Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Christopher McQuarrie

Starring

Henry Cavill Rebecca Ferguson Tom Cruise

Anticipation.

Bound to have a decent set-piece or two. Just hoping it’s better than the last couple…

Enjoyment.

Fuck.

In Retrospect.

Plutonium-powered action on a truly epic scale.

Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie combine for one of the most purely entertaining action movies of the new century.

“There cannot be peace without first a great suffering.” Rogue MI6 agent and returning harbinger of death Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) has a message for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), one that resonates beyond its immediate narrative context. It could be that this grandiose doomsday prophecy is a sly allusion to the current state of Western politics. But no. Far more pertinently, this line rings true in relation to the recent fortunes of the man who has been at the centre of the Mission: Impossible franchise since its inception over 20 years ago.

That Tom Cruise – 56 at the time of writing – is still able to open a $150m summer blockbuster is testament to his remarkable durability as a modern Hollywood icon. Yet it’s fair to say that mid-career Cruise has so far been characterised more by misses than hits – while both Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol were considerable box office successes, attempts by studios and filmmakers alike to replicate their winning formula (cf Jack Reacher, The Mummy) have blotted the actor’s copybook to varying degrees.

Cruise has always seemed undeterred by this, reassuringly steadfast in his willingness to push himself to the limit again and again for the sake of his art (not to mention a hefty pay cheque). Increasingly, however, his tireless running, running, running has started to resemble something other than a means to an end, almost as though he’s caught in a holding pattern of high-energy stasis. This is the essential fallacy of Cruiseness: that moving very quickly, in all manner of ways and in every conceivable direction, is a mark of progression.

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining that Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an absolutely top-drawer action flick – perhaps not quite on a par with Brian De Palma’s 1996 original, but comfortably the best addition to the franchise to date.

This is a rare bird in contemporary blockbuster cinema, a star vehicle that adds up to more than the sum of its high-gloss, precision-tooled parts. Where the franchise has tended to lean too heavily on Cruise in the past, the sixth instalment feels like a genuine team effort. Once again the IMF’s top odds-thwarting field agent thrusts himself into the heart of the action with trademark devil-may-care swagger, but his associates Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) get stuck in too, using their various specialist skills to Hunt’s best advantage. Yes, the gang is well and truly back together, and crucially everyone makes a valuable contribution to the cause.

New to the series but no less important is Henry Cavill’s covert CIA operative August Walker, whose thick, immaculately-groomed moustache adds a layer of ambiguity and masculinity that makes him the perfect foil for Cruise/Hunt. It’s a small but vital character detail, a cunning subversion of the Superman actor’s clean-cut image. You may recall that this seemingly innocuous piece of facial foliage was a point of fierce contention in movieland last year. Well, even Justice League’s beleaguered VFX team would be hard-pressed to deny that it was worth all the fuzz.

The mission itself is relatively straightforward: intercept arms deal; recover stolen plutonium; avert nuclear crisis. Lane’s shady international crime network, known as The Syndicate, have other plans though, and so Hunt and co soon find themselves hot-footing it around Paris and London, nimbly dodging bullets and red herrings while leaving a trail of their own. A rooftop sprint between Blackfriars Station and Tate Modern, which resulted in filming being put on hold for eight weeks as Cruise recovered from a fractured ankle, is particularly thrilling, as are a zig-zagging helicopter chase and a skydiving sequence for which Cruise performed a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump at 25,000 feet.

The months of preparation and meticulous stunt co-ordination that go into pulling off a set-piece like this ultimately don’t count for much (aside from the obvious publicity they generate) if the end product as a whole is sub-awesome. The Burj Khalifa bit in 2011’s Ghost Protocol, for instance, is arguably the sole standout moment in an otherwise flat and largely forgettable blockbuster. Maybe not the only scene in the entire film to set your pulse racing, but probably the only one you actually remember. This is where Fallout eclipses its predecessors. For the first time in a long time, we have a Mission: Impossible film in which story and character are prized as highly as high-wire pyrotechnics.

McQuarrie has now directed three Cruise films (the first Jack Reacher, Rogue Nation, Fallout) and written a further three (ValkyrieEdge of Tomorrow, The Mummy). Objectively speaking, that’s a pretty mixed bag, but the wider point is that sometimes achieving greatness takes more than hard work, determination and a truckload of cash. Clearly the pair have established a strong, mostly fruitful working relationship. Long may it continue.

Though, if for whatever reason the franchise does end here, with Cruise sucking in a lungful of crisp glacier air after yet another last-gasp save, it will have been one heck of a send off. It’s taken two decades, five sequels and countless voided insurance policies, but Cruise’s unwavering commitment has paid off in a big way. The suffering is over now. Finally, he has found peace.

Published 24 Jul 2018

Tags: Christopher McQuarrie Henry Cavill Rebecca Ferguson Sean Harris Simon Pegg Tom Cruise Ving Rhames

Anticipation.

Bound to have a decent set-piece or two. Just hoping it’s better than the last couple…

Enjoyment.

Fuck.

In Retrospect.

Plutonium-powered action on a truly epic scale.

Read More

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

By Adam Woodward

An off-the-chain Tom Cruise is the key and only asset in this fifth ride-along with the IMF crew.

review

How Mission: Impossible set the blueprint for the modern actioner

By James Luxford

Twenty years ago Brian De Palma and Tom Cruise ushered in a new blockbuster era.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

By Matt Bochenski

Twenty minutes of Dubai-based blockbuster gold aside, Ghost Protocol is kind of flat, inert and not all that exciting.

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