“Missions… Missions never change. And why would you want them to”. Pretty sure that’s how the saying goes.
Mission: Impossible Fallout is the sixth film in the Mission: Impossible action franchise, and the second written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Jack Reacher). It stars Tom Cruise once again as Ethan Hunt who, after the events of the previous film, return to the spy game to take down the remnants of the Syndicate after they get hold of nuclear armaments.
Its crazy to think that over twenty years on from the first, not only is the M:I franchise still kicking but its better than ever. For some quick background I’ve always enjoyed the series (even if all the plots bleed together into a mess of double crossing and Tom Cruise ego), but its from Ghost Protocol onward that I’ve really began to sit up and pay attention. And after how great Rogue Nation was, this was a film I was truly excited for. Which makes it so much more satisfying to say that not only did M:I – Fallout exceed those expectations, but they blew them out of the water with the force of a stolen nuke. Comfortably sitting as the best in the franchise, M:I – Fallout may even stand as one of the best action films in recent memory and after Fury Road be held as another watermark for all subsequent action to be judged against.
While plot has never been the franchise’ strong suit, this one has a leg up over the others purely based on the fact its a direct sequel to the previous film. Not only has writer/director McQuarrie returned but for the first time so does most of the supporting cast. Characters who back in the hey-day would have been one and done like Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust (hands down best character in the franchise) have returned this time with a vengeance to build on what was already great about them in Rogue Nation. That being said, this is still the usual runnin’ and gunnin’ this series is known for and can’t help but fall back on a few too many familiar tropes at times despite the solid progression and character work. It often feels like the plot has been reverse engineered to fit as many unique set pieces into the film as possible (mostly because it was, look it up). But honestly, to say that the plot is the weakest part of the film is less a criticism of the story as it is praise upon everything else.
The best part of having a story reverse engineered for set pieces however is the freaking set pieces themselves. My god. Every time the plot machinations fade away and the film turns into a full spectacle-fest, it is absolutely at its best because the action here is incredible. Potentially the best action film released since Mad Max: Fury Road, the sheer artistry, imagination and scope on scale every time the adrenaline kicks in is hands down the biggest reason this film works so well. Christopher McQuarrie clearly has the perfect eye and approach to these sequences, imbuing them with all the long shots, booming sound design and throttling scores that elevate what is already great stunts by the ever-lasting Tom Cruise into something even more impressive. The fact that Cruise is so desperately committed to doing these stunts himself, directly in front of the camera is nothing but a boon to this franchise and this film especially. Sequence after sequence will have you questioning ‘did he really do that?!’ And the answer I can assure you is always a resounding ‘hell yes‘.
And that’s not even getting to the biggest surprise for this film to me which was the characters themselves. While their character work and cast has been consistently improving from film to film, this was the one for me personally that everything finally clicked. The character of Ethan Hunt feels established, his relationship to the rest of the team feels earned and the IMF itself finally seems to have a concrete place in the spy community. It also helps that the entire cast is just so great at this point. Tom Cruise is as solid as ever (seriously, I feel like his genuine talent as an actor keeps getting overshadowed by his stunt work) and the returning team members of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are both great. Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, the secret best character in the series, also reappears for a second go around and while she doesn’t feel as utilised as Rogue Nation she’s still a much welcome presence and counterpoint to the madness of Ethan Hunt. Special mention also goes to newcomer to the series, cardboard Superman himself Henry Cavill. While I’ve never been impressed with his performance as Superman, I’m more and more beginning to expect that to be the fault of the direction and script rather than Cavill himself because not only is he truly great in this movie, he has the makings of a fantastic action star down the line once he sheds his big blue tights.
A mission that you should undoubtedly accept, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is comfortably the best in the series and one of the best action films of this century thus far. Beyond a few frustrating plot machinations, this film has all the action, character and performances you need to create a spy action-thriller that will likely stand the test of time.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended