Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) reached a bar very few action movies can ever reach. Being both high brow in its writing, and offering fantastic action setpieces one after the other. Rogue Nation perfected the Mission Impossible formula leaving me (as well as many others) wondering how could Christopher McQuarrie, and Tom Cruise would top what Rogue Nation perfected. The answered turned out to be surprisingly simple; further expands on the character writing of Rogue Nation, increase the amount of action sequences, and diving into the importance of how much someone should be willing to sacrifice for the greater good. At the time of this writing I do feel it’s a early to tell if Mission: Impossible – Fallout would be considered among one of the greatest action movies ever made years from now, but at this moment it’s makes a strong case for itself that it definitely should be considered as one of the action genres finest film.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and his allies in the IMF attempting to put an end to the remaining members of The Syndicate now reformed as a new group called The Apostles. Racing against time to put a stop to The Apostles plan to use three plutonium cores for a simultaneous nuclear attack. The film establishes a strong footing in its opening sequence through the simple means of story continuity for the first time in the series. Whereas previous entries simply mentioned past events in previous movies, Fallout takes the biggest risk of the franchise directly continuing the story from a previous installment. What this immediately setups is an understanding of Ethan Hunt enemy, the risk they pose for the entire world, and limits they will push Ethan Hunt physically, and mentally. The opening sequence masterfully gets across the villain motives, sets up the theme of how much one is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, and for long time fans a welcoming subtle nod to the original film’s opening sequence. Even if you don’t recognize the nod to the original film the opening sequence is still fantastic. Yes, even Benji (Simon Pegg) ongoing gag longing to wear a face masked since Ghost Protocol is finally concluded.
After the opening credits finishes playing the film continues to waste no time kickstarting the story, and it never lets up. Replicating the writing quality of Rogue Nation you can expect high brow writing, great character interactions, and thematic exploration of this movie equivalent to “The Trolley Problem”. An example of high brow writing would easily be how the movie handles the reveal of a double agent among the group. While visually there’s no subtlety to who it is the movie goes with the wise choice to reveal the double agent to the audience, and then having Ethan Hunt, and company discover who it is. By not dragging out the obvious twist it’s then able to further focus on what it does best time, and time again; setup an action/dramatic scene, and provide a great payoff. Like Rogue Nation before it, Fallout also throws in twists to throw you off while never becoming difficult to follow. One tricky element that Fallout is able replicate is making it uncertain where Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) loyalties truly are. Pulling such a feat without feeling convoluted, or a rethread of what Rogue Nation did. Expanding on the character Ilsa, and the relationship between her, and Ethan Hunt.
Continuing on, Fallout is also capable of smoothly subverting your expectations when needed too. Besides how the double agent is dealt with, another aspect it subverts is Ethan Hunt being push into a corner. With the movie making a case about one life sacrifice in favor of the greater good there’s a sequence that forces Ethan Hunt to think of a way around a difficult predicament. Not only resulting in a creative way for Hunt to out of a no-win situation, but also provides the perfect lead into a lengthy chase sequence. Fallout is full of moments that will have you impress how carefully crafted it is, and how it’s capable to make anything that can come out of thin air appear naturally into the story.
Out of everything in this movie the biggest praise I can easily offer it is Ethan Hunt, and his teammates have nicely evolved into well rounded characters at this point in the franchise. In Fallout, you’ll get a much clearer idea of what Ethan Hunt is all about, and why he continues to work in the IMF despite his desire for a normal life. For the second time in the series, Ethan Hunt credibility as an IMF agent is questioned again by the CIA. Exploring this plot point properly several times throughout the film, and providing fleshed out perspectives on it. One thing long time fans will easily enjoy is seeing the return of Ethan Hunt’s wife from the third movie in this outing. Leading to the most satisfying dramatic moment in the franchise, and being the emotional high point of Ethan Hunt’s journey.
When it comes to the team aspect on a dramatic level it’s the best the team has been. Humor is dail down, but manage to get in a few comedic bits in there. The team feel a lot closer together than in previous outings. Like with Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation, Fallout places equal importance on the team work, especially in the climax where envisioning a possibility for Ethan Hunt to pull it off alone is impossible. Not only that, but this entry also provides the team the closest encounter to death they’ve face, and despite you knowing the outcome is still exciting to witness.
Finally the return of Solomon Lane is wise choice. It’s the only time in the franchise history Ethan Hunt, and the IMF are up against a villain from a previous movie. Rogue Nation established animosity between Ethan, and Lane. Fallout takes it to another level further exploring the psychological results Lane has had on Ethan Hunt. Further seeing the toll the mind games are having on him. Solomon Lane isn’t simply here to be a foil to Ethan Hunt with his world ending plan, but also attempt to destroy Ethan Hunt emotionally. Becoming the series best villain garnering a full understanding of Ethan Hunt, and how to break him emotionally.
Tom Cruise being the reliable actor he has become through the franchise is once again fantastic as Ethan Hunt. Being the first time in the series to subtly acknowledge Ethan Hunt age, and the wear the his body is taking. Not through dialogue, but through simplistic visual cues like showing Tom Cruise stumble more while running a lot, and his punches not having the same force behind them as they use too in fight scenes. Another example of this would be when Tom Cruise crashes into a car while driving a motorcycle. As he gets up, he is visibly limping whereas in Mission: Impossible 2 Ethan Hunt was able to still fight after a head collision in midair, and falling several feet to the ground. Applying a different kind of reliability to Ethan Hunt without taking away any of the traits that makes the character fun to see on screen.
On the acting side Tom Cruise easily tops his performance from Mission: Impossible 3 to portray the series most humanize version of Ethan Hunt. There are several scenes dedicated taking advantage of Cruise acting ability, and letting him show cracks in the superhuman like spy of Ethan Hunt. Coming off as more worried, more sincere, and most importantly more emotionally invested in the livelihood of everyone involve. Bouncing off nicely with the cast of usual suspects like Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ving Rhames. One fascinating thing about Cruise throughout the series is how the longer the series went on the more stunt oriented sequences there’s been in the movie. Usually an actor, like Jackie Chan for example, would usually decrease the amount of dangerous stunts they perform, but Cruise is the opposite seemingly desiring to up the ante the older he gets. The opening sequence is a testament to his ability to draw me into his character, and story. Even though I’ve been a fan of the series for the good part of over a decade, and should have seen some things coming. I was still taken back being surprised by the turn of events, and that mostly because Tom Cruise always does his best in these films.
Besides being a great action franchise, Mission: Impossible I sometime jokingly referred to as the reasons Tom Cruise is awesome. I mentioned before how Tom Cruise is very committed to portraying Ethan Hunt, and becoming him so the audience can further believe, and become engaged in whatever he does. In Fallout, Tom Cruise learned to fly a Helicopter performing the corkscrew dive; a maneuver even experienced helicopters pilots would be afraid of trying. That’s not even including the details Cruise is performing the Corkscrew dive close to some mountains making an already difficult maneuver even more dangerous to pull off without a hitch. Despite the danger involved in making the sequence, it turned out exhilarating. Rarely do action movies ever show their main actors actually flying a helicopter, and seeing Tom Cruise actually performing the sequence makes it that much more exciting to watch. Yes, Tom Cruise runs in this movie, and to date is the most you’ll see him run in a single movie.
Alongside Tom Cruise is the reliable supporting cast. Simon Pegg continues to be a joy to watch in this series, and seeing his character evolve into a fully realized character. Unlike in previous movie, Simon Pegg actually gets to participate in one action sequence in the film, and it’s rather tense wondering if he’ll live or die. A true testament in his abilities to nail down a role that is maturing in each installment. Ving Rhames gives his best performance as Luther in the series. He as a dramatic scene discussing Ethan past with Rebecca Ferguson that is heartfelt. Being the most dramatically demanding Ving Rhames ever had to be in the series. Handling the guilt Luther feels about his part in the mission gone wrong in the opening sequence.
Rebecca Ferguson returns once again reprising her role as Ilsa. She is once again terrific as Ilsa portraying the badass femme fatale side of her with a nice touch of vulnerability. Always coming off as capable, and once again, being able to make you unsure on where her loyalty lies. Alec Baldwin reprises his role as Hunley. He isn’t in the film for long, but the film makes good use of him in his brief time. Another familiar is Sean Harris himself as Lane. He’s able to deliver the animosity, and hatred he has for the entire IMF through his delivery. Being very cold, and taking joy in seemingly being one step ahead of Hunt, and his team. Not only that, but this film also provides Sean Harris a scene to prove he can be a match for the team in a fight.
Then there’s also the also newcomer in Henry Cavill. While his appearance, and the way he’s frame leaves little room for shock Cavill avoids hamming it up as Walker. Instead, Cavill opts to portray Walker as a smooth, younger, and more improved version of Ethan Hunt. Fitting in nicely into the cast. There’s also Liang Yang whom despite not having much in the way of words has a standout sequence where he fights against Cruise, and Cavill in a awesome fight scene. Other than that, there’s also the other ladies with Vanessa Kirby, and Angela Bassett playing bit roles in the movie. There’s also fine addition to the movie. Finally, there’s also the appearance of Michelle Monaghan reprising her role as Julia, and her time in the movie is not wasted. Taking part in a rather touching scene between her, and Cruise.
When it comes to action Christopher McQuarrie once again manages to outdo himself in that department. One of Fallout’s most outstanding action sequence comes in early in the form of a 2 on 1 brawl in a restroom. Neither Tom Cruise, or Henry Cavill are not martial artist, but thanks to intelligent fight choreography the fight sequence comes out amazing. Being quick in performance, fantastically shot to see happening clearly, and edited together to flow very smoothly. Not allowing a single moment for the viewer to take their eyes of the fight sequence as they use the environment destroying a good part of it during the process. Another nice touch in the fight sequence is despite Cruise, and Cavill fighting against Liang Yang it ensures everyone gets in a fair shot on each other. No one during the fight sequence no one is afraid to take hits, or look weak allowing the tide of the fight to constantly change. Through nice timing no one in the fight is simply standing around smartly implementing Tom Cruise, and Henry Cavill cooperation to basically double team Yang. Also, Liang Yang deserves some special credit for his stunt work during this scene breaking a good chunk of the bathroom with his body.
The one sequence you’ll likely not forget in this movie is the Helicopter sequence. It is ambition, lengthy, and exhilarating all the same. Requiring Cruise to hijack a Helicopter mid air while hanging climbing up a rope tied to some medical equipment. It’s even cooler seeing the sequence for yourself, and seeing close up shots that Tom Cruise is actually doing these things. Drawing you further into the rush of the scene. There’s also Christopher McQuarrie favorite kind of action sequence, and that’s lengthy chase sequences. What’s impressive about Fallout chase sequences isn’t the amount of destruction in them, but the staging of them. Something simple like Tom Cruise riding his motorcycle in front of oncoming traffic, or quickly maneuvering through narrow alleys when making quick turns. Most notable in these sequences are McQuarrie usage of sound allowing the natural sound of the vehicle in used with some music to company it to his chase sequences exciting. Christopher McQuarrie loves his lengthy chase sequences, but is also smart enough to offer up a variety of action sequences so the audiences won’t be bore, and each them is excellent.
The music is composed by Lorne Balfe, and it is simply perfect. Being the right kind of commanding without being bombastic, or drawing too much attention to itself. For example, the track Free Fall used during a skydiving sequence into Paris during a stormy sky perfectly sets the mood. While you’re witnessing the sight of thick dark clouds with lighting giving abound here comes the track “Free Fall” starting off big with several orchestrated instruments playing at once before bringing in a choir to make it sound more epic. My description doesn’t do it justice. Music is a big part of the movie to create an atmosphere. Under the hands of McQuarrie direction is used to it fullest extent to help improve the mood of scenes instead of dictating how they should make you feel. Finally, the redemption of the Mission Impossible theme here is again excellement with the opening credit sequence being another close match to the original TV series. Also, it’s nice to see the closing credits sequence getting some love before hard cutting to the usual black background with white text overlay scrolling down. It doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the movie, but I appreciate these nice small touches.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout takes the perfected formula of Rogue Nation, and expands on it in all the right ways. Transcending the label of the genre it belongs in. Being a masterclass of editing, storytelling, action, acting, and anything else you can think off in one exciting movie. Serving as a reminder that action movies can aspire to become more than just simple entertainment, and supply you with plenty more emotion when the effort, and dedication is put into providing the audience some heart to go along with all excitement it provides.