You know, after Mission: Impossible 2, all signs pointed to this series being dead in the water. But now as the 6th movie in the franchise is being released, it’s obvious that the franchise that Tom built has put that black mark behind them and has charged full steam ahead, gaining momentum with each subsequent film.
And it’s easy to see why. This style of film is one that we don’t see much of these days, a film that relies mainly on the antics of its leading man. Sure, it is a bit of an ensemble, but most of the heavy lifting is done by Tom Cruise. Even the prolonged intro sequence is a throwback to a bygone era of film-making. It’s a gap that was left by the likes of Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and one that Cruise has deftly filled.
As usual the story follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team as they team up with the CIA in the form of agent August Walker (Henry Cavill). Their mission, if they choose to accept it (and you know they will) is to track down anarchist John Lark and a group of terrorists known as the Apostles who want to detonate three nuclear bombs for a simultaneous nuclear attack on the Vatican, Jerusalem and Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Sounds like just another day in the office for the IMF team.
Now, as you can tell from the synopsis above, Fallout is not going to win any awards for trying something new. The team behind the Mission Impossible films have pretty much worked out their winning formula and gosh darn it, they are sticking to it. So, as usual, you have a terrorist group running amuck, the chase for a MacGuffin (or three in this case), protagonists not knowing who to trust, rubber masks and running. Lots and lots of running.
And they all come together to deliver what I personally think is the most action-packed instalment, and perhaps even the best film in the series.
So why does it work so well?
Firstly, the ensemble cast that make up the IMF team just gel together so perfectly. Cruise plays Ethan Hunt as a man who is well aware of his limitations. Rather than being an infallible Adonis, we see the toll that the job is taking on Ethan Hunt, both mentally and physically. You see the uncertainty in his eyes, worried but knowing he has to carry on, for the sake of his friends and those close to him. Fallout calls back to the movies that preceded it, and makes it clear that the losses of his colleagues and loved ones in those films constantly wear down on him.
Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Ethan Hunt go about their assigned roles like a well-oiled machine. Even when things go pear-shaped, they improvise on the fly, the banter between the three highlighting the camaraderie of the trio, providing comic relief even in the most intense of situations. It helps that Pegg, Luther and Cruise themselves have developed a rapport after working on so many films together. It creates a sense of family that the audience feels part of, creating a feeling of dread when anything untoward happens to any of the team.
Rebecca Ferguson also makes her return as Ilsa Faust, and she is just as kick-ass as ever in the scenes she’s in. Seriously, if Cruise ever gives up on this whole Ethan Hunt thing, just let Ferguson take over. She has more than enough acting chops to carry the franchise. Ilsa doesn’t get as many action beats in Fallout as Ferguson was pregnant during the time of shooting but she’s great whenever she’s onscreen.
And then there’s Henry Cavill. Acting as the hulking, brute force that is August Walker, it is great to see Cavill playing against type. No longer suave, sophisticated or charming as in his previous roles, the Brit looks like he relishes being unreined, giving Walker a calm exterior with a danger that is just churning under the surface, threatening to break free at any second. Juxtaposed against Hunt’s more refined nature, Walker blunt methods makes a great counterpoint to the IMF agent.
But as great as the cast is, what really works for Fallout is the epic nature of its action set pieces, of which there are many. In a series is already known for its spectacular stunts, Fallout really ups the ante when it comes to putting its star in danger. The shots that director Christopher McQuarrie selects to frame the action clearly highlight that it is Cruise that is doing these stunts, and lead to such intense moments that you, as the audience, are often left gasping for air once the scene ends, so extreme is the experience when watching Cruise careen from great heights, or zipping through never-ending oncoming traffic.
All this action is punctuated by a score composed by Lorne Balfe, an amazing piece of work that is dark, brooding and totally embodies the mission impossible theme while still being subdued. Interestingly I first heard the score before I saw the movie, and it didn’t really work for me, but upon hearing the score in the film itself, I loved it. This is a score that works hand in hand with the action onscreen.
Fallout does suffer from some lapses of logic when it comes to plot that make you wonder why did they even need to do that and has probably one of the more intricate and drawn out mission briefings in the history of the series. Nevertheless it’s a great piece of entertainment and a great addition to an already stellar franchise.
I give Mission: Impossible Fallout an 8.5 out of 10.