MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT
PG-13, 147 mins.
2018, PG-13, 147 mins.
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt / Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust / Vanessa Kirby as White Widow / Henry Cavill as August Walker / Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade-Hunt / Angela Bassett as Erica Sloan / Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn / Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley / Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell / Sean Harris as Solomon Lane
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie
This really, really shouldn't be happening.
Every fiber of my
film critic being is telling me otherwise, but this fifth MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE sequel - defying all odds and past cinematic precedents - has
triumphantly emerged as arguably the very best entry in twenty-plus year
old espionage series, something that I've been finding myself saying
rather inexplicably and somewhat impossibly when every new sequel hits
theaters. In a relative age
when sequels and prequels are so obnoxiously common that any announcement
of one elicits chronic eye rolling, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT has managed to defy the typical repetitive staleness that
permeates most other well past their prime franchises.
And considering the relative dime a dozen nature of the
globetrotting spy genre as a whole, the fact that this series still
manages to find exhilarating new creative tricks up its sleeve this late
in the game is to its esteemed credit.
No sixth film in a franchise has any business being as good as
IMPOSSIBLE cinematic universe has been an aesthetically unique and diverse
one, with each installment opting for a new filmmaker in the director's
chair to place their own esoteric stamp on the proceedings.
FALLOUT marks the first time since this franchise began with the
Brian De Palma helmed introductory film that one director is helming back
to back sequels, in this case Christopher McQuarrie, who last led the
charge of 2015's ROGUE
NATION and previously worked with star/producer Tom Cruise on JACK
FALLOUT is perhaps the first time we've also had a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
film that feels like a very direct sequel to its predecessor in terms of
picking things up and continuing previously established story arcs.
Beyond that, McQuarrie has continued on the aesthetic successes of
his last film, engineering a staggering array of death defying action set
pieces, all done with a precision, confidence, and clarity that seems all
but dead in modern cinema. That, and we yet again get the ageless and everlastingly
brave (and perhaps crazy) Tom Cruise showing a complete willingness to put
his body on the line for the sack of his art.
For a man pushing 60 he still has the charisma and raw physicality
of an actor half his age.
One thing that
this sequel does exceedingly well is to provide for a continually
compelling psychological investigation into the psyche of its lead hero,
examining his unfathomably large responsibilities to both his squad and
country to preserve countless millions of innocent lives on the planet.
Keeping in with some of the more standardized elements of MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE lore is Cruise's Ethan Hunt battling yet another terrorist
threat that's hell bent on decimating the world in one form or another.
In FALLOUT he has to deal with "The Apostles", a vast
collection of well armed, trained, and bloodthirsty mercenaries that are
trying to secure some plutonium orbs to use for potential nuclear devices
to lay waste to multiple cities. Their
end game and goal is to inspire worldwide change through mass destruction
and casualties, making them arguably the most deadly and unstable foes
that Ethan has ever had to deal with.
FALLOUT's modest and subdued opening act (when compared to ROGUE NATION's
jaw dropping intro action sequence, showcasing Cruise hanging off of the
edge of a jumbo cargo plane for real as it takes off) shows the
steadfastly loyal Ethan choosing to save the lives of one of his teammates
instead of securing the aforementioned plutonium orbs from getting into
the wrong hands. Ethan's
boss, director Huntley (Alec Baldwin), believes that he made the right
choice, whereas CIA director (Angela Bassett) thinks Ethan's handling was
foolhardy and risky, leading to her forcing one of her top men in August
Walker (a stalwart and quietly intense Henry Cavill) into Hunt's team to
keep an eye on him. Ethan still has his most trustworthy of allies along for the
ride in tech genius Benji and bomb specialist Luther (series regulars
Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames), but Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up
again and plants some nagging doubts in Ethan as to her loyalties.
Nevertheless, Ethan and his team are hot after The Apostles, which
are pieces of the remnants of The Syndicate from ROGUE NATION, which in
turn was headed up by the vile Solomon Lane (played again with sadistic
glee by Sean Harris). Things
get very complicated when Ethan works with a broker known as the
"White Widow" (an elegantly intimidating Vanessa Kirby), who
agrees to help Ethan find the orbs, but only if he captures Lane and
brings him to her, which is tough seeing as he's in already in custody.
