Light the fuse on ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout,’ it’s the ride of the summer

 By Douglas Davidson 

July 27, 2018

There are few cinematic franchises as consistent in delivering action and thrills as the Mission: Impossible franchise. While not as institutionalized as the James Bond: 007 series nor as gratuitous as the Fast & Furious franchise, the Mission: Impossible films wows audiences time and again through its strict dedication to misdirection and reality-bending stunts. By focusing on these key ingredients, even Mission: Impossible 2 — the entry considered the weakest – delivers memorable cinematic moments that stick with audiences years later.

The sixth film in the Tom Cruise-led franchise carries on this tradition in all the ways you expect, while once more stunning audiences at every turn. But more than that, the script written by returning director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) digs into an emotionality previous M:I films only touch on. The result of this is a film that’s as much of an ending to the adventures of Cruise’s constantly maligned Ethan Hunt as it is a suggestion of a new beginning.

Henry Cavill as August Walker and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt courtesy of Paramount Pictures

In the aftermath of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which saw Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force capture Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the leader of an elite terrorist group known as The Syndicate, the team’s new mission is to prevent the remaining members of Lane’s group, now called Apostles, from assembling three nuclear bombs. When a plan by Hunt to acquire the Apostles’ plutonium goes wrong, CIA Director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) insists that her man, August Walker (Henry Cavill), join the IMF team to ensure the plutonium is acquired, at any cost. With time running out, the Apostles on the move, and uncertain alliances at every turn, Hunt needs to utilize everything he’s ever learned, everything he’s ever done, to prevent fallout.

Fallout is top-tier action cinema. The story is exciting, the stunts are thrilling, the narrative hums, and the cast imbues their characters with far more emotional weight than one would expect from a franchise entry six deep. Much of this is due to McQuarrie’s script which balances new and old characters alike, while also piling in easter eggs galore for longtime fans. So great are the nods– some obvious, while others are more like echoes– that Fallout cements the M:I films as not merely a franchise comprised of standalone adventures but as a confirmed serial tracking the rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise…) of Ethan Hunt, IMF spymaster.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt courtesy of Paramount Pictures

While most audiences come for the stunts – and Fallout features some of the best in the franchise – or the unreal technology that helps the team pull off ridiculous tricks, it’s the characters and their relationships that connect the most. Fallout takes the greatest advantage of this connection by giving each character reasonable motive for any action they take, whether against or in support of Ethan, making all the twists and turns carry weight. Unlike 007’s reboots or Fast & The Furious’ character resurrections, in the M:I franchise, there is actual fallout. Actions carry consequences and this sixth entry seeks to bear down on Ethan using every single one that he’s created – knowingly or not. It’s a brave choice and one audiences can tell McQuarrie takes seriously in direction and script, even when the IMF team themselves make light of the terrible, yet ridiculous nature of their undertakings.

For all of McQuarrie’s brilliance, there are two glaring issues within Fallout. The first is the seemingly exorbitant amount of exposition, possibly the most in any M:I film to date. Considering the pieces on the board, there’s a certain amount of explanation required to get things moving, but perhaps due to Fallout’s finale-like aura, the script seems intent on spelling everything out for the audience. The M:I franchise is built upon two things: misdirection and stunts. If you spell out all the details for the twists, they lose their allure.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt courtesy of Paramount Pictures

That brings us to part two: the reality-defying stunts. Though the stunts are unbelievable at times – something that the characters themselves often recognize while in the act of doing them – a growing sense of stunt fatigue begins to set in the further into Fallout we go. That’s not to suggest that the stunts aren’t impressive; it’s just that the longer each stunt runs, the harder it becomes to maintain the audience’s level of urgency. Still, it’s worth noting that as the movie goes on, McQuarrie and his team find inventive ways to recapture the audience just as the fatigue is growing to a disengaging level.

The hype for Mission: Impossible – Fallout is absolutely justified. Thrilling, action-packed, surprisingly emotional, and filled with such delights (easter eggs, amazing tech, and Cavill reloading his arms in a beautifully staged bathroom brawl) that audiences are going to want to go for another ride as soon as it ends. Though not totally perfect, it’s perfect enough to signal that Cruise is not ready to give up on Ethan Hunt and the audience is ready for the next mission. So go ahead: light the fuse.

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 

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