Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is a paranoid, insane, and unruly daredevil. Ethan Hunt is also a guardian angel who will save everyone. These are the two ideas that the latest installment of the venerable Mission: Impossible action series, Fallout, revolve around—and these ideas are not mutually exclusive. More so than the previous films, Fallout goes deeper into Hunt’s state of mind, with all of his previous actions and mistakes finally building up to create an unavoidable pile.
This character journey comes in the form of what is essentially a two-and-a-half long constant action set piece.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Release Date: July 27, 2018
The bare structure of the plot itself should be of no surprise for anyone who has seen one of these movies: a bad guy wants a nuke, and Ethan Hunt has to employ his unorthodox methods to defeat said bad guy, usually going rogue or getting disavowed in the process with few resources to access. Yes, on paper this sounds by-the-numbers, but in motion, this movie is a dream. A pretty dream, yes, but a stressful one for sure.
The inciting incident of the film is one that calls attention to Hunt’s character—we know him to be a machine prone to perform crazy, life-threatening stunts, but the man has heart. He is given a choice in a tough situation: save his friend, or complete the mission. You can likely guess what the decision was, and hence, the fallout. See, there’s a clever double meaning in that title, eh?
Hunt’s crew is composed of some familiar faces, including series stalwart and the team’s emotional center Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), our funny boy Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Rogue Nation‘s standout, the enigmatic Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The IMF crew is overseen by Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who after getting over his gripes with the organization in Rogue Nation, shows some growth in this film by not only accepting but partaking in the nonsensical spy games of Hunt and co. Capping off the trio of Rogue Nationholdovers is Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who is delightfully creepy and unsettling as always.
Nowhere to be seen or even mentioned in Fallout is Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt from Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation. Luckily, this movie upgraded from Hawkeye to Superman. Henry Cavill hits the franchise like a goddamn sledgehammer as the character of August Walker. He serves as a formidable frenemy for Hunt, basically a CIA watchdog assigned to sic Hunt if he strays from the path. Gone is Cavill’s charm and charisma from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., with his Walker character being a steely and cold killing machine. Still though, his physical presence is a force to be reckoned with—it’s amazing that Fallout makes Cavill feel more physically imposing in this film than he does in his DC films.
But no, I still have no clue why Paramount would not let Warner Bros. shave his facial hair for Justice League.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie is the first returning director for the franchise, and it’s clear that he’s honed and refined his action directing craft. This is by far the best looking Mission: Impossible film thus far. Most action in blockbusters nowadays is either a mess or just competent enough, but the way Fallout frames, composes and stages action adds that extra thrill and excitement that this series runs on. The difference here is that the camerawork, lighting and overall cinematography are top notch in a way that compliments the stunt work, which has always been consistently exceptional in these movies.
Not to mention, the action is absolutely relentless. You’ll have an exciting prison van breakout seamlessly transitioning into an intense motorcycle chase in the streets of Paris, a shootout that turns into an extended on-foot chase scene, and a completely bonkers helicopter sequence that culminates into a mano-a-mano showdown. My favorite film in the series before this was Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol, but that film almost seems amateurish compared to the polish of Fallout’s action sequences. I was truly amazed not only by the action, but by the fact that I never tired of it.
But remember that simplistic plot that I mentioned before? Yeah, the plot is actually batshit insane. “Why do you have to make this so fucking complicated?” is a real line that one character yells to another, and I completely related to it. There are a lot of players involved in the plot of this film: IMF, the Syndicate, the CIA, and a broker named the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). The plot gets to the point where even the characters are confused at where characters are coming from, and who exactly they are shooting at. Not to mention, in usual Mission: Impossible fashion, everyone is playing four-dimensional chess with each other, with characters bamboozling each other again and again.
But to be honest, I really didn’t care how complicated and convoluted the plot was. Even when I didn’t understand the events unfolding, I still got it. Even when I was confused with factions, I understood the stakes. Even when I didn’t understand what just happened, I could tell from the performances and direction just how important it was, and what it meant to them. Details may have been lost in the cracks, but everything in this movie registered with me. So here’s the verdict: yes, Tom Cruise is a weird-ass person in real life, but the man definitely still has the action chops. The Mission: Impossible series has aged like a fine wine, and this is the best it has ever tasted.
And on a side note, I have special contempt reserved for the following people: 1) whoever tripped on a wire in an office that caused widespread problems with MoviePass immediately before I entered the theater for this film, 2) the man sitting in the reclining chair next to me who had their bare feet out, and 3) anyone in the comments section below who asks me if Vault Boy made a cameo.