highest forms of film celebration or is celebrating dangerous work encouraging reckless work? Let us know what you think in the comments below and be sure to check out our work on Orson Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind and why now is the perfect time for Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone.