Not just the best entry, but one of the greatest action spectaculars of our time.
The great thing about the Mission Impossible series is, well, there’s a lot of great things. The film’s are always pretty whacky and retain a rather glorious silliness that keeps it from ever feeling like a James Bond clone. Tom Cruise is its lead star, a versatile, charismatic, stupidly courageous actor who is willing to go that extra mile (or in Fallout‘s case, an extra three miles in the air for a real-life Halo jump). But its whole motto was that each film would have a different director so every entry felt unique. The very first was strengthened by the precision of Brian De Palma’s directing. John Woo helmed the second, weakest film, extending the running time from around 45 to 120 minutes in slo-mo shots alone. A relative feature film rookie by the name of J.J. Abrams took charge on MI: III, an exhilarating re-charge for the audience which also featured the franchise’s, still, best villain portrayed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Master of Iron Giants and all things incredible, Brad Bird, was the lead on Ghost Protocol, which was praised immensely upon release. Then Christopher McQuarrie was brought in for the fifth entry, Rogue Nation, which again was given high praise for the quality of the script and inventiveness of the sequences. But for Fallout, there’s been a change of policy. McQuarrie was brought back, and working alongside Cruise very closely, they wanted to create a follow-up which still felt unique from the rest. What they have done is nothing short of extraordinary. This gloriously crafted sixquel is better pretty much in every way from its predecessors.
After a mission gone wrong, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his reliable IMF allies must chase down missing plutonium before the world is destroyed. Hunt’s decisions put him in the warpath of CIA handyman Walker (Henry Cavill), and put him on a course back to an old nemesis, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
The stakes are very high indeed here, but unlike the inevitability of success that ran through Rogue Nation, Fallout makes very clear early on that missions don’t always go the IMF’s way. Narratively overall, there’s not a lot of new ground being treaded on. It’s a classic ‘end of the world’ plot typical of the series, but McQuarrie, also returning as writer, infuses more deception, double crosses and twists into the several eventful moments, managing to make a familiar plot feel urgent.
Cruise is on fantastically intense form, taking the light and charm you’d typically expect of Ethan Hunt but infusing it with a desperation quite unlike what we’re used to. The opening scene establishes the never-ending worry which possesses his day-to-day struggles, showing us precisely where our leading man is at and how it will affect his actions in the rest of the film. And it definitely shows – there’s a brutality in play here uncommon of the seemingly unbreathable morality of Hunt, killing people in an instant without hesitation or remorse, but with good reason at heart. It also has to be said; Cruise will go down in history as a movie legend, and this could be described as his opus. The bravery and creativity on show here is astonishing, with the Halo jump, a London pursuit and the much-talked about helicopter sequence showcasing his endless skillset.
The full ensemble give their absolute all too, with Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson returning with their full arsenal of skills, employing the heart where it’s required but working together as a magnetic force in the most suspenseful moments. Cavill makes for an intimidating, forceful brute of a villain, a figure who is mostly a match for Cruise’s Hunt. His intentions are a little predictable, removing some of the surprise later on. But the action and script is so well executed that these mild gripes can be forgiven. Sean Harris returns as the nefarious, ghoulish Lane from Rogue Nation, and build upon his creepy personality well in this entry, sensibly not forced upon the audience too much.
Particularly so in Lane’s entrance, the music will strike those goosebumps. Lorne Balfe’s score can be a little heavy on the big-chord indulgence, but there’s definite touches of Zimmer in there, tapping into the pulse-racing capabilities of the film and going that one step further, with much re-listening value.
The direction is simply sublime. McQuarrie’s impressively practical vision makes for some of the most mind-blowingly realised sequences since Mad Max: Fury Road. The afore-mentioned helicopter sequence is a feat of filmmaking to which there isn’t an appropriate word I could use that wouldn’t be classed as professional. The bar has now been set very, very high for practical set-pieces. The competency McQuarrie shows here is magnificent. This is one of the cleanest looking, most polished action movies around, with a slight grainy feel in some moments that give this a classic-in-the-making feel. The camera work is smoothly handled throughout and given a beautiful spark through the cinematography of Rob Hardy, who elevates this entry to a more technically brilliant level.
This is Cruise and McQuarrie’s masterpiece, a breathtaking spectacle and fluid thrill ride that doubles down on the espionage elements sometimes lost in the films, but retains the non-stop velocity required, and then some. The producing pair have aimed for something greater than a passable summer blockbuster here. Simply, it aims for greatness, and attains perfection, even through its imperfection. There’s too much of the old MI trope of “That’s exactly what he wants us to do!” or something along those lines. But the fact there’s still touches of that gleeful silliness present in an otherwise seriously produced blockbuster means the heart and soul of the franchise is very much beating.