Mission: Impossible – Fallout, 2018.
Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
Starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Liang Yang, Kristoffer Joner, Wolf Blitzer, and Alec Baldwin
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.
Tom Cruise has a death wish. That’s already been established multiple times over both inside the Mission: Impossible franchise and outside of it. Clearly, the actor’s most memorable action hero, IMF agent Ethan Hunt also has one, and not just because it’s evident that he will go to any lengths to save anyone he considers a friend.
The opening sequence of Mission: Impossible – Fallout sees Ethan Hunt and his team (Simon Pegg’s comedic relief presence Benji, Ving Rhames’ relaxed communications man Luther, and although not present for this scene, the first-ever returning female in the series, Rebecca Ferguson as British intelligence agent Ilsa Faust who is once again forced into playing different sides of the equation, all led by Alec Baldwin’s Hunley) undercover brokering a deal to acquire some plutonium in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Things go south, and for once the mission actually does become impossible; Ethan is forced to choose between going after the weapons or saving a friend. In other words, it’s a choice between saving one life or potentially millions considering the proposed nuclear weapons have the threatening capabilities to cause a great deal of suffering on one-third of the planet. Weighing the consequences of either decision as best as someone possibly can within a three-second countdown, Ethan opts for the route grounded in morality and loyalty.
His death wish is putting his own life into further danger (along with the rest of the world) for the safety of his closest allies, and it’s a dynamic that consistently pops up during every shady situation, especially as the operative unintentionally assumes the identity of a key weapons buyer and gradually mixes himself into the underbelly of the black market. Not to make this too much about politics, but given current events, it’s actually a pleasant message to have in a nonstop action spectacle; every life matters and empathy is the greatest human trait of all. Whereas most espionage films tend to use doublecrosses and betrayals as a cliché, every character’s decision here usually feels grounded in real emotions; agents often find themselves on the same side but with opposite objectives, injecting much unpredictability as to how certain events will play out. There’s genuine care for one another in a crisis where the outcome has drastically different pros and cons for varying protagonists. On top of that, there are multiple wonderful small twists that will assuredly always catch viewers off guard; two, in particular, are downright clever and also yield laughter. Although, one more important swerve is fairly predictable and probably should have been revealed a little sooner.
Speaking of the writing, the script and overall direction from Christopher McQuarrie (he also helmed the previous installment Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation marking himself the first director to return for seconds) is masterful in its ability to tell a winding story about spies and terrorists with different motives while also presenting things with clarity. Far too often in similar experiences one forgets who works for who and just what certain figures are actually trying to accomplish, mostly because they come across as plot devices rather than personalities. Both of McQuarrie’s installments don’t contain this shortcoming one bit; give the talented editing team just as much credit. It’s also not afraid to place major characters in life-threatening situations, going as far as killing one off (as long as the inevitable sequel sticks with the decision).
Of course, Tom Cruise is granted ample opportunity to pull off death-defying stunts that range from HALO jumps to motorcycle chases to a helicopter chase that is an all-timer in terms of both thrilling action and crisp direction (the crash landing is followed sometimes from the inside of the cockpit, among other chaotic sights surrounded by snowy mountains and stunning Eastern European landscapes). To be fair, the entire film is an all-timer for the action genre. There is also lots and lots of running as to be expected (does Cruise ever run out of stamina? Good Lord, some of the sprinting tracking shots across towering city buildings are breathtaking). However, the difference maker again separating this and other franchises come from its insistence on utilizing practical effects as much as humanly possible and Tom Cruise’s own extreme, throwing caution to the wind, dedication to every set-piece.
One of the first major highlights involves Ethan and his new partner August Walker (Henry Cavill) leaping out of a plane parachuting into Paris; in an uninterrupted take, we see Henry Cavill with his back turned in the background of the shot taking the plunge. We know it’s not really him but actually, some stunt performer that deserves acknowledgment and credit that is unfortunately rarely given. In the same shot, Tom Cruise runs toward the camera, face crashing into the screen letting us know that yes, this is him, performing the same jump. Admittedly, some of it is surrounded by a lightning storm and special effects, but that doesn’t change the fact that much of it is very real, and because of it, what ensues is one of the most intense segments I’ve ever seen in anything. And unlike this film’s predecessor which chose to explosively start with its biggest and best action sequence, Mission: Impossible – Fallout continuously gets more insane. Trust me, the trailer doesn’t show everything, and in some ways actually misdirects the audience with unused footage in place of far crazier moments.
Very briefly, I should also state that not everything is about the 50+-year-old fountain of youth that is Tom Cruise. As previously mentioned, Henry Cavill is here and puts that downbeat seriousness of his Superman persona to good use as a focused government agent keen on aiding Ethan Hunt; he’s on a short leash after already messing up the mission once. Vanessa Kirby also plays a blonde bombshell black market dealer of sorts wanted dead by apparently many people and is not always dependent on her henchmen or brother to look out for her. They are both welcome additions and contribute to a few fantastic fight scenes boasted by clear cinematography; the bathroom encounter is just plain awesome, as is thwarting off hitmen at a ritzy Paris rave-like party. There are a few more new and returning characters, and while I just don’t have the time to get into everyone, it should be mentioned that they all fit tightly into the narrative. It’s a rarity when a film has plenty of characters but also doesn’t feel overstuffed; McQuarrie splits up the screen time fairly and knows how to give everyone a memorable moment or line without causing a distraction or feeling superfluous.
Truthfully, there is nothing that sticks out worth faulting Mission: Impossible – Fallout over. Sure, it falls into a few tropes with preventing bombs going off by cutting the right wires and continues to play off nostalgia with the facemasks, but these are minor quibbles. I suppose John Lark is a pretty lame name for a villain, but now I’m really reaching at scraps. The plot isn’t some incredible masterpiece of layered themes, but it does surprisingly have more on its mind than concocting new ways to potentially murder Tom Cruise. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a legitimate flaw with Mission: Impossible – Fallout and report back to me. One last note, see this movie on the bigger screen possible even if it means driving hours.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com