You may have already seen clips of Tom Cruise in action for this latest Mission: Impossible movie. He dives out of a plane. He races through the streets of Paris. He flies a helicopter in a manner not to be found in the "Guide To Being A More Responsible Helicopter Pilot". He does all of that and more. You may have also already heard the glowing praise. A lot of people are calling this the best of the franchise. A lot of people are calling it a new action classic.
Yeah, about that. Let's take off the rose-tinted IMAX glasses and turn things down just a notch.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a very good film. There are times when it is great. The stuntwork is often bordering on the insane, making it insanely entertaining, but this isn't the best action movie in years. I'd say that it even falls just below the previous two entries in this series, and I'll go into just why that's the case in a little while.
Cruise is Ethan Hunt once again, of course, and he's flanked by Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) as they try to recover some stolen plutonium cores that they don't want falling in to the hands of The Apostles (who have remained at work despite the loss of their leader, Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris). Henry Cavill is a CIA agent, August Walker, tasked with keeping a closer eye on Hunt and his team, Rebecca Ferguson returns as the kickass Ilsa Faust, and a few other familiar faces pop up to join the fun.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (now on his third film with Cruise and his second in this series, the first director to return) knows how to sketch characters, dynamics, and the potentially complex plotting of a good spy caper. It's great to see a number of threads picked up and expertly manipulated. Plot points drop in an reverberate through this movie, and even the events of the past movies, with the impact of a fly that just found itself unexpectedly caught in a spiderweb. And this all happens in between, and sometimes during, those magnificent action set-pieces.
The cast all slip back into their roles with ease. Cruise is, as well all know nowadays, either fearless or completely insane. He won't rest until one of these films allows him to escape a space-set shockwave as he glides down to Earth on the back of a toothy creature a la "Ace" Rimmer from Red Dwarf. Pegg and Rhames are great support, their characters bringing just a small amount of comedy while reinforcing the few bonds that connect IMF with individual lives instead of just faceless masses to be saved. Ferguson is slightly underserved by the script, but does very good work with what she's given. Harris remains a menacing figure, Vanessa Kirby is good fun as a "broker", and Cavill is absolutely brilliant as the sledgehammer who may break our heroes if he thinks things aren't going to plan. You also get some nice work from Alec Baldwin, again, and Angela Bassett. There's even some screentime for Michelle Monaghan.
That covers most of the fun stuff. I could mention how exhilirated I felt watching Cruise ride a motorbike the wrong way around the Arc de Triomphe. I could try to describe the sheer joy I felt while Cruise called Cavill a prick. You get the idea. There's lots and lots of fun moments. And I won't deny that some of the action beats are next-level in their scale and choreography, for a mainstram blockbuster release. The finale is especially adpet at jumping from one white-knuckle moment to the next.
The non-fun stuff is also very good. The subtitle here may be Fallout but I suspect that's because Weight just wouldn't sound as good. Believe me, however, when I say that this film is all about weight. The weight of responsibility, the weight of constantly making decisions based on murky and fluid morality, the weight of the practical effects, the weight of emotions. People may remember the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few but this film reminds us all that the choice weighs just as heavily on the person having to make the call, and also that sometimes the end games are one and the same. It also makes an interesting point about the war on terror and how the good intentions can create even more dangers and enemies. I would argue that the two moments in this film that completely sum up Ethan Hunt are a scene in which he apologises to a wounded police officer in French and a scene in which he tells the other team members that he won't let them down, even as everyone realises that they can no longer hear one another. Even with his team, Hunt alone feels the total weight of the job, especially while maintaining a moral code that others may lack.
Where the film falls down slightly, certainly in comparison to the previous missions, is in the scenes which allow it to remind us of the past. McQuarrie ties up loose ends that few people were all that bothered about. He does it well, or as well as he can, but it still feels unnecessary. The same goes for some of the details and callbacks that make the film feel like some grand sendoff rather than just a grand adventure. I'm not going to namecheck them all, and I am not saying that there are lots and lots, but fans of the series will find some moments feeling far too familiar because McQuarrie felt that he needed to include some extra little nods and winks.
The fourth film had amazing set-pieces without a memorable villain, the fifth film had the perfect mix of both. This film sits somewhere between the two. The villains are great, the action is often brilliant, but it's a bit overlong, a bit happy to scamper back and forth to the same well, and sometimes, even for this series, feels a bit too unbelievably coincidental and convenient.
But I'll be just as eager to see the next mission. And I'll be buying this one ASAP.
Your mission can be found here.