Review – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Wow! I don’t even know where to start. For a series of films built pre-eminently on incredible action set pieces and a penchant for self-one-upmanship with Tom Cruise at the lead, you know that Mission: Impossible – Fallout was designed from day one to be a wild ride. How effective of one would it be? That was really the only question. It’s corny to say it, but the series already did a couple films ago, so I guess I have permission: “Mission Accomplished!” Defying all conventional Hollywood wisdom, the sixth installment of this series is very well the best one yet, and I say “yet” because, at this rate, I don’t doubt Cruise will muster up the fervor to continue these until he looks like Jim Phelps in his last installment. Why do I believe this? Let’s dig in.

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As this film functions as a complete extension of the last film (also directed by the series’ first repeat-director, Christopher McQuarrie), we open with an extension of Rogue Nation‘s interesting opening. Just as that film featured the mission briefing delivered to Ethan Hunt (Cruise, advancing the characterization beyond the action-hero cypher of film’s past) through an antiquated method (record player), this film delivers it with the churning and whirring of a gearbox, reminding us of the analog nature of why we love these films. Among the deluge of digital playgrounds that fill cinemas on a weekly basis, there is a respite in knowing that IMF agent Ethan Hunt can always find ways to thrill us with the oomph that can only come from practical stunt work. The Syndicate that has been slowly building and manipulating behind the scenes globally has morphed into a new form: the Apostles, and as the name implies, there is a religious fervor to usurping the world order. While gamers might connect the film’s title to the video game series of Fallout by name alone, that connection does actually work: recovery of plutonium cores that are set to power three nuclear explosives is what gets the incredibly powerful and efficient machine that is this film going. As trailers show, Solomon Lane (played again through chilling whispers by Sean Harris), the villainous mastermind of the Syndicate, is a part of the Apostles’ plans. Hunt and crew find themselves caught in the middle of incredible forces that could very easily destroy life globally and end theirs personally.

Divulging much more will unlock the secrets that should only be revealed through viewing. There’s a hypnotic energy to this film’s pacing. The sheer number of impressive action set pieces is incredible, and while everyone will remember Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, here, we may very well have one of the best choreographed and edited action films of all time. That film centered around that incredible sequence, but here, we have an almost beginning-to-end steam train of pure movie magic that hits hard and doesn’t stop. Dialogue and plot act as moments to catch our breath, but even in the midst of action sequences, the storytelling continues in creative ways. While I am a lover of Daniel Craig‘s series of James Bond films, Quantum of Solace, in particular, got lost in the editing room with some of its action sequences (thereby leaving audiences dazed and confused). Such things are never an issue here. Yes, the camera finds itself placed in ways that just shouldn’t be possible, but the shots it captures always reinforce the spatial layout of everyone and everything. Even as it was all thrilling, never was I lost in what was going on, and after years of critiques in action filmmaking, hopefully, this film will be a lesson to all other films to come.

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Punches land here with power, crashes are felt, and, all-in-all, the energy runs high. There are many reasons Henry Cavill was cast here as Agent August Walker, a tag-along assigned to work with Ethan, due to CIA oversight from their new director (Angela Bassett). The primary one being is that he is a beast on-screen. In the expertly crafted “bathroom fight scene” shown heavily in trailers, he seems to reload his arms, and I believed it. The effectiveness of this film as an action film can’t be overstated, and I haven’t even gotten to the twists and turns of the plot. While this film felt less “fun” or “funny” than the last two, it all happens out of necessity. The stakes have never felt higher, and with a larger team of people we genuinely care about, I was fully wrapped up in everything happening to everybody. The plot has always somehow seemed secondary in these series of films, but McQuarrie, in particular, has elevated it to a higher priority in Rogue Nation and now here. In my opinion, he crafts his two films to be a full realization of what the series always could be, even after its inconsistent start with earlier films.

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As the marketing stills show, colors seem muted here throughout, but I believe it makes the colorful moments in the film like the HALO jump and subsequent nightclub