Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Running time: 2 hours 27 minutes
by Jericho Cerrona
As a series of "how did they do that" set-pieces intricately constructed to match star Tom Cruise's unflappable hubris, Mission: Impossible- Fallout is a rousing success. As something which connects these intricately constructed set-pieces to a cohesive plot, relatable characters, or anything that would have us care about what's transpiring, however, the film all but hopes you'll be so god-smacked it won't matter. And yes, the Cruise think pieces about a billion dollar movie star risking life and limb for mass entertainment being an extension of his massive ego is accurate, and yet, such meta exercises are besides the point. What everyone really wants to know is whether this sixth installment in an improbably long running franchise delivers the goods in the action department. The answer to this question is yes, which will undoubtably be enough for diehard fans. Still, the film's style of maximalist spectacle threatens to topple under the weight of it's "holy shit" factor; relegated to stretches of boring plot mechanics simply there to set up the next massive action sequence.
Just like writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's previous effort, Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation, this new one is built around our knowledge that secret agent Ethan Hunt will do anything to save the day. The insane stunts, practical effects, and daredevil action (of which Cruise throws himself into with aplomb like an aging Jackie Chan), are meant to wow us into a state of slack-jawed awe. Whether or not the exhausting 147 minute running time, plot mechanics concerning metallic plutonium spheres, and terrorist villains with names like John Lark and Solomon Lane have any traction is debatable. What cannot be debated, however, is that Mission: Impossible-Fallout is all about how awesome Tom Cruise is.
If Rouge Nation was a less inventive action picture than Brad Bird's fourth installment Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, it did benefit from dialing Cruise's manic intensity back a few notches and introducing the series' first legitimately great character, Ilsa Faust, played by the physically nimble and charismatic Rebecca Ferguson. There was also the franchise's best pure action sequence; a prolonged motorcycle chase involving Faust, Hunt, and a bevy of stunt riders whizzing around cliffsides at maximum speed. Returning director McQuarrie tries to outdo himself here with a motorcycle race where Cruise zips towards oncoming traffic in Paris, but it lacks the tension of Rogue Nation's set-piece and looks dated in comparison with similar chase scenes from older movies; such as William Friedkin's To Live and Die in LA.
The preposterous plot involves Hunt and his team, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) trying to keep the plutonium from terrorists bent on nuclear war. Ilsa Faust is back, switching allegiances at will, as is IMF boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), whose mostly on hand to babble exposition. New additions include CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) and brute agent August Walker (Henry Cavill), the later of which teams up with Hunt to retrieve the plutonium while acting like a dick. There's also a shadowy figure named The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), a wealthy philanthropist secretly working with illegal arms dealers, and Sean Harris returns as the villainous Solomon Lane, whom Hunt captured during the finale of Rouge Nation. Of course, the plot doesn't matter, and no one is going to these movies for narrative cohesion, but Fallout is almost unbearably convoluted; full of double/triple/quadruple crosses and silly character decisions that stop the film dead in its tracks. Luckily, McQuarrie keeps things moving at a stealthy pace; with a brutal bathroom fight involving Hunt, Walker, and martial arts-chopping baddie (Liang Yang) and a nifty foot chase where Cruise does his patented open-palmed sprinting across rooftops emerging as highlights.
Mission: Impossible-Fallout is a slick action film benefiting from practical effects and the sight of Cruise defying the aging process. The finale is undeniably spectacular; an IMAX ready helicopter chase intercut with a race against the clock bomb detonation. McQuarrie shoots everything cleanly and with finesse, but unlike George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road, there's very little in the way of giddy kineticism here. Instead, the film is an expertly made object lesson in action filmmaking which never allows a sense of tonal dissonance to interrupt its blunt force. Meanwhile, the characters are constantly giving us plot information, but telling us very little about who they are or what they feel, lest their secret identities be revealed. Even Faust, the most interesting personality of the series, is relegated to a few nifty action beats and then, finally, a kind of creepy awestruck reverence for Hunt. In the end, everyone is a cheerleader for Hunt's “I’ll figure it out” mantra, which is both the familiar comfort of the MI franchise and its weakest attribute. This is a guy whose closest comrades end up bowing at his messianic feet, and Cruise, flashing that goofy grin in between painful grimaces, wouldn't have it any other way.