Things get more impossibler for Ethan when he learns that Ilsa has
been recruited by MI6 to assassinate Lane to re-gain their trust in her.
I grew sort of
crossed eyed in writing my description of the labyrinthine plot of
FALLOUT, which is not a criticism. Despite
its convoluted nature, McQuarrie doesn't feel the need to unnecessarily
rush audiences to the next big action set piece and instead opts for a
more patient approach in terms of re-acquainting us to all the
participants while going through the required expositional needs of
introducing us to new personas. That's
not to say that FALLOUT isn't action packed (more on that soon), but McQuarrie appreciates the finer intricacies of his sophisticated narrative
and the need to keep viewers invested.
Despite the denseness of its plot, though, FALLOUT maintains a
breakneck pacing that's pretty astounding, and its sure fire and nimble
footing allows for the film to never feel bloated and long.
It also seems to have more of the straightforward espionage vibe of
the very first film in the series without feeling like a one-note rehash.
True to form, FALLOUT has its share of twists and turns with its
high stakes story that makes it all the more deliriously enjoyable.
There's pleasure to be had in thinking you're one step ahead of
Ethan and company, only to be revealed shortly later that you're
But, let's be
brutally honest, people don't come to these films for their sobering
character drama or nuanced plotting; they come for the insanely well
choreographed and executed action and stunts, and to see just how far
Cruise will once again go to inspire legitimate awe and wonder in viewers.
Driven by an insatiable and incomparable daredevil spirit that
borders on death wishing, Cruise hurtles himself forward in these films
with a never look back and unstoppable tenacity
to make every new one of these films feel like they're topping the
spectacle of the last. It's
been 22 years since the 56-year-old actor took the reigns of this
franchise, and to witness him doing things that most of his
contemporaries wouldn't dare still remains, six films in, to be positively
riveting to watch. So many
performers obtrusively phone it in multiple films into a series, but
Cruise shows an unwavering commitment to breaking barriers and doing
what he has to do to get butts in cinema seats.
That...and he's nuts.
Take, for instance, his
scaling of Dubai's Burj Khalifa in 2012's GHOST
PROTOCOL, still one of the most stunningly realized set pieces in
movie history. You'd
logically think that after that and the ROGUE NATION sequence of him
clinging on to the exterior of plane for dear life that Cruise and this
series would be out of ideas to wow and astound us.
Yet, FALLOUT incredibly ups the ante, like an absolutely brutal and
show-stopping three-way bathroom fight scene between Ethan, August, and
their prey that's bone crushingly awesome.
There's also a truly mesmerizing sequence featuring Cruise
halo-jumping out of an airplane at high altitude (yup, for real) that
leads to him pitch perfectly plummeting down towards camera for his
close-up. No MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE film would be complete without a requisite Ethan-on-a-motorbike
chase sequence, and the new one here is a dazzling display of practical
filmmaking artifice. And,
just when you thought you could catch your breath, the film's climax
features Ethan commandeering a helicopter, taking flight, dodging the Kashmir
mountains while bullets are being sprayed at him, and all while trying to secure
those damn plutonium orbs in under 15 minutes before the world blows the
hell up. Yes, there's an
obligatory bomb countdown timer, but I didn't care.
My heart was racing too fast to care.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT contains some of the most dazzling
and furiously paced action set pieces ever committed to celluloid.
Only the recently released MAD
MAX: FURY ROAD has it beat.
FALLOUT's supreme dedication to avoiding the pratfalls and reliance on artificial CGI trickery and instead employ practical stunts, practical sets, and a very game star being literally thrown into the lion's den is what sets this series well apart from other pale imitators. I was exhausted exiting the screening, but also had a big dumb grin on my face. I also shook my head a lot, seeing as I still - days after seeing it - cannot comprehend how sequels this late in the proverbial game can be as masterfully orchestrated as this. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT is the pre-eminent piece of blockbuster entertainment of the summer, one that wholeheartedly delivers on expected promises of pulse pounding action and international spy intrigue. And it has most definitely set a ridiculously high benchmark as far as late franchise sequels go.
James Bond really, really has his work cut out for him.