Published on August 2nd, 2018 | by Thomas Weinmaster1
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Who wants character development in a Mission Impossible movie? Not us. There’s a dazzling array of stunts on display, a high watermark for action cinema.
The Mission: Impossible film series has come a long way. In fact, if you sat down and watched the original 1996 film, then immediately went to see Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the sixth in the franchise), it might be hard to imagine both came from the same franchise. The original – based on a 1960s TV show of the same name – is a tight little thriller that some even called boring and convoluted when it was first released. Fast forward twenty-two years, and the series has become the absolute benchmark for insane action, incredible stunts, and breathless pacing – all held up by actor/stuntman/mutant Tom Cruise. Fallout ratchets it up from the previous high-water mark of Ghost Protocol, with set pieces so grandiose and stunts so ludicrous that you’re left giggling at the insanity of it all. But this movie delivers everything with such conviction and euphoria that the impossibility (wink wink) of what we are seeing is instantly forgotten. Truthfully, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is easily one of the best action movies of the past twenty years, and an almost perfect piece of pulse-pounding summer escapism. The series, it seems, is only getting better with age.
Fallout is the first direct sequel in the series, picking up two years after the events of Rogue Nation. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back with the Impossible Mission Force (IMF), chasing after the remnants of The Syndicate from the last film, who have reformed into a group call The Apostles. The baddies are attempting to procure three nuclear weapons, and Hunt’s team are enlisted to track them down and stop them. He’s joined by his regular IMF sidekicks Benji and Luther (Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, respectively), as well as the returning Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) of MI6, and newcomer August Walker (Henry Cavill) of the CIA. Their desperate chase to keep the weapons out of the wrong hands takes the team across the globe, from Belfast, to Paris, to London, to Kashmir.
The performances are solid. This is what Tom Cruise does best. Sure, he only has about six exasperated facial expressions he cycles through in every movie, and he runs like a lunatic (Cruise’s twitter bio indicates that he’s been, “running in movies since 1981”), but he is clearly having fun here. His take on Ethan has become a little less serious over the last few movies, which is a welcome evolution. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg are always fun to watch as Hunt’s somewhat willing tagalongs. Henry Cavill is a great addition to the cast, described as a sledgehammer to Hunt’s scalpel, which is a perfect comparison. Rebecca Ferguson gives a very nuanced performance that in my mind is the highlight of the film. I truly hope she returns for the next installment. Lastly, Sean Harris returns as the slimy Solomon Lane who, along with his co-conspirators, represent a great villainous presence for a series that has struggled with providing interesting antagonists (Philip Seymour Hoffman in M:I3 notwithstanding).
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has done a great job here, improving on his solid outing with the previous installment. While elements of the story may be familiar to viewers, he packs the movie with enough twists, turns, and double crosses to keep the audience from getting too comfortable. One thing I’ve found with previous M:I movies is that they can present the ridiculous without insulting the audience, and Fallout is no exception to that trend. The dialogue is also fun and quippy, with all of our favourite characters further ingratiating themselves with viewers.
As with the other films in the franchise, though, the focal point is the stunts, and Fallout features several jaw-dropping actions scenes. Spoiler-free highlights include an absolutely brutal bathroom fight, a high-speed motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, and a perilous foot-chase over London rooftops. No close-up shaky-cam nonsense to disorient the audience here – just wide angles and great camera work. Roomy shots like these would usually expose any weakness in the digital effects – if there were any digital effects, that is. McQuarrie and Cruise almost exclusively utilize old-school practical stunts, and you can feel it! Every perilous leap, every last-second swerve through traffic, and every devastating punch landed feels real. The result is one of the most impressive visual experiences I’ve had in a long time (rivalling 2013’s Mad Max: Fury Road), and is sure to be a top pick for adrenaline junkies for years to come.
If I had to pick a weakness, it would be the score, composed by Lorne Balfe. Sure, it crashes and bangs, slamming into action when it needs to, but aside from the classic Mission: Impossible jingle, the music has no discernable personality. It’s also distractingly loud in the mix, at times becoming intrusive. The movie offers a few silent action scenes using only the ambient sound – which works extremely well – so the less-than-brilliant score sticks out like a sore thumb in other places. Still, this is a small nitpick, and people don’t usually go to action movies for the compositional elements.
Fallout is a champion of execution rather than innovation. We’ve been through a lot of these story beats before, yet the film still feels fresh. It stands as a shining example of what craftsmanship can bring to something otherwise conventional. McQuarrie’s taut script and directing certainly elevate the movie above standard popcorn fare, but it’s Tom Cruise’s incredibly physical performance (as evidenced by his well-publicized ankle break on set), and the unbelievable action set pieces that people will remember. The series is showing no signs of fatigue, though I cannot fathom how they’d top this outing. James Bond should think about retirement, because Ethan Hunt reigns supreme as the world’s greatest super-spy, and he seems to be getting better with age. You should see Mission: Impossible – Fallout as soon as you can, on the biggest screen you can; avoid coffee beforehand, as you’ll be getting a straight shot of adrenaline before the credits roll.