I think it is often overlooked just how impressive the “Mission: Impossible” film series is. Not just the stunt and action work, but the fact that they have made six films over 22 years without a reboot or recasting and have (mostly) put out consistently good products.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the sixth installment of the Tom Cruise spy franchise and features Cruise reprising his role as special agent Ethan Hunt. When stolen plutonium goes missing, Hunt and his team (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson) are tasked with tracking it down while being monitored by a CIA agent (Henry Cavill). Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby also star while Christopher McQuarrie writes and directs, becoming the first person to helm multiple films in the franchise.
I actually rather enjoy the “Mission: Impossible” films. While the third film is more remembered for featuring the late-great Philip Seymour Hoffman in a blockbuster film, I liked 2015’s “Rogue Nation” and actually loved 2011’s “Ghost Protocol.” “Fallout” was never high on my radar for 2018’s must-see cinema, mostly because at this point we know what to expect from a film like this in a series like this, but Cruise and McQuarrie are to be commended; they have not taken their foot off the gas one bit.
Say what you want about Tom Cruise and his perceived large ego (especially around the time of the second film of this series in 2000) but it is impossible (aye) to knock this man’s hustle. If you ever watch interviews with him it is clear he has a true passion for cinema and he of course famously does his own stunts, something that cost him while making this film. Midway through production, Cruise broke his leg which halted filming for seven weeks, resulting in an $80 million insurance claim by the studio. Cruise also filmed a dozen halo jumps (skydiving out of an airplane) and flew/nearly crashed his own helicopter, so it is clear “Fallout” is a labor of his 56-year-old love. His stunt work and choreograph moves feel real and all-too-often you sit in awe that anyone is crazy enough to do the things he does, much less a Hollywood movie star.
Trying to hold his own alongside Cruise is Superman himself, Henry Cavill, and he does a pretty admirable job. Queen Angela Bassett (who plays the head of the CIA) has a line in the film that while Cruise’s agency “uses a scalpel, she prefers a hammer” and that title suits Cavill well. Clearly a physical presence, Cavill is able to crack a joke or give a facial expression here or there too that makes you hope he gets more roles that play to his (both literal and figurative) strengths. The film does do something with his character that I think could have been handled better, but at the end of the day it doesn’t bother me as much in hindsight as much as it did in the moment.
As with Cruise’s stunts, the action is all visceral and cleanly shot. The infamous bathroom fight sequence where Cavill reloads his fists (YouTube it if you somehow don’t know to what I refer) is so brutal and perfectly staged that I would almost argue the film tops itself there, but there are plenty of foot chases, motorcycle escapes and helicopter battles left to enjoy, too.
The biggest problem with “Fallout” is what I think plagues all the “Mission: Impossible” films and that is that its opening is so grand and it has so much going on in the first act that it eventually runs out of steam but still has 50 minutes of movie left. This film’s climax has some great shots and moments but the plot is never as do-or-die as the characters make it out to me; for me, at least.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is about as good as “Rogue Nation” but I would argue has better action sequences. All too often we toss out the “leave your brain at the door and you’ll have a good time” line for blockbuster films but I would argue that this is a thinking man’s action film. Not that it has multiple layers or is a complex character study (because it’s not) but the action and stunts here aren’t just mindless Michael Bay explosions; they’re meticulously crafted punches and crashes that earn your enjoyment and respect.
Critic’s Grade: B