Mission: Impossible – Fallout is everything you’ve come to expect from this series to create the most impossible mission ever.
It’s amazing to think that this is the sixth installment of the Mission: Impossible film franchise. The first movie, originally released in 1996, was a singular attempt to adapt the original series, which at that point had been off the air for 23 years. But audiences gravitated to the series and now, 22 years after the premiere of the first film we’ve got Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
The first direct sequel in the franchise — connecting to 2015’s M:I film, Rogue Nation — Fallout adheres to everything audiences have come to expect from the series: Tom Cruise continues to do impossible stunts, characters allegiances are tested, and the plot is so twisted it’s starting to fuse on itself. But, like Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, we choose to accept the mission, leading to some breathtaking cinematography and an experience that’s pure popcorn fare.
Acclaimed IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is tasked with tracking down missing plutonium set to be obtained by a group of extremists known as the Apostles. Because the leader of the Apostles is a rogue agent, Hunt must masquerade as the man, only to be implicated in the plot himself. With time short, Hunt and his team must root out the mole, obtain the plutonium, and save the world.
Just writing down that plot was a lesson in paying attention. Like several of the last few Mission: Impossible movies, Fallout insists on dumping a mountain of plot information in one go before boiling it down to one key McGuffin. In this case, the audience is inundated with buzzwords like “Syndicate,” “Apostles” and “John Lark” in a narrative that includes everything from mad doctors to splinter cells. But what’s relevant is that plutonium is involved and Ethan Hunt needs to get it. Thus kicks off a two-and-a-half chase to dismantle a bomb that, thankfully, is suspenseful enough to keep things flowing.
At 56-years-old there’s no stopping Tom Cruise. Literally, the man runs, climbs, drives, and motorcycles as hard as a man 30 years his junior. Much of what propels Fallout are the action set-pieces that showcase Cruise’s machismo and agility. This go-round Hunt is teamed up with August Wilson (Henry Cavill plus mustache), a physically intimidating specimen of a man tasked with keeping an eye on Hunt. The movie doesn’t make a point of stating Cavill is more physically brutal than Hunt, but that’s a subplot of the feature.
Wilson sees the Impossible Missions Force as a fairy tale about “men in masks” who see hope as a strategy when it isn’t. As Angela Bassett’s Erica Sloan says of him, Wilson is “the hammer” and boy is he. It’s evident early on what his role in the film’s endgame is, and it’s hard to buy overall, but Cavill proves he can be a compelling character when given good material. If anything, Fallout sees to draw inspiration from one of Cavill’s own movies, the underrated Man From U.N.C.L.E, itself a flashy remake of a ’60s television series.
The trailers have done a great job of hyping the film’s first major set-up, involving Cavill and Cruise in a bathroom. The trailer does a fantastic job of whetting the appetite without giving anything away. Make no mistake, this scene is brutal and is a high-octane moment where you feel every wall throw and sink punch. Kudos to the sound mix for emphasizing the impact here, though this is a movie where death has little meaning. Case in point, the third act involves a game of chicken with helicopters that plays like the worst game of Mouse Trap. Suffice it to say, you’ll have a hard time believing Tom Cruise isn’t a zombie.
And Cruise certainly does well here, though considering this is his sixth outing with the character, he’s not required to do too much. The majority of his screentime sees him engaging in action, so it’s hard to say he gives much of a performance. If anything you honor his commitment to his craft. Cruise has been vocal about doing his own stunts in this series, and unlike other action movies where a stunt double is evident, it’s obvious Cruise is the one riding the motorcycle or jumping onto roofs (breaking his foot in the process). He does have a moment of tenderness with his former wife, Julia (played by Michelle Monaghan) towards the end.
Hunt is a man who, like James Bond, has had a new woman in every film and this is the first time the movie has made a point of mentioning the character’s love for a woman long-term. Julia, who was missing from the previous film, returns to leave Hunt wondering what might have been, and what could be with MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
The movie doesn’t weigh down the already heavy plot with a love triangle, instead placing it on the fringes. Julia and Ilsa meet and converse, but there’s never any sense of competition or animosity. Ferguson’s character, especially, holds her own in the gunplay and other action that happens around her. She’s complemented by Vanessa Kirby’s evil, White Widow who’s as beautiful as she is remorseless.
“The world needs the IMF” but it remains to be seen how the IMF can keep up in this world for a seventh feature that seems all but inevitable. As it stands now, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the most emblematic of the entire series. If you’ve watched this one, odds are you’ve watched all the previous ones. At times this feels like the most formulaic, but it is entertaining and keeps you enthralled with the magnificent set pieces. Just don’t anticipate being able to distinguish this from Rogue Nation.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout in theaters now.