Mission: Impossible - Fallout Review
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team accept a mission that doesn’t go as planned. Hunt is then forced to team up with a CIA agent, August Walker (Henry Cavill) to fix their mistake, whilst familiar faces return to complicate the situation.
The Mission: Impossible franchise remains one of the most exciting in the Spy-Action-Thriller genre. In five films, and over two decades, Cruise has managed to push the ambitions of the franchise to offer a crescendo of films each with a style of its own, and helmed by a talented director which had become a trademark of the series.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout was therefore easily one of the most anticipated movies of the year (no offence to all the Marvel and DC fans) but, in many aspects, the sixth instalment also carried its share of concerns as it represented a clear turning point in the franchise. It is the first time a director returns (Christopher McQuarrie), the first time that the story directly follows the events of the preceding movie (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) and that it convokes most of its previous protagonists (Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley, Michelle Monaghan as Julia, in addition to the faithful Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames returning respectively as Benji and Luther). Furthermore, the Cruise aura has, somewhat, been tarnished by a series of underwhelming films lead by The Mummy, a reboot which failed to really initiate the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe and offer him a new series of films. In short, on paper things didn’t look as perfect as they should for this new instalment of the M:I franchise.
This was, however, without counting on three things: Cruise, McQuarrie and the previous movie itself. Firstly, Cruise is a relentless - if not the most relentless - actor/producer in Hollywood at the moment. Despite not being the greatest actor he has an undeniable flair which allows him to always surprise audiences when they’re not expecting it (Jack Reacher or Edge of Tomorrow are some recent examples). The Mission: Impossible franchise is his baby and he makes sure to nurture it with the elements that have made him famous (doing his own stunts, and suffering from it, but also offering a level of freedom to talented directors that is still unfortunately not widespread enough currently in Hollywood).
McQuarrie has proven himself as a director with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Jack Reacher, but also with his first film The Way of the Gun, and he is also a formidable screenwriter capable of injecting real stakes and emotions in solid screenplays.
And of course, there’s Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation itself, a film that managed to surpass Brad Bird’s excellent Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol by adding to the shear excitement provided by Cruise’s stunts, and charismatic characters such as Ilsa Faust and Solomon Lane.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout also stands apart in the franchise because it very much feels like the end of a long chapter evoking elements from all the previous films in a delicate balance: the false pretences of Brian De Palma’s masterpiece, the over-the-top action scenes of John Woo’s romantic ride, the personal life elements of J.J. Abrams’ weakest entry, and the technical mastery of Bird’s inventive effort. The advantage of Mission: Impossible – Fallout being a true sequel to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation allows McQuarrie to streamline the exposition scenes and start the film with two key elements of this opus: Hunt’s guilt and exceptional adrenaline rushes.
In regards to the latter, Cruise and McQuarrie fulfil their contract hands down by putting Hunt in situations that push the limits of the star’s body and commitment to real stunts. The result of this commitment are some of the best action set pieces of recent memories, leaving the audience gasping for air and sneering to release pressure. Furthermore each is cleverly enhanced by a formidable sense of image composition, leaving the spectator with unforgettable images long after the end of the film, and an energy which is lacking in most current blockbusters.
Even if some aspects of the plot do not provide the expected element of surprise, McQuarrie’s screenplay manages to offer interesting plot twists whilst preserving the clarity of the intrigue. He also manages to make Hunt a more vulnerable and worn character confronted by his demons and choices (both from this film and the previous ones), not an easy task when considering what Hunt undergoes during the action scenes. McQuarrie understands Ethan Hunt, and at the same time Tom Cruise, and he knows that the characters are as important as the action scenes in the franchise, as a line whispered between two characters supposes.
At 147 minutes this is also the longest entry in the franchise, and one of the most annoying elements of current blockbusters (Marvel and DC films are good examples of this trend). However, Mission: Impossible – Fallout miraculously doesn’t feel artificially overstretched and watching the trailer it looks like some exciting shots have even been left on the cutting room floor.
Speaking of DC, the confrontation between Cruise and Cavill brings an interesting point of view to the film. Cavill’s Walker is presented, and looks like, a superhuman (which the bathroom scene efficiently illustrates when he gets in full block of muscles mode) servicing a hierarchy against which Hunt cannot do anything. Yet they are both part of an element used to make the same machine work. However, for Hunt and for Cruise, this mission becomes a fight for survival.