WHAT IT'S ABOUT:After a mission to retrieve weaponised plutonium from a group of international terrorists goes awry, Ethan Hunt and his team must infiltrate the organisation to stop them from launching a group of coordinated nuclear attacks against a number of major targets. His mission, should he choose to accept it, has him crossing paths once again with old loves and old enemies, as well as a new foe that may just be his match.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Despite the protestations of Bourne fans, the Mission Impossible franchise is America’s most successful answer to James Bond and not only does the latest instalment further solidify the series as the ultimate spy franchise to come out of the good ol’ US of A, it makes a pretty good case for Bond now really being the British version of Ethan Hunt.
Christopher McQuarrie returns as writer/ director after knocking it out of the park with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and writing most of the more successful Tom Cruise blockbusters to have come out over the past decade – as well as, for the purpose of full disclosure, the rather less than successful Mummy reboot – and though this marks the very first time the same director has taken on more than one Mission Impossible film, it’s not hard to see how he has earned this particular honour. He may have taken the series quite far from its television roots and even from the more slow-burning, ensemble-led, espionage-thriller of Brian De Palma’s original film but he has hit on something with these last two entries that has elevated the series to all-new levels of bonkers-action goodness.
The franchise did have something of a soft reboot with J.J. Abrams’ Mission Impossible III and each successive film has built on the events of that film so to get the most out of Mission Impossible: Fallout it is absolutely recommended that you have watched at least the past three instalments. Like all of its predecessors, the plot is relatively complex; full of twists and turns that often picks up on character- and plot- beats from past films so it does not have the time or inclination for exposition-heavy hand-holding.
Still, even if you come in just for the action set pieces, you probably won’t go away disappointed. I’ve made it more than clear in the past how tired I am of action films and, most specifically, action films that have bland, often incomprehensible action scenes; boring paint-by-number plots and d-grade action stars but, perhaps even more so than Jason Statham and the Rock, Tom Cruise’s relentless dedication is almost always enough (again, the Mummy...) to reinstate at least some faith in the genre. Nowhere is this more obvious than on his work in the Mission Impossible series.
This may be the sixth Mission Impossible but if you think that Tom Cruise comes within seven million miles of phoning it in here, you clearly don’t know Tom Cruise. His close association with a certain rather infamous cult may make him somewhat questionable in real-life (though, oddly, you would never hear a bad word uttered against him by anyone who has ever actually worked with him) but his particular brand of manic craziness makes him an action-movie-star like no other. He’s excellent at playing Ethan Hunt as a flawed but fundamentally good guy and it’s impossible to deny his chemistry with the rest of the film’s top-drawer supporting cast (Rebecca Ferguson, in particular, has been a stunningly good addition) but it’s in the film’s many action scenes that he really proves himself to be the A-grade movie star that he is.
Put it this way: there is clearly a fair amount of visual-effects work employed to bring the gleefully over-the-top action scenes in this film to life but Cruise throws himself so fully into the stunt-work in these films (and, indeed, landed up delaying the film by breaking his ankle on a particularly tricky stunt!) that you can easily believe that every one of those insane action set-piece really happened, exactly as shown on screen. They didn’t, obviously, but the mere fact that any doubt exists, however briefly, about the authenticity of the film’s utterly ludicrous action scenes, should tell you all you need to know about why Tom Cruise is still such a big deal in this particular genre.
Crucially, Cruise has met his perfect collaborator in the form of Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie understands Cruise’s greatest strengths like no other filmmaker and he tailors the film accordingly. McQuarrie is undoubtedly very much in the know of just how utterly absurd the film he is crafting truly is and he leans almost as hard into that absurdity as his star so tirelessly does. The final half hour, in particular, with its helicopter chase that has to be seen to be believed, is the ne plus ultra of mad, mad, mad action sequences. It’s weirdly tense too, which is impressive considering that there is little doubt as to how it will all turn out. Hint: this isn’t the last Mission Impossible film.
Fallout is more than just its final act, though, and McQuarrie excels with every one of the film’s many action set pieces, making them both inventive, dynamic, exciting and, once again, totally nuts, on the one hand, and extremely easy to follow, on the other. It’s brilliantly choreographed and edited stuff with far less of the hyperactive editing that plagues most modern action flicks. That he still has the foresight to imbue the film with plenty of heart and a bunch of memorable characters is testament to why Cruise continues to choose to work with McQuarrie on film after film, despite, presumably, having his pick of both writers and directors.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is, I suppose, not entirely without flaws – Henry Cavill is much better as a stone-cold spy than Superman but he is overshadowed by damn-near all of his co-stars; the film is also just a bit too hyper-active in its pacing and a bit too long in its runtime – but they don’t distract much from what is one of the best Mission Impossible films to date and simply a note-perfect example of how this sort of film is supposed to be done.
Oh and do see it in IMAX. You’ll want the biggest possible screen to get the most out the film’s genuine spectacle. Though, if at all possible, do try and find one that’s showing it in 2D. The 3D effects are fine but the experience of wearing stupid glasses and weird picture-shadowing when you slightly tilt your head is still incredibly annoying...