Film Reviews

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is a Mission Worth Accepting

Is there a franchise more remarkable than Mission: Impossible? It began in 1996, with director Brian De Palma at the helm, constructing a spy film that trafficked in complicated conspiracies and paranoia and felt like a high-tech homage to 1970s thrillers. Now, six films in, the franchise shows no signs of fatigue or drop in quality. The films have shifted away from dark rooms of schemers to glitzy, death-defying stunts, but they’ve remained thrilling exercises in spectacle. How many film series can claim such a feat?

Mission: Impossible- Fallout opens with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, willing to risk life and limb for the sake of our entertainment repeatedly) on a beach, wedding Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), a character first introduced in Mission: Impossible 3 and briefly glimpsed in its sequel. However, that idyllic scene quickly becomes a nuclear-drenched nightmare from which Ethan Hunt awakes.

It’s a fitting opening for Fallout, as both this scene and the film’s subtitle tell us this is to be a story about dealing with consequences of actions undertaken and decisions made in previous films, as well as an attempt to establish a narrative through-line across the franchise’s previous films. Multiple references, for example, are made to the iconic “should you choose to accept it” part of the recurring self-destruct messages that reminds Hunt of his mission at the start of every movie. Here, the choices are unavoidable and from their ashes rise the titular fallout.

The film’s primary focus involves plutonium, stolen from Hunt and his team when he refuses to sacrifice an individual for the greater good. His team has dwindled slightly. Gone is Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt but the stoic Luther (Ving Rhames) and the fidgety, nervous Benji (Simon Pegg) remain.

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Because of Hunt’s refusal to sacrifice a member of his team, the CIA director (Angela Bassett, having quite the career year) pairs Henry Walker (a well-cast Henry Cavill) with Hunt.

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Walker is a character who has no time for planning or strategy, preferring to testosterone his way through a conflict in contrast to Hunt’s analytical style. The hope is they can retrieve the stolen plutonium before The Apostles, a fragment of the Syndicate, the shady organization introduced in a previous film, can use it to create nuclear weapons. Also returning is MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (a fantastic Rebecca Ferguson), back with another devil’s bargain that keeps her last name an appropriate one.

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If the film’s plot, which also features a black market arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) who was last seen being gassed into unconsciousness and taken into custody, sounds too dense, fret not. Christopher McQuarrie, the first director and screenwriter to return to the franchise, keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. The fight sequences are staged like ever-expanding ripples, beginning with an intimate, brutal fistfight in a Paris nightclub restroom and cycling out to include extensive chases through European streets and airborne intrigue.

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McQuarrie has a fine eye for well-staged action sequences and jaw-dropping, eye-dazzling spectacle, but he’s also a gifted screenwriter. He breaks up his stunts and spectacle with punchy, sharp dialogue. He allows the film’s action pageantry to breathe by intercutting with dialogue that alternates between humorous one-liners (often supplied by Pegg’s Benji) and heavier discussions about political philosophies and individual morality. I’ve loved almost every film in this franchise, save for John Wu’s Mission: Impossible 2, but Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol will probably always rank as my favorite. However, McQuarrie has taken this second time at the series’ helm to construct Fallout as a thematically rich, visually dazzling companion piece to his prior Rogue Nation.

However, as much as these films are vehicles for breath-taking actions sequences and elaborate double and triple crosses, the franchise’s linchpin remains Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Cruise’s face is weathered, but still appears younger than his 56 years, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the sake of stunt one-upmanship grounds the spectacle in verisimilitude. In addition, unlike The Mummy, Cruise’s most recent summer outing, Fallout appears comfortable at least slightly acknowledging Cruise’s aging. He’s slightly winded by that bathroom fight scene and frequently finds himself staring in frustration as the broader-shouldered, younger Cavill (amazing mustache and all) charges his way through a conflict.

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Don’t get me wrong. Cruise is still the film’s most valuable asset. He runs faster and longer than anyone should ever be able to do and leaps across buildings in a way that nearly defies physics.

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Honestly, if he began to run across water, it would hardly be surprising. However, the film acknowledges that he’s a character who’s perhaps seen too much and made too many hard choices to ever accept another defeat. A vulnerability creeps through Cruise’s performance that undercuts his apparent immortality. All of the film’s performances are strong, but this is still Cruise’s show and he fully commits to making Hunt a compelling protagonist.

There’s something about Fallout that feels like a finale, as though a loop that began over two decades ago is finally being closed. I hope that’s not the case, but if I never find myself in Ethan Hunt’s capable hands, I could hardly ask for a better swan song. To have kept an action movie franchise thriving for as long as this franchise has done feels like its own impossible mission, but I’m glad that mission was accepted.

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16 comments

  1. Great review kk. I mean JR lol. Seriously. Great review. You and kk are overlapping. Suggest you split up films to review as there is plenty out there. No just Mi and mamma mia. Who is doing equaliser 2 and um other auguat movies?

    1. Thanks for the compliment. Who reviews what is sometimes more of a time issue. I work and sometimes don’t get to see new releases right away. KK has a bit more free time, so he sometimes scoops the new streaming/ cinematic releases before I do.

    2. Re: “films to review as there is plenty out there”

      I haven’t reviewed some of the recent theatrical releases partially for life-related reasons (i.e., my brother’s recent wedding and the related last-minute planning sucked everyone into it like a black hole). So, that’s why I reviewed several older movies I could more easily watch at home or on the go. But, also, I genuinely enjoy retro dives into cinematic blindspots, often times more than I do watching new movies. For example, I’m still finishing a 2003 horror-thriller-comedy movie called May, and I’ve had more fun with it than just about any new movie I’ve seen over the past month.

      The real main problem, though, is MoviePass. As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s dying, and it’s what I’ve used for years now. So, I’m in the process of probably switching over to one of its competitors, AMC or Sinemia. Once I do, I’ll be able to review most new movies with regularity again.

      Also, before you ask, I’ve looked into it and I could actually go to press screenings to see new movies early but only if I drive 3 hours to a bigger city each time. I’d love to do that, but it’s not just cost-effective.

      1. Fair ebough. Have you seen any of these classics? Braindead? Rabid? From dusk till dawn trilogy and tv show? Death wish 2.return to the batcave? Bancock hilton? That Spanish film about paradoxes. Time something?

      2. Braindead, yes, and I do indeed kick ass for the Lord. Rabid, yes; in fact, I just reviewed it last week. Kind of seemed like it was meant for Cronenberg completists only or just anyone who will get a kick out of watching Marilyn Chambers hug everyone to death. https://weminoredinfilm.com/2018/07/25/retro-review-rabid-is-for-cronenberg-completists-only/

        Also yes to Time Crimes and the first From Dusk Till Dawn, no to sequels/TV show. No to Death Wish 2, but know its reputation. Never actually heard of Return to the Batcave. Sounds interesting. Ditto for Bangkok Hilton – circa 1989 Weaving and Nicole Kidman? How have I not heard of this before?

      3. Bancock hilton is kidmans breakout role with deniem elliot as the lawyer/unknown to her father trying to get her out of the thai lrison. Kind of midnight express but better drama. Return to the batcave is a parody of adam west and burt ward playing themselves but being involved in a real batman type caper. At the same time they reflect on how they got to be cast in the original show which then flashbacks to a straight dramatisation of the original 60s making of batman using different actors. A lot of the original stars cameo. It actually is very good in my humble opinion.

    1. You can probably get away woth just following the last 3 films if you want real continuity. The rest are almost reboots each time like james bond.

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