Film Review: Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Cruise & Co. Establish a Series High Watermark

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They just don't make them like this anymore. In the age of superheroes and large-scale sci-fi epics, Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a refreshing throwback to balls-to-the-wall stuntwork that manages to thrill and amaze just as adeptly as its shinier CGI brethren. The first true sequel in a six-film franchise, Tom Cruise's iron will to entertain with insane physical setpieces, along with Christopher McQuarrie's sharp script and direction, mark this Mission as one of the best. Mild spoilers ahead...

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the latest entry in the Tom Cruise-starring spy franchise, is ironically also the most analog of the series. A dangerous nighttime HALO jump, a frantic chase through the streets of Paris, a sweeping helicopter dogfight through the icy mountains of Kashmir - these are just some of the breathtaking setpieces that take place during the film, and for the most part performed for real by Cruise and company. Fallout is a relentless thrill ride that thrives on practical stuntwork, with its charms conveyed not through a CGI editing bay, but through the notion that Tom Cruise will jump out of an airplane over a hundred times to capture that perfect shot. Even within its own franchise, Fallout explodes forth with its refreshing and reliquary charms; gone are the CGI security camera shenanigans and exploding Kremlins of Ghost Protocol, and gone are the complex underwater heists of director Christopher McQuarrie’s previous Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. This latest installment, the first direct sequel of the series, instead focuses on visceral thrills sans any bells and whistles. And it works like gangbusters.

Taking place two years after the excellent Rogue NationMission: Impossible - Fallout sends Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hurtling on another world-saving adventure after a botched attempt to recover stolen plutonium. The bad guys this time around are The Apostles, splintered remnants of The Syndicate still loyal to anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) after he was put away at the end of Rogue Nation. When Hunt is forced to bust Lane out of Interpol custody in order to retrieve the plutonium spheres, a race against the clock to avert nuclear catastrophe begins. Complicating matters is the addition of August Walker (Henry Cavill, flexing his physicality even more than he did as Superman), a CIA assassin tasked with keeping Hunt and his IMF compatriots on a short leash. Rebecca Ferguson, by far the best part of Rogue Nation, makes a welcome return as Ilsa Faust, an MI6 agent with her own mysterious agenda. Her role as friend as well as foil hasn’t changed much from the previous film, but Ferguson’s wild-card portrayal is so charming that one finds it hard to complain.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a twisty film full of swerves and betrayals, but not exactly undpredictable - big reveals are heavily telegraphed, and the film’s primary twist is almost disappointingly rote - but where Fallout succeeds is in the execution of the plot. The film dips heavily into the trope jar when it comes to its surprises, but there is always a refreshing and exciting spin that will put a big grin on your face, even if you do see the end result coming a mile away. It also helps that Fallout’s momentum is nothing short of explosive - the film’s 147 minute runtime feels like a blink of the eye when you’re watching Tom Cruise barrel through setpiece after setpiece, seemingly with zero regard for his own safety. Mission: Impossible - Fallout will stimulate the dormant sections of your adrenaline centers, a kind of thrill long missing from action cinema that exploding CGI spaceships and massive destruction can’t even begin to mimic. 

Fallout also features a fun and capable cast revolving around Tom Cruise, who diligently fights tooth and nail to defy his age as much and as often as Ethan Hunt defies his superiors. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames return as series mainstays Benji Dunn and Luther Stickell, given meatier parts than they had before, with Rhames especially carrying some surprisingly emotional scenes. While the Mission: Impossible series has always suffered from thinly drawn female characters, this weakness was rectified by the addition of Ilsa Faust in Rogue Nation. This latest installment continues the admirable trend of introducing strong women to the franchise, with Vanessa Kirby (The Crown) playing the sultry White Widow, an arms dealer with a mercenary smugness who more than holds her own in the boys' game of espionage. Michelle Monaghan also makes a welcome return as Julia, Ethan Hunt's estranged wife,  given much more to do than just be the damsel in distress.  

Mission: Impossible - Fallout  is the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer, with a brand of action and spectacle that Hollywood just doesn’t produce anymore. At 56 years young, there’s no sign of Tom Cruise slowing down in his quest to entertain. His mission with this franchise, which he always chooses to accept, is to work as hard as he can to deliver over-the-top stunts and outdo his last effort, and Fallout is the best one yet. One can only imagine what the next installment will bring. 

GRADE: A-