When it comes to action movies, the Mission: Impossible series is more than a safe bet. The enduring action franchise has been around for over twenty years, and it looks like it will keep going as long as its star and producer Tom Cruise does. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Cruise once again proves just how far he’ll go for our entertainment. Fortunately, he has the supreme confidence of his frequent collaborator writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who pushes the scale of the action to new heights, while still keeping things somewhat grounded and very entertaining. The summer of 2018 has offered a lot of entertaining films, but Fallout is indeed the peak of blockbuster cinema by comparison.
This time around, Fallout has chosen to work as a direct sequel to the previous film (and franchise best) Rogue Nation. That said, the plot of Fallout is thin enough that little memory of the previous characters or story is required to keep up with this film. Cruise once again chooses to accept a mission as Impossible Mission Force (IMF) Agent Ethan Hunt. He’ll be joined by his regular cohorts, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) to track down stolen plutonium. Due to the concern of a no-nonsense Angela Bassett as the director of the CIA, Hunt’s team will be joined by Henry Cavill’s Agent Walker, a CIA assassin. From there, the film zips along from one wild set piece to another, as the film pushes itself to impossible limits over the course of its 147-minute runtime.
The film features almost non-stop action, with bridging scenes doing just enough to satisfy the requirements for telling a coherent, twist-filled story rooted in the ideas that make these characters tick. At six installments in, there is only so much need to push essential details about these characters on the audience, but here we are getting moments shared that feel like a sense of history is coming in through eye contact and gestures, as much as the actual dialogue exchanged. It’s a credit to Cruise, Rhames, Pegg, and a returning Rebecca Ferguson as MI6 Agent Ilsa Faust that they can do a lot with little moments to make the stakes feel like they matter.
It’s also great to see Cruise so willing to share the spotlight. Make no mistake, this is a Tom Cruise production, but if Rogue Nation had fun exploring the idea that his Ethan Hunt was perhaps a bit of a sociopath, then this film does wonders in moving in the opposite direction by exploring his connections with others. The character has always been a bit pliable, so these recent entries can get away with keeping us in step with where Ethan is and challenging him in new ways, such as mixing his personal relationships with his desire to save the world from danger.
Because of this, Hunt continues to be rounded out as a person by way of the supporting cast around him. So Rhames can have a surprisingly emotional moment, and Ferguson can continue to share a strong connection that remains plutonic. A returning Alec Baldwin as the IMF Secretary can impart some genuine wisdom, and a returning Sean Harris can serve as the sort of villain that knows how to get under Hunt’s skin, knowing what would hurt him most. Cavill may not have much of a connection to Hunt, but he certainly throws his weight (and mustache) around in the right way to leave an impression.
When the film is not impressing you with its superb chase sequences, gun fights, fist fights, helicopter battles, and other amazements, it works as a tricky espionage tale that can hold off scrutiny because of the assured cast involved. The film also knows how to work in a humorous touch, whether it’s Pegg’s reactions or the reminders that Hunt isn’t invincible or always in control. This is all to say Fallout will surely have you on the edge of your seat, even if you know the stakes are too high for Cruise and the gang not to mostly prevail.
From a production standpoint, Fallout feels like it easily rests at the top with the sort of blockbuster treats only so many filmmakers know how to deliver. With McQuarrie being the first director in this franchise to come back for more, I can’t imagine what he could do next to top this effort (which also means I look forward to seeing another filmmaker try their hand at this). While I may ultimately prefer his previous ‘Mission,’ there’s no denying McQuarrie’s ability to deliver the top-tier spectacle. I’ve been admiring the director’s ways of staging elaborate action scenes and suspense since 2000’s underseen The Way of the Gun, so to see him get to the point of filming death-defying chases with IMAX cameras is really impressive.
Cinematographer Rob Hardy (Ex Machina) is new to the series, but with help from editor Eddie Hamilton (Rogue Nation, Kingsman), and the giant team of people that came up with all the crazy ways of seeing Cruise nearly die for our entertainment, it’s incredible to watch a film unleash so much action mayhem. Even more impressive is how it all register so clearly, and never feels overwhelming. And credit goes to the actors and stunt people, as watching specific fight and chase sequences unfold is the sort of pleasure you hope to get like when Jackie Chan, silent film stars, and other cinematic daredevils deliver the goods.
For a good reason, films like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dark Knight have been brought up for the way Fallout never lets up on the gas pedal and establishes the same kind of huge scale we saw when Christopher Nolan set his sights on Gotham City for his epic sequel. It’s appropriate, because what can you say when a wild bathroom brawl follows a HALO jump (actually performed by Cruise), and the movie still has plenty of action to deliver for the proceeding two hours?
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a summer blockbuster that fires on all cylinders. It takes everything that’s been established about this series so far and proceeds in the way that we would hope. While the stakes set by the story provide a reason to take things seriously, Cruise and company know how to entertain. It makes more sense that Ethan isn’t perfect. There’s more fun to be had in watching wide shots of action going in unexpected directions. It’s amazing to watch real stunts on the big screen, such as cars drifting around corners in London at excessive speeds, while motorcycles give chase.
The fact that it has all come together so brilliantly is just a testament to how hard everyone works at continuing to make the Mission: Impossible series feel impossible to compete with as far as these Hollywood action blockbusters go. Accept this mission to see the most satisfying action film of the summer.