Director – Christopher McQuarrie
Cast – Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan
Rating – 4/5
Ethan, Benji and Luther arrive at the meeting point – a dingy alleyway in the dead of night. This is how Mission: Impossible – Fallout begins. Benji can’t help but notice that there are no clean escape routes. He’s nervous. Beside him, Ethan is surveying the area, and their options. If they hit a roadblock, they’d be dead in minutes. If the enemy makes a move, they’d be dead in seconds. It’s a hairy situation, but they’ve been there before. They’ve survived worse before. Together – and Ethan knows this better than anyone – they can do the impossible. So he looks Benji right in his worried eyes, puts on a brave face and says, as earnestly as he can, “I won’t let anything happen to you, Benji.”
And Benji believes him, because he has no reason not to – even though he’s trapped in an alley with no way out, and even though the future of the world is at stake. Over the years, Ethan has always been there for him, and for his team. He has never let them down. His enemies call it the ‘fundamental flaw’ in his character – he values life, he values people, and he will risk everything to protect them.
It is this loyalty that plunges Ethan and the his crew into their next adventure in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth film in the increasingly exhilarating franchise.
Watch the Mission: Impossible – Fallout trailer here
To me, the series has always been defined by individual moments rather than larger arcs. For example – and you can corroborate this – we all remember highlights from the previous films – the Burj Khalifa sequence, Owen Davian’s threats, the ingenious Scooby Doo-esque unmaskings – but very few of you would remember the finer details of the plots. They invariably involve international arms dealers and turncoat handlers, shady organisations and a complete and utter lack of faith in Ethan and his IMF crew.
In that regard, Fallout is classic Mission Impossible. It is also perhaps the first film in the series that feels very much like a direct sequel to its immediate predecessor – 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. The most obvious connective tissue, besides director Christopher McQuarrie of course, is the villain, Solomon Lane.
I was somewhat underwhelmed by Lane in Rogue Nation, mostly because casting Sean Harris had initially seemed like such a brilliant idea, until his character turned out to be a cousin to Javier Bardem’s Silva from Skyfall, and ended up having way too little screen time to truly establish his presence.
Fallout doesn’t quite solve the Solomon Lane problem, despite taking the Dark Knight approach to his character, but it does make better use of his anarchist ideologies, and retroactively reconciles some of Rogue Nation’s issues. The stakes, as always, are global. But since Ethan and Lane have a history together, there’s a personal element to their relationship, which the series has been sorely missing since Mission: Impossible III – my personal favourite.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout hits many of the same beats as the previous films – there are double crosses and triple crosses and there is the obligatory scene in which Ethan’s disregard for the rules prompts the chiefs to put him on a leash. So they assign a chaperone for him, a disarmingly named beefcake called Walker, played by Henry Cavill – who receives second billing after Tom Cruise in the delightfully retro opening credits incidentally, and positively oozes machismo. Walker’s allegiances, of course, are spotty – and Cavill plays him less like a lunkhead than he could have, which is always a good thing.
But he is vital to the proceedings, especially towards the third act. At the risk of cutting to the chase – and conveniently ignoring the espionage elements of the story – let’s just skip to the ending. You’ve seen bits of it in the trailers, and you’ve perhaps heard that it’s set in Kashmir – it’s true, although our esteemed censor board has ensured that the word ‘Kashmir’ is never spoken in the film – but you’re simply unprepared for the sheer intensity of the sequence.
For his latest magic trick, Tom Cruise learned to not only fly a helicopter, but to also singlehandedly perform stunts in it. It’s a testament to his maniacal ambition that despite performing a pointless HALO jump in the film, by the time the incredible finale rolls around, the sight of Cruise jumping out of a plane is all but forgotten.
There is a rhythmic ecstasy to Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s action scenes, a melodic glory that is not only rare, but almost unheard of on this scale. And it’s silent, all of it – which is unusual for McQuarrie, an Oscar winner known for his quick dialogue and strong grasp of genre tropes. So when the action happens – and a lot of this film’s plot is just an excuse to arrive at the next crazy stunt sequence – it’s breathtaking staged, with sound design that rattles the chairs on which you sit, and buttery editing that makes it all seem like a dance.
On two occasions, the screen explodes into the IMAX ratio, which fans of Christopher Nolan’s films would know is one of the purest, most joyous moments one can experience inside a movie theatre.
And the IMAX wasn’t the only time I was reminded of Nolan during Mission: Impossible – Fallout. A Paris breakout sequence – by far my favourite chunk of the film – almost plays out like a remake of the Joker ambush scene from The Dark Knight, complete with a Hans Zimmer-inspired score (by one of his former Remote Control Productions minions, Lorne Balfe), practical effects and visual ingenuity.
And in virtually every frame, grounding the often cartoonish narrative in realism and emotional heft, is Tom Cruise. I have nothing worthwhile to add to the conversation around him, other than to say that he will surprise you in this film – he will do his trademark karate chop run, because that’s what you want; he will risk his life leaping from buildings and out of planes, because he respects you too much to sell you a shoddy product. But he will surprise you.
Because that’s what we want, don’t we, after six movies? We want to learn more about Ethan Hunt, about what motivates him – and Cruise – to risk his life everyday. With James Bond, it was Queen and country; with Jason Bourne it was a personal quest, but with Ethan Hunt it has always been about his friends, his team, and the relationships he has built over the years, despite knowing that being emotional can only get him into more trouble.
But he’s older now. He understands life and death better than anyone. It’s all worth it, these guys – Benji and Luther and Brandt and Ilsa and Julia. They’re all worth fighting for. The fuse has already been lit. He just has to make sure it doesn’t go out.
Director – Christopher McQuarrie