REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Paramount Pictures

The following is a review of Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

The first James Bond novel was published in 1953. Nine years later, Sean Connery first played the central character on the big screen. Since then we’ve seen twenty-five Eon Productions Bond-films. In those films, six different actors have played Agent 007 to varying success. So far, all spy franchises have lived in the shadow of Ian Fleming’s creation. Every actor who becomes a leading spy character has been compared to Connery, Moore, Brosnan, Craig, and so on and so forth.

Through six films now, Tom Cruise has managed to make the Mission: Impossible franchise his own. So much so that his adrenaline-junkie persona has made death-defying stunts an essential part of the Mission: Impossible brand and the Hunt character. Since Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III successfully humanized Ethan Hunt, the films have gotten progressively better.

Even in an era when the James Bond character has been successfully revitalized for a new audience, it is Cruise’s film series that makes the biggest impression with critics. The Cruise-led films have continued, with one exception, to improve upon the previous, without having to reboot the film series for now 22 years. The individual film directors have, for the most part, been allowed some leeway in molding the series for their preferred vision.

The Mission: Impossible-film series isn’t overly serialized, though. In most cases, you don’t need to have watched the previous film in the series to follow the plot. John Woo’s 2000 sequel to Brian De Palma’s film series starting thriller from 1996 does not at all feel like it is in the same series, in spite of the obvious fact that Tom Cruise is still playing Ethan Hunt who is still a part of the IMF (the Impossible Missions Force).

De Palma’s film is a convoluted suspense spy-thriller, Woo’s film is silly, extravagant, and overly stylized, Abrams’ film is dark, unrelenting, and serious, and Brad Bird’s film is fun, exciting, and imaginative. Christopher McQuarrie perfected the tonal balancing act with his first film in the series, Rogue Nation, and he subsequently became the first director to return to the franchise as the helmer, now, with Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

Although I still don’t think having watched 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation beforehand is a requirement for enjoying Fallout, this is the first time that a Mission: Impossible-film feels like a direct sequel. The film takes place two years after the events of Rogue Nation, and it follows Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) and his team after a mission goes wrong.

Three plutonium cores have gotten into the wrong hands due to a controversial critical decision that Hunt made on the aforementioned mission. To prevent potential nuclear terrorist attacks all over the world, Hunt and his team are tasked with retrieving the plutonium cores, but they won’t be doing it alone.

The CIA, led by Director Erica Sloane (played by Angela Bassett), is upset with Hunt and the IMF, and she has gotten the go-ahead to let an agent of the CIA — agent August Walker (played by Henry Cavill) — shadow the IMF mission to make sure the mission proceeds as planned. As Sloane puts it, Hunt is but a scalpel, Walker is the hammer.

Henry Cavill is a great addition to this film. The Brit who became known for his work as Superman starting with 2013’s Man of Steel is no stranger to the spy genre. Not only has he previously been considered to play James Bond, he was also one of the stars of Guy Ritchie’s underseen spy action-comedy The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But Cavill’s character in Fallout is nothing like his characters in the aforementioned works — or the James Bond character that he has not yet been chosen to play. Agent Walker is a massive, relentless brute force with a distinctive mustache, the existence of which ruined the reshoots of Warner Bros.’ Justice League from 2017.

Walker and Hunt is a pair unfit for one another and their distinctively different approaches to the missions make for some great inventive twists to action set-pieces, including a gloriously destructive bathroom fight scene. Cavill deserves to be a part of a great successful franchise, and seeing him function as well as he does in Fallout is delightful.

In Fallout, McQuarrie also continues to flesh out and build upon most major relationships established in his Rogue Nation, Bird’s Ghost Protocol, and Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III. Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn continues to be a comic relief highlight, but I was surprised by how little witty dialogue was used here.

Rebecca Ferguson and Ving Rhames’ returning characters also serve pivotal roles in the latest chapter of Hunt’s story, though the latter of the two’s big monologue was a little much for my liking. There is another returning character that I will not reveal, whose involvement I found to be greatly satisfying in the way it attempts to tie together the storylines of films three to six.

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has previously been both humanized, deified, and made into a lionhearted risk-taker. In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the narrative puts a spotlight on Hunt’s greatest fears and his moral code. In two or three captivating and uncomfortably distressing sequences, we are shown these nightmare scenarios that show us what Hunt is afraid of, as well as the limit to his recklessness.

All of the classic IMF gadgets and tricks are put to good use. In Fallout, there are recreated sets to get a confession or the like, and those who adore the self-destructing messages and brilliant mask-removals will find plenty to love in Fallout. Those are some of my personal favorite moments in the film.

Even more iconic than the aforementioned franchise elements are the unbelievable stunts and action set-pieces that have been made an indelible part of the film series due to Tom Cruise being an adrenaline-junkie. I already mentioned the bathroom sequence, but I also have to mention the chases through major cities that always take my breath away.

But it isn’t just Tom Cruise running, jumping from rooftop to rooftop (and breaking his ankle in the process), or motorcycle-riding, for Fallout, Cruise also had to be able to actually fly a helicopter. As I sat down in the movie theater, knowing full well that there was a major helicopter sequence, I, honestly, did not think it could be as exciting as it had been hyped up to be, but the script has smartly made the helicopter sequence even more powerful by adding in an unbearably suspenseful ticking clock element. I will also say that Cruise does a very impressive HALO jump in the film, and he thus supposedly became the first actor to do such a jump. If you thought Cruise had run out of new ideas, then you were wrong.

Tom Cruise — Hollywood’s favorite daredevil action star — and director Christopher McQuarrie, a frequent collaborator of the film series’ leading man, have done it again with this non-stop, breathtaking thrill-ride. Although no single set-piece manages to top the iconic Burj Khalifa sequence from Ghost Protocol, McQuarrie has confidently put together an outstanding single-minded action-thriller, which successfully brings together the best elements of the previous films. With this near-masterpiece, Ethan Hunt has stepped out of James Bond’s shadow.

9.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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