Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Some missions are not a choice.
It’s hard to believe that Tom Cruise has been dangling off buildings and doing the ‘impossible’ as super-spy Ethan Hunt for 22 years now, since Brian De Palma’s original ‘mission’ hit cinemas back in 1996 — that’s even longer than the retro television show, which ran from 1966 to ’73. Love him or hate him, it’s Cruise’s budding enthusiasm and eagerness for these movies that’s carried the franchise, the now 56-year-old constantly finding new ways to up the ante, mainly in terms of high-wire stunts, the one-man virtuoso pushing himself to extremes for his audience, constantly reminding us why he may very well be the last real movie star left on the planet. Just like good ol’ TC, the Mission: Impossible saga has also matured over time, with J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III (2006) laying the groundwork for what the series has become today, Abrams turning protagonist Hunt into a real-life boy, someone whom the audience can root for and empathize with.
For me, though, it was writer-director Christopher McQuarrie who really revitalized the longstanding property with 2015’s excellent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, a hugely entertaining spy caper jam-packed with jaw-dropping stunts, impressive set pieces and well timed laughs. The movie also introduced us to ravishing Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, a female lead so good, I’d be more than happy to see her take the reigns off Cruise, well, that’s if he’s ever willing enough to, one day, pass the mantle. In any case, it’s safe to say that McQuarrie’s follow-up, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, is another bona fide winner, M:I6 melding intense drama with death-defying stunts, the film culminating in an extended high-stakes finale that’ll no doubt blow audiences’ socks off.
The first straight-up sequel in a series made up of standalone offerings, Mission: Impossible – Fallout opens two years after the events of Rogue Nation, at a safe house in Belfast, where IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) receives details of his latest mission via a recording that’s reminiscent of an old-school video game intro. We quickly learn that since the capture of anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remaining members of the Syndicate have rebranded themselves as The Apostles and have begun working with a mysterious extremist known as John Lark. Their scheme is simple: they wish to tear down the old world order by acquiring three plutonium cores, which they intend on using to destroy civilization so they can re-build it from scratch. In short, Hunt’s mission is to stop The Apostles from getting the orbs.
While intercepting the sale of the plutonium, Hunt and his trusty crew, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), run into some unexpected strife, Hunt swindled into choosing between saving his old pal Luther or securing the cores. Naturally, our hero prioritizes the life of his friend over millions of others, which consequentially leads to the baddies getting away with the ingredients they need to whip-up a couple of atom bombs. Because of this slip-up, CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) assigns her top enforcer August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Hunt and his team as they race around the globe to retrieve the nuclear devices.
Their first stop is the City of Lights, where Cruse performs that infamous HALO jump, the actor leaping out of a C-17 at 25,000 feet in the air, the whole thing captured by an aerial photographer in a stunning one take. Once in Paris, they infiltrate a fundraiser at the Grand Palais, where they trick a sultry arms dealer known as the White Widow (played by the breathtaking Vanessa Kirby) into giving them the goods. But there’s a catch (there’s always a catch), as the Widow demands that they free Harris’ imprisoned mischief-maker before she goes through with the deal, thus forcing Hunt into extracting Solomon Lane from an armored convoy that’s moving through the city. Turns out they’re not the only ones after the guy, with Rebecca Ferguson’s femme fatale following strict orders from MI6 to take Lane out.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie, Fallout acknowledges everything that’s come before it whilst delivering the staples of the series thus far, i.e. twists, turns, double and triple crosses, along with those rubberized ‘Halloween’ masks that are used flawlessly in a couple of nifty sequences. Moreover, McQuarrie finds time to explore the fact that Ethan’s greatest weakness may also be his biggest strength, Hunt placing a great deal of value on every human life, even if that means risking the lives of countless others. Although there’s isn’t a ton of room to focus on the human element — people bond over bomb defusion — it’s the inclusion of Michelle Monaghan’s Julia that brings about the film’s most poignant moments. You see, for Hunt, Julia was a way out of the spy game, until things went south, with Ghost Protocol alluding to their eventual ‘breakup.’ Fallout finally resolves this dangling thread as Hunt is reacquainted with his ex-wife Julia, who’s since remarried a nice doctor named Patrick (Wes Bentley), the couple working together at a smallpox medical camp in Kashmir, this shocking revelation giving both characters, and the franchise, leeway to move on.
But if it’s action you want, Fallout delivers in spades, McQuarrie and his team showcasing the best mix of live-action and VFX since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s a kick-ass bare-knuckle brawl set in the pristine bathroom of a Parisian nightclub that sees Cruise and Cavill (who packs so much firepower he needs to re-loads his arms) take on Chinese stuntman Liang Yang, and a high octane chase through the streets of Paris than involves trucks, cars and motorbikes, both sequences impeccably edited by Matthew Vaughn regular Eddie Hamilton, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014). Tom Cruse also does a lot of running and jumping — at one point, he even jokes that he doesn’t even know whom he’s running away from — we even get to see that notorious ankle-breaking dive between buildings!
Then there’s the big (emphasis on big) climax, a nail-biting areal showdown — heightened by a percussion score by composer Lorne Balfe, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) — that features a ticking clock, a dizzying helicopter duel (with Cruise literally flying upside down for our amusement), and a vertigo-inducing scuffle atop a Kashmir mountain for a remote detonator, New Zealand and Norway doubling for the north Indian subcontinent.
Performances are all first-rate, with consummate professional Tom Cruise leading the charge, the divisive actor going above and beyond his call of duty, unafraid of showing his vulnerability or age. The only thing standing in his way is the gorgeous Rebecca Ferguson, Life (2017), who shines in all of her scenes as British spy Ilsa Faust, Ferguson once again spicing things up with her feisty energy and radiant flair. Then we have The Crown (2016) star Vanessa Kirby who portrays the White Widow, a broker that turns out to be the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave’s Max from the 1996 movie, this tie-in sorta bringing things around full circle. Henry Cavill, who’s sporting that bushy mustache that ruined Justice League’s much-discussed reshoots, is terrific as the burley August Walker, his character ‘walking’ a fine line between friend and foe. Elsewhere Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction (1994), excels in a couple of intimate scenes, whilst Simon Pegg, Star Trek (2009), is fun as Benji, the techie who’s been promoted to (nervous) field agent. Lastly, Alec Baldwin, The Departed (2006), is solid as Alan Hunley, the veteran actor reprising his role as the new secretary of IMF.
Wildly over-the-top and often preposterous, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a daring action-packed 147-minute thrill-ride, a suspenseful piece of near-perfect entertainment, meticulously crafted by Cruise and McQuarrie, a dynamic duo who aren’t afraid of pushing one another to the next level. And while I feel that Fallout is virtually impossible to top, seeing them sign on for the next instalment is a mission I hope the twosome definitely ‘choose to accept.’
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie