The Mission: Impossible franchise is the best ongoing action movie franchise, bar very little. While the franchise takes two movies to really find its footing, each installment offers grandiose set-pieces and jaw-dropping action sequences that push the genre forward, even as time goes on and Hollywood still can’t come up with original ideas. With the sixth and latest installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) brings you everything you love about the series and proves for certain that Tom Cruise has a death wish. From HALO jumps to motorcycling through oncoming traffic around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Cruise really puts his body (and life) on the line for us, the audience, and the end result certainly does not disappoint. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is the only director in the franchise’s history to return and as a result, Fallout does feel like more of a direct sequel than other M:I’s. In his return, however, McQuarrie solidifies everything that makes the series as pulse-pounding as it has been and never makes you feel like you needed to watch the five movies that precede this one.
Following the events of McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), the set-up goes like any other impossible mission should: there’s a new bad guy/group, in this instance the Apostles, who wish for nothing more than to see world peace through destruction. Led by a mysterious villain named John Lark, the Apostles acquire a pelican case filled with plutonium to be used for nuclear bombs (I never said the M:I movies have the most refined plots). Now Ethan Hunt (Cruise) must hunt down and retrieve the stolen plutonium before world’s end; and the CIA enlists August Walker (Henry Cavill) to observe Hunt and his team as they go to work.
I have to hand it to the tenacity of Tom Cruise when it came to these action scenes. The guy is committed to giving the viewers the best possible experience when going to the movies and I can’t lie, the action sequences are exhilarating. Through Cruise’s apparent death wish and general obsession with having his face on camera, the action scenes are all infused with some serious stakes. That’s also a testament to the technical marvels on display in all of the action cinematography, as with not only chase scenes but fight choreography and a HALO jump that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest achievements in modern blockbusters. It isn’t hard to compare the action here to the action present in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), considering the seamless blend of practical effects and CGI. While CGI is always needed to make certain things possible, it should never outweigh the practical effects and stunt work at hand; and in Fallout that’s never the case. You can’t deny you just witnessed Tom Cruise jump out of a perfectly good plane from a high altitude and free fall in one continuous take. There’s no substitute for that and it’s just facts.
While Cruise nails each of the action scenes, there’s also no denying that he has fully realized Ethan Hunt as a character. Hunt will always value human life and he will not sacrifice one life for millions. Like hope, it is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. You see it in his relationships with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames); Ethan has been through hell and back with them and Cruise plays up that gratitude in spades. Ethan’s demeanor is never compromised in the film either. He’s assured and never goes back on policies he’s made in the past. Besides Hunt’s wholeness, the movie feels complete because it brings in elements from other M:I’s: his now ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan); his reliance on hope like in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011); and the kinship he feels with Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) in Rogue Nation. I’d be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge Ilsa’s motivations being more fleshed out in Rogue Nation than in Fallout. She has secrets in this movie that don’t need to be secrets in order for them to be compelling. Her motivations make complete sense, but the movie does not present them as pertinent, as it does Hunt’s. I’m not trying to advertise Ethan Hunt as the most complex character in action films, I’m just saying this is the character at its most realized, with believable motivations and beliefs that can drive strength and weakness organically.
Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill bring a dynamic duo aspect to the franchise that hasn’t been seen before. I thought the two play off each other superbly and Cavill acts like he’s been in the franchise for years. The two even throw in some humor that is never not welcome in a M:I movie. Humor has been a little too insistent in the action movie genre lately, but Fallout hits that sweet spot of playful banter that never comes at the expense of drama. Despite the occasional comedy, it always takes itself seriously, which is something a lot of action movies don’t seem to do these days. Movies these days either have no plot and great action or a plot with no action – which just makes it a drama. With Fallout, you get a movie that has great action and a good (enough) plot. Like all M:I’s, the plot of Fallout revolves around moving from set piece to set-piece. If you’ve seen any M:I, you can piece together the plot, or at least anticipate the twists to come. You have the evil group who steals a MacGuffin and it’s up to Hunt and his crew to chase the MacGuffin around the world before some final countdown and the team saves the day. But ask yourself, are you going to a Mission: Impossible movie to be enlightened by the story?
Fallout is epic, there’s no other way to say it. The action leaves you white-knuckled in your seat and Tom Cruise defying death with his own stunt work elevates the movie and the action genre to another level. I’m hard pressed to call it better than the two preceding it, because it’s honestly too difficult to rank the three.
Like all Mission: Impossible movies, the plot isn’t rocket science and feels like filler for the breathtaking set pieces. Where Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) shines is in its commitment to ensuring audiences have the most adrenaline-fueled ride from the comfort of a movie seat. It’s a movie you want to watch again as soon as you leave the theater, because you don’t remember the last time a movie gave you such a rush.