‘Mission: Impossible’: Is Tom Cruise irreplaceable?

Tom Cruise is officially back in action.

After underwhelming receipts from “American Made,” “The Mummy” reboot, and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” Cruise’s latest blockbuster, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” signals a return to form for a movie star who needs to prove he’s still profitable as he nears his sixth decade on the planet.

With $153 million globally — including $61.5 million in North America and $92 million internationally — the newest installment in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise marked a series best opening. Prior to that, “Mission: Impossible II” boasted the biggest debut at $57.8 million, not adjusted for inflation, while the last iteration, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” launched with $55.5 million.

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SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 16: Actor Tom Cruise rides a motorcycle for the official 'Knight and Day' movie stunt exhibition prior the world premier tomorrow night, next to Seville's cathedral on June 16, 2010 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fernando Camino/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 16: Actor Tom Cruise attends the official 'Knight and Day' movie stunt exhibition prior the world premier tomorrow night, next to Seville's cathedral on June 16, 2010 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fernando Camino/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - NOVEMBER 09: In this handout photo provided by Warner Brothers Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, Tom Cruise plays Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage, a soldier who replays his last day while trying to fight aliens, in director Doug Liman's 'All You Need Is Kill'. The film is set to premiere on March 14, 2014. (Photo by David James/Warner Brothers Pictures via Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 16: Actor Tom Cruise attends the official 'Knight and Day' movie stunt exhibition prior the world premier tomorrow night, next to Seville's cathedral on June 16, 2010 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fernando Camino/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 30: (CHINA OUT) A stunt man for Tom Cruise drives during the filming of Mission Impossible III at Pudong District on November 30, 2005 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
American actor Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, escaping through the collapsing aquarium in a restaurant, in a scene from the film 'Mission: Impossible', 1996. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)
American actor Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, escaping through the collapsing aquarium in a restaurant, in a scene from the film 'Mission: Impossible', 1996. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)
American actor Tom Cruise perches on a helicopter skid against a bluescreen, whilst filming a scene for the movie 'Mission: Impossible' at Pinewood Studios, London, 1995. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O’BRIEN -- Episode 42 -- Air Date 08/04/2009 -- Pictured: Wax Tom Cruise and Fonzi statues mid flight after being shot from a cannon on August 4, 2009 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
American actor Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, escaping through the collapsing aquarium in a restaurant, in a scene from the film 'Mission: Impossible', 1996. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)
US actor Tom Cruise drives a car, fitted with cameras, during the filming of a scene in the movie 'Mission Impossible 5' on September 25, 2014, in the Kasbah of the Udayas near the Moroccan capital Rabat. The filming in Morocco of Hollywood action movie 'Mission Impossible 5' is to close off a section of a main highway for two weeks, the highways authority and local media said. AFP PHOTO / FADEL SENNA (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 16: Actor Tom Cruise rides a motorcycle for the official 'Knight and Day' movie stunt exhibition prior the world premier tomorrow night, next to Seville's cathedral on June 16, 2010 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fernando Camino/Getty Images)
US actor Tom Cruise drives during the filming of a scene in the movie 'Mission Impossible 5' on September 25, 2014, in the Kasbah of the Udayas near the Moroccan capital Rabat. The filming in Morocco of Hollywood action movie 'Mission Impossible 5' is to close off a section of a main highway for two weeks, the highways authority and local media said. AFP PHOTO / FADEL SENNA (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 28: Rebecca Ferguson (L) and Tom Cruise are seen on the set of 'Mission: Impossible 5' on the roof of the opera house August 28, 2014 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Kai Danneberg/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Tom Cruise is sighted flying in and RAF helicopter on set for the movie 'All You Need Is Kill' being filmed in Trafalgar Square on November 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Simon James/FilmMagic)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 28: Tom Cruise is seen on the set of 'Mission: Impossible 5' on the roof of the opera house August 28, 2014 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Kai Danneberg/GC Images)
Picture Shows: Tom Cruise December 01, 2014 Tom Cruise casually walks through Piccadilly Circus while filming an impromptu scene for Mission Impossible 5. The scene was filmed in Central London with no road closures or any warning, members of the public hardly noticed the Hollywood A Lister as he strolled casually through the landmark and dodged the traffic. The crew used cameras placed in the windows of the buildings and on rooftops to capture the moment. Tom then heads to a phonebox outside The Windmill club to make a call. Exclusive - All Round Worldwide Rights Pictures by : FameFlynet UK � 2014 Tel : +44 (0)20 3551 5049 Email : info@fameflynet.uk.com
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 02: Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are seen on the film set of the movie 'All You Need Is Kill' on February 02, 2013 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by JJ/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Tom Cruise (Rear) is sighted flying in and RAF helicopter on set for the movie 'All You Need Is Kill' being filmed in Trafalgar Square on November 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Simon James/FilmMagic)
Tom Cruise showing his tricks as a bartender in a scene from the film 'Cocktail', 1988. (Photo by Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Tom Cruise is sighted flying in and RAF helicopter on set for the movie 'All You Need Is Kill' being filmed in Trafalgar Square on November 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Simon James/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12: Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko are seen on the set of'Oblivion' at Streets of Manhattan on June 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Alo Ceballos/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12: Tom Cruise is seen on the set of'Oblivion' at Streets of Manhattan on June 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Alo Ceballos/FilmMagic)
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Perhaps “Mission: Impossible’s” greatest stunt is its ability to bank of the success of its leading man, a feat few franchises are able to pull off in an era of diminishing star power. Once upon a time, A-listers like Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, and Will Smith could confidently draw crowds with their name alone. It’s trickier now, and series such as “Star Wars,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and “The Fast and the Furious” are forced to rely on an all-encompassing brand to entice moviegoers.

But Cruise and “Mission: Impossible” have become synonymous with one another. It’s hard imagining the series existing without him. There were once rumors that Cruise would be replaced by the younger and less expensive Jeremy Renner, whose shadowy analyst Brandt entered the fray in “Ghost Protocol.” That plan, if it existed, appears to have been abandoned and Renner doesn’t even pop up in “Fallout.” The culprit was a busy “Avengers: Infinity War” shooting schedule, but did audiences even miss him?

They’d sure miss Cruise. Since the first “Mission: Impossible” hit theaters over twenty years ago, he has established himself as one of the few remaining action stars. Cruise may have broken a limb while shooting a stunt for “Fallout,” but the 56-year-old shows little signs of slowing down. In fact, “Fallout” has generated some of the best sentiments of the franchise. Its 98% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is the highest for both the series, and of any Cruise movie. Audiences seem equally enthusiastic, as “Fallout” is the first “Mission: Impossible” movie to earn an A CinemaScore. That kind of endorsement is rare for a film with that many sequels.

Tom Cruise is Ethan Hunt and Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst with comScore. “Perhaps no other actor working today is so profoundly linked to a specific character and franchise. It’s impossible to imagine any other actor in this role.”

TMISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

Even in a movie with a star-studded cast including Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin, Cruise and his signature death-defying stunts are the big draw. In “Fallout,” director Christopher McQuarrie continues to up the stakes. In one instance, Cruise had to execute a complex HALO jump sequence that involved him jumping out of an airplane over 100 times to get it right. For another scene, Cruise learned to fly a helicopter solo and perform a tricky nose dive, all while operating a camera.

“They have gained almost mythic stature among fans,” Dergarabedian said. “There’s almost nobody who can equal him in terms of doing his own stunts.”

Universal’s “Bourne” films are a cautionary tale of toying with a talent-driven series. The Matt Damon-led spy thriller hit a bump when Renner (there he is again!) toplined the fourth installment, “The Bourne Legacy.” Though that title didn’t completely tank at the box office, the movie was generally panned for the absence of its headliner and posted the lowest numbers in the series.

Cruise has yet to have a $100 million opening (his best is still 2005’s “War of the Worlds” with $65 million), but if “Fallout” is any indication, his status as a star who puts butts in seats shouldn’t be written off just yet. Until Paramount pushes forward with another sequel — and that seems inevitable, given the praise for the latest — audiences will be waiting to see what jaw-dropping antics Cruise will be up to next time.

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