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Why ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ might be the best movie of 2018 (so far)

 By Jonathan Shuping

August 26, 2018

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

2018 has been a really good year for movies already, and it’s not even awards season yet. There is plenty of Oscar bait coming to theaters in the next three months like First Man, A Star is Born, Welcome to Marwen, and Bohemian Rhapsody, and while it’s not likely to earn much praise from the Academy, Mission: Impossible – Fallout could very well be the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year. When discussing franchises, rarely is the phrase “the sixth one is the best” uttered, but in the case of Mission: Impossible, it is absolutely true. Fallout takes the best elements of this year’s biggest hits, and combines them to create an unforgettable action masterpiece.

Here are six reasons why Fallout is the best movie of the year (so far):

Franchise Fusion: High Fidelity

It may not have as many Easter eggs as Ready Player One, but there are some slick callbacks to all of the previous Mission: Impossible films. The White Widow is the daughter of Max (M:I), “Terrain, terrain, pull up, pull up” (M:I-2), that amazing long Tom Cruise running shot (M:I-3), a nuclear bomb countdown (M:1-4), the Ilsa / Lane connection from M:I-5 and many more references. Some are obvious and others extremely subtle, but they are all very enjoyable winks for M:I fans.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Sweet Cinematography: An Action Director is Born

Christopher McQuarrie showcases masterful direction on many action scenes similar to Ron Howard’s skillful work in Solo. In the white-knuckle free fall scene the camera leaps from the aircraft along with agents Hunt and Walker following them to the ground in one continuous shot, mounting the intensity and making the viewer feel as if they are plummeting right along with them. In many scenes, like the bone-crunching bathroom brawl, McQuarrie positions the camera at or below waist level, effectively making Tom Cruise (who is 5’7”) look like a man of significant stature and Henry Cavill look like a fearsome hulking beast. McQuarrie also relishes in ambushing our expectations by bringing an action set piece to a screeching halt, like when the getaway garage door opens and a lone unsuspecting police officer awaits or when Hunt’s foot pursuit of Cavill ultimately climaxes with our hero dangling helplessly from an elevator at gunpoint.                          

Killer Villains: Doubling Down on Dastardly Degenerates

They may not be as remarkable as Black Panther’s Killmonger/Ulysses Klaue combo, but Fallout boasts a solid one-two punch of great villains. Sean Harris returns as ex-MI6 agent Solomon Lane, Ethan Hunt’s menacing rival, in all his reticent looming terror glory while Henry Cavill’s August Walker crashes into the M:I landscape like a sledgehammer. There was much ado about the studio’s battle to keep the Cavill’s stache in the midst of Justice League reshoots but the verdict is in, and it unanimously favors Fallout, allowing him to shed his stainless Superman image and unleash the nefarious badass combatant this movie needed.

Henry Cavill as August Walker courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Humor and Hijinks: Show Me the Funny

Few films this year will achieve as many laughs as Deadpool 2, but Fallout is not without its fair share of humor and self-awareness. There are plenty of witty one-liners and tongue-in-cheek quips, and the banter between the members of the IMF team is better than ever, similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Harry Tasker in True Lies, Ethan repeatedly finds himself in ridiculous situations where the only natural response to the mortified onlookers is some version of “sorry.” It’s not just Benji who gets to crack wise this go-round. All the main characters get their chance to flex their comedic muscle.

Music, more or less: The Sound and the Fury

The sound design may not be quite as effective as in A Quiet Place, but audio plays a huge role in making Fallout so fun, thanks especially to Lorne Balfe’s incredible soundtrack. There’s the lead-up to the prison break with a convoy of black government vehicles accompanied by an intense derivation of the classic M:I theme, that free fall scene over a track that sounds like something from The Dark Knight trilogy, and a stealthy boat escape set to a stark composition of snare drums and sinister strings. On the other hand, there’s that insane getaway sequence reminiscent of the Chevelle car chase in Jack Reacher which eschews music entirely and simply lets the viewer revel in the noise of the engine and squeal of the tires.

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt courtesy of Paramount Pictures

More People, More Danger: The Stakes is High

Fallout may not unite as many heroes as Infinity War, but by bringing back nearly all the major players from Rogue Nation (Jeremy Renner’s Brant isn’t missed), including Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, and of course Ving Rhames, it’s able to significantly raise the stakes by placing not just Ethan but everyone he cares about in the — wait for it — danger zone. The movie, ahem, marvelously builds on all of the preceding chapters and conjures the feeling this is the culmination of Ethan’s story, which in turn causes us to question is this the end? and will Ethan die? There is also something very satisfying about over-the-top action set in the “real” world as opposed to outer space or a virtual realm. While many of the stunts are outrageous and, well, impossible, the fact that Ethan Hunt has no superpowers is more or less subject to the laws of physics, lending an air of realism to the experience creating a heightened sense of risk.

Fallout is the rare occasion in movies where more is truly more. It’s stunt spectacular, a thrill ride, and a fantastic episode in the espionage genre. From gadgets to gunfights, code phrases to car chases, daring escapes to double-crosses, this film has it all. If you are a fan of spy thrillers and/or action flicks and you haven’t seen it yet, your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to go watch it!

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