Image by NerdReactor and owned by Paramount
You can call Tom Cruise many things, but you can’t call him a coward. You can call him complicated. He is easily the most recognized Scientologist in the world aside from its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. He has been accused of cultivating something of an ego which is par for the course when it comes to expectations of a Hollywood figure. His tabloid love life is infamously well catalogued. And yet he is doing something few in Hollywood dare: make action films that are almost certainly actually dangerous. Sure, Mad Max Fury Road was partially an American production and the John Wick flicks are, while not necessarily risky for Reeves and co. while filming, far more grounded and creative than similar fare.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is the third and possibly best in what essentially is a successful soft reboot for a six-film franchise that was once just dumb and occasionally fun, despite the talented hands of De Palma, Woo and Abrams directing the first three. MI6 in some small ways does pay tribute to the 60s TV series on which it is based on more so than the last two in terms of legitimate gadget based deception and stealth/espionage. It also has outrageous action set pieces which are remarkably convincing in presentation. This comparison isn’t new but yes, aging but still surprisingly youthful looking Tom Cruise is trying successfully to be the American Jackie Chan, albeit with a different set of close quarters fighting skills, obviously. It’s brutal, effective, cliched and most importantly, engaging. It’s hard for me to judge which of the new trilogy is the best overall in quality, which is supposed to be my job. 2011’s Ghost Protocol inspired new faith in a dead franchise, just like how 2009’s fourth Fast and Furious did the same with varying degrees of critical quality. People still talk about both the incredible climb up Dubai’s Burj Khalifi and the climatic,automatic car garage brawl.
2015’s Rogue Nation was no less audacious with an underwater turbine segment actually standing out more for me than the marketed opening segment of Cruise’s Agent Ethan Hunt actually hanging outside a cargo plane lifting off. Fallout has its incredible helicopter climb and chase with a finale that tries to one up the end of Stallone’s Cliffhanger( successfully). It also has a seemingly unfilmable HALO jump, an almost R-rated bathroom fight, a dizzyingly detailed armored car heist and subsequent chase and much more. The biggest problem isn’t that one of these parts doesn’t work, they all do, it’s that it can be hard to follow the full plot, even if you’ve seen the last film.
Ethan Hunt and his lovable duo of partners in the IMF(Impossible Mission Force):Ving Rhames’ six film veteran Luther and new films favorite Benji( Simon Pegg) lose three cases of plutonium during an undercover sting in Berlin. It’s connected with the villainous “syndicate” of the prior film, including its villain, Solomon Lane( Sean Harris). A complicated roller coaster of allegiances, clues, theories and objectives follow through in Hunt’s attempt to recover the plutonium from terrorist hands. There’s multiple run-ins with last film love interest Elsa( Rebecca Ferguson) as well as brawny newcomer Walker, played superbly by Henry Cavill (dat mustache). It’s a race against time that becomes more literal as the film goes along. With that comes a slight pacing issue, which also affected me with the last film, especially in its third act. This time around, the slower part comes near the middle with the final act antics second winding me up.
Unsurprisingly, though dubiously unavoidable are the more cliche parts of what is an ingeniously creative film for its genre of spy caper. The love story aspects are very obvious in execution though there is a refreshingly handled twist on that part near the end. Even parts of the film you can see coming a mile away aren’t so bad after the fact if only because of how director Christopher McQuarrie decides to handle them. It helps that they’re actually people I care about in these familiar yet perilous situations, and the film does find something new enough to forgive earlier use of worn trope. After 20 plus Bond films, and now six MI films, it would be nearly impossible to find something entirely new under the spy genre.
It’s ultimately the guts that sells Mission Impossible Fallout. The guts to take your standard spy action picture and imbue either actual or the illusion of risk on the part of the filmmaking process. Just the third act’s helicopter scenario seems like a far flung love letter both to the first Indiana Jones picture, in particular the truck chase, as well as the gloriously unlikely misadventures of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake. With films like these, do we need an Uncharted movie, even hopefully one with Nathan Fillion? Do we even need 007 anymore? Once Cruise does get too old for these kinds of pictures, who if any can thrill us like Mission Impossible thrills us now? I imagine this kind of discussion would be very unlikely ten years ago.