Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett, Sean Harris, Michelle Monoghan
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
It’s probably worth mentioning – even before I tell you anything about the new Mission: Impossible movie – that Tom Cruise is 56 years old. Yes, fifty-six. Chew on that as you watch him dangle from a helicopter, leap across rooftops, hang off a cliff, and basically do the kind of things that most men wouldn’t voluntarily attempt in their lifetime.
Knowing that Cruise does the bulk of these dangerous stunts himself might be the secret to the enduring appeal of this franchise, currently in its twenty-second year. So in Mission: Impossible - Fallout when you see him jump off an airplane from 25,000 feet in the air, it’s really him. When you see him zoom on a motorcycle through the streets of Paris, frequently into oncoming traffic, it’s him doing that. That’s what makes these films especially thrilling, even when the plot seems fairly standard-issue.
Cruise returns as undercover agent Ethan Hunt, whose mission, which he chooses to accept, involves saving the world from a madman threatening global nuclear destruction. It’s a job that takes Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force squad to Paris, then London, before climaxing in the snowy mountains of New Zealand that are meant to stand in for Kashmir.
Fallout is the sixth film in the franchise, and the second (after 2015’s Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) to be directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who brings a sense of continuity within the series that was until now lacking. In addition to the usual faces – namely Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames as Hunt’s teammates Benji and Luther – McQuarrie brings back Rogue Nation alumni Alec Baldwin in the role of Hunt’s IMF chief Alan Hunley, Rebecca Ferguson as slinky spy Ilsa Faust, and Sean Harris as ruthless bad guy Solomon Lane who’s somehow linked to this film’s doomsday threat.
New characters include a mysterious arms broker known as The White Widow, and played by the luminous Vanessa Kirby. Also along for the ride is Henry Cavill in great form as humorless tough-guy August Walker, assigned to work with Hunt by a CIA big-shot (Angela Bassett) who isn’t quite sold on the IMF’s unconventional methods.
Structured as – what else but – a race-against-time thriller, Fallout has a lot of that double-crossing, those rubber-mask disguises, and the sort of last minute twists that this franchise has come to be known for. But who’re we kidding? What it all boils down to are the stunts, and McQuarrie pulls out all stops to deliver sophisticated set pieces that showcase just how far his leading man is willing to go.
Many of the action scenes are achieved the old-school way, through skillfully choreographed stunt work. The Paris bike sequence is genuinely edge-of-the-seat stuff, and a rooftop chase scene in London is a good reminder that no one runs quite like Tom Cruise. These portions are shot in long, wide takes, and edited in a way that allows you to enjoy and appreciate the sheer hard work and risk that’s gone into them. The big climatic set piece, which involves a helicopter battle over snowy mountains is also pretty spectacular, and best enjoyed on the biggest screen you can find. Yet the scene that made the biggest impression on me is an old-fashioned, hand-to-hand restroom brawl that feels so visceral, I found myself flinching each time the punches landed. It’s the film’s most thrilling sequence.
You could complain that Fallout is too long at nearly two-and-a-half hours, that the climax feels overstretched, that there isn’t enough humor to go around, or that the plotting itself – the threat of a nuclear explosion wiping out half the world – is nothing we haven’t seen in other films before. All of that criticism is entirely fair. But it’s also true that Cruise and his good-guy idealism grounds these movies in something deeper than just action and spectacle. A scene in which Hunt encounters a female police officer at a crucial moment during a getaway nicely illustrates that point.
I’d put Fallout right up there in the top three films of the series along with the first one directed by Brian DePalma, and the fourth one, Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird and featuring that jaw-dropping Burj Khalifa sequence. Cruise is in great shape kicking, punching, jumping, climbing, hanging, crashing till he’s got your attention, and he doesn’t let go of it until the end.
I’m going with four out of five for Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Prepare to be thrilled. And just remember, 56 has never looked this good.
Rating: 4 / 5
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