Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation scored its lead actor one of the highest grossing weekends of his career when it opened with $56 million at the domestic box office. A sixth installment was inevitable, and when it’s made next summer, the franchise will pass the two-decade mark. Cruise is back, but who should lead him? Doug Liman, that’s who.
The only constant in the series is Cruise, yet the Mission: Impossible movies thrive on their evolution and their ability to reinvent themselves through different filmmakers. Cruise changes somewhat with each installment, but it’s really the update of the filmmakers’ visions that keeps these flicks relevant. That goes for when the film franchise debuted in 1996 with fellow blockbusters like Independence Day and Twister, right up to now with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Fast and Furious movies, which themselves have wisely adjusted enough with each progressively ridiculous adventure.
This is why you can’t bring director Christopher McQuarrie back even though he knocked M:I 5 out of the park (and won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects, back when). But that doesn’t mean you can count out someone who has already worked with Cruise before. Bring on Liman.
I previously wrote about how Cruise’s similar guarantee to make a sequel to the slow-to-be-appreciated sci-fi time travel thriller Edge of Tomorrow solidified his squad goals. As a producer on his own films, he’s in the enviable position of being the boss. By demonstrating to Cruise that they can make him look great and make huge bank without Cruise having to cast himself as stealth Jesus, Liman and McQuarrie have been among his best hires.
This is why the film wouldn’t work well with some, like, say, director James Mangold, who tried making the action/thriller comedy thing work with Cruise in 2010’s Knight and Day but just couldn’t hack it. Cruise has already collaborated with McQuarrie in a writer/director capacity on Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, and now Rogue Nation. The only other primary member who thrived in contributing to Cruise’s most recent handful of movies is Liman.
Before he hooked up with Cruise by directing Edge of Tomorrow, Liman kickstarted the grit-wave of spy thrillers by directing The Bourne Identity — but could never quite earn the returns expected of his big-budget projects. Even Edge of Tomorrow recouped only $100 million at the domestic box office against a nearly $200 million budget.
But much like Cruise’s character in that movie, the film found new life on HBO, DVD, and Blu-ray. Sci-fi fans dug the mind-boggling storyline. They also loved Cruise’s unorthodox scrappiness and Liman’s deft handling of complex and totally badass alien-killing action sequences. Their box office bomb had suddenly become a hidden-in-plain-sight cult classic. Next up for Liman and Cruise: an ‘80s-era drug trafficking thriller tentatively titled Mena to be released in 2017.
Hollywood do-overs rarely come this naturally. A third collaboration would create a potential trilogy of action awesomeness to define this moment in each of their careers. Mission: Impossible 6 could be the crazy megahit that Edge of Tomorrow should have been.
As for what outrageously dangerous stunt they’ll have Cruise do next time, who knows? Even though McQuarrie says he didn’t steal Rogue Nation’s pulse-pounding Vienna opera house sequence from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, why not have the series go full North by Northwest by having Tom Cruise run across Mount Rushmore or something of that ilk. They could resurrect a crazy glass bridge sequence cut for budget constraints that McQuarrie talked about with Movies.com. Or they could get extreme and drop Cruise from 127,000 feet up, as Felix Baumgartner did for Red Bull a few years ago. I’m sure Cruise would be up for it, and the only guy that should be in the director’s chair while he does it is Liman.