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Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible rock climb is actually pretty legit, according to Free Solo’s Alex Honnold

In Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s Oscar nominated documentary Free Solo, Alex Honnold took on the insane challenge of climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan—a mere 3,300-foot slab of granite—free of any ropes or protective equipment. It was pretty much the real-life equivalent of a Tom Cruise stunt. How perfect that Honnold is now lending his climbing expertise to break down one of Cruise’s most insane stunts to date: the Mission: Impossible II free solo climb.

Any M:I fan knows Cruise, an actor committed to taking himself to the edge of death for our viewing pleasure, did most of the climb at Utah’s Dead Horse Point himself (though notably on digitally-removed cables and ropes). So are his gigantic leaps and one-handed hangs realistic? Yes and no.


GQ.com enlisted the Free Solo star to chime in on the authenticity of the bananas sequence, along with a handful of other iconic movie rock climbing scenes. A lot of the M:I II climb is pretty legit. That rest Ethan Hunt takes with his knees tucked into a crack in the rock? Totally a thing. Sliding downwards and dramatically catching onto the lip of a rock with your finger tips? “Somewhat realistic,” Honnold says in the video. But as accurate as a lot of it is, the whole stunt is a ridiculous dramatization of actual free soloing. “It’s totally over the top. Turned up to 11.” But of course it is; no M:I movie should be anything less. Here’s a free idea for you Christopher McQuarrie: cast Honnold as the next M:I baddie so he and Cruise can try to out-daredevil each other for a full two hours.

Check out the rest of the video, where Honnold breaks down Matthew McConaughey’s surprisingly realistic climbing fail in Failure to Launch and the nonsensical waterfall ascent in 2015’s Point Break.

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Oliver Whitney

Oliver Whitney is a film critic and culture writer living in Brooklyn.