SOME MISSIONS ARE NOT A CHOICE.
In my original review of the first movie in this franchise, I wrote that it’s underappreciated. I still consider it the best chapter of the series, but here comes number six and it isn’t far off. It’s not just that it has amazing action set pieces, but it knows how to take care of the legacy, while also challenging it. The same was true of the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall (2012).
A new terror threat
Some time after the events of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), anarchist group The Syndicate has evolved into a terrorist threat, even though its leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) has been captured. The group now calls itself The Apostles. After a botched attempt to prevent The Apostles from getting their hands on plutonium, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are forced to accept partnering up with a CIA operative, August Walker (Henry Cavill). Hunt and Walker infiltrate a party in Paris where The Apostles intend to sell the plutonium to a mysterious fundamentalist.
After identifying him, Hunt and Walker screw things up… not without a little help from Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who suddenly reenters Hunt’s life.
Twists and turns
When Christopher McQuarrie wrote this film, I imagine him using a whiteboard where he put all the characters and drew little arrows back and forth between them, noting how they were related and exactly how they were double-crossing each other. Not that this is the first time he has embarked on the complex structure of a thriller with twists and turns; after all, he won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects (1995) and Rogue Nation also had its intricate intrigues. Fallout starts out confusingly, but improves, even if perhaps we shouldn’t examine the script too closely. I never understood why Hunt and Walker needed to HALO jump into Paris, but what the hell, it’s a cool stunt that Cruise spent a lot of time preparing.
And that’s one of the irresistible things about this movie – some of the outrageous 3D action that takes place doesn’t make much sense, but those scenes have us at the edge of our seats and Cruise outdoes himself in every way possible. The star shows no sign of slowing down at the age of 56, and his sixth performance as Ethan Hunt is endearing. One reason is McQuarrie’s writing, because he brings us closer to Hunt, his mindset and humane philosophy, than we’ve been since the third movie. We’re just as invested in his survival as the rest of that fabulous team that’s been sweating alongside Cruise for several movies now, including Rhames (who’s been there from the start), Pegg, Monaghan (as the wife who moved on for the sake of herself, Hunt and the future of the world) and Ferguson.
There’s so much great action here; the final half-hour even has two helicopters in a deadly showdown. The intensity of it makes one think of the Fast and Furious movies, but only briefly. In those films, nothing feels like it’s for real, including the characters; here we know it’s all sweat, blood and pain.
Parts of the film feel more raw and hair-raising than the last chapters, but there’s still a sense of humor, not just in the shape of Pegg’s one-liners but also in the sheer audacity of some of the action scenes. There’s also a set-up involving Wolf Blitzer early in the film, which gives a new spin to the concept of ”fake news”; may not be an entirely positive thing when you think about it, but it’s still a terrific scene. All in all, chapter six certainly honors the predecessors but also has the courage to break new ground in some ways… but how can they top this?
Mission: Impossible – Fallout 2018-U.S. 147 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, Jake Myers. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Music: Lorne Balfe. Cast: Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Henry Cavill (August Walker), Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell), Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris… Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin.
Last word: “The movie began as an exploration of Ethan’s darker side – he assumes the role of John Lark and has to convince people that he is this terrorist character. Throughout the movie you wonder, is he playing a role or is he giving in to his darker nature after so long? Is he enjoying this? So that’s where the movie started, and it was taking me down a path to a really dark scene, that Tom really embraced – he pitched something darker, even! But I found myself forcing the narrative towards it even though the movie just didn’t want to go there. I was really struggling with it – and then Tom broke his ankle. And we shut the movie down and I was able to really confront the material, realise why it wasn’t working, and address it.” (McQuarrie, Den of Geek)