Tom Cruise just doesn’t know when to quit. And that’s a good thing!
Taking place two years after the events of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mission Impossible: Fallout follows our series protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he tries to quash the remains of the previous installment’s bad guy organization, The Syndicate, now reformed and rebranded as The Apostles. After a botched attempt at getting their hands on a supply of plutonium that will inevitably be used to make portable nuclear weapons, Hunt and his go-to team consisting of the tech savvy Benji (Simon Pegg) and loyal brother in arms Luther (Ving Rhames), must find a way to get the plutonium back before it falls into even worse hands than before. But when CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) insists that one of her agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), shadow Hunt and his team as they attempt to retrieve the payload, things start to spiral out of control. With Hunt having to question his allegiances and what he must do to achieve his goals, and Walker following him at every turn, it’s only a matter of time before someone slips up, and in this case, cause nuclear panic to the likes that the world has never seen.
I don’t know whom to commend for this one, whether it be returning director Christopher McQuarrie or superstar and franchise lead Tom Cruise (who is sort of an adrenaline junkie btw), but the fact that this franchise has now become a showcase for real, death defying stunts is absolutely fantastic and almost single-handedly keeps this franchise relevant in this superhero and computer generated laden Hollywood landscape. There’s something about seeing real flesh and blood people do real dangerous and difficult things without the extra sheen of a few hundred digital artists building the action from pixels, a feat that Mission Impossible has embraced to great effect. Whether it be a real-life HALO jump by Cruise, a bathroom brawl that shatters expectations, a frantic and lengthy motorcycle led car chase, or a finale that sees two helicopters and actors alike perform something seemingly impossible, this film has some of the best stunt-work this side of the John Wick films. While I do have to admit that there were a few instances where I couldn’t tell if the stunts were actually real or a clever trick using CGI and green screen – which is the point of films like this I guess – it was still a fact that bugged me more than it should have mostly because I wanted to appreciate and give props to the real shit and condone the laziness and fakeness of the digital wizardry shit, but I digress.
Anyway, great action scenes aside, Cruise and all of the familiar faces from the series’ past, including Rogue Nation’s Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), are just as good as always, even if a couple of the emotional beats in regards to a few of them kind of fell flat, but I can’t blame the filmmakers for trying to get us to legitimately care about these characters after all this time. Henry Cavill takes a bit to get used to as the newest member of the team, but the more you see of him, especially his crushingly brutal strength and cunning on full display during the bathroom fight scene, he ends up fitting in just fine. As usual, the villain works, but Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) isn’t really all that important outside of being a plot device for most of the runtime, however kudos are definitely in order for using him again in some capacity after the last installment left him alive and well.
For as much as the action, acting and general direction of the film help the final product become something better than it ever should have been, there are a few story elements that just simply didn’t work all that well otherwise. Firstly, I wasn’t super into the plot at any point nor did I care or truly know what the reasoning was for all the entertaining shit that was going on onscreen. There’s only so many times nuclear bombs going off with a conveniently dramatic countdown clock to ratchet up the tension can be done, and only so many times forced exposition can be sat through with a straight face before it all starts to blend together and drag the film down a bit, which is exactly what started to happen the longer the movie went on. Luckily, there are a few great twists here and there that keep the story from being too annoyingly similar from a film going for the same effect as this one, and obviously the action helped a lot, so while there are some issues and inconsistencies throughout, there’s enough here to like to give the missteps a pass. Plus, the truly engrossing stories from this franchise more or less fizzled out once they became pure action films, so I guess there’s not too much precedent for a gripping tale of espionage and backstabbing like the original Mission Impossible way back when.
Better than Rogue Nation but still slightly falling short of Ghost Protocol, Mission Impossible: Fallout is one of the best entries in a series that shows no signs of stopping. Returning director Christopher McQuarrie goes for broke with real stunts, real stakes, and real entertainment in an industry that’s constantly upping the computer generated mayhem ad nauseam. While the story is a bit forgettable and the first fifteen minutes is simply bad expositional filmmaking, everything else from beginning to end is spot on and a thrilling experience. Here’s hoping another sequel gets greenlit as soon as possible before Tom Cruise begins to show his age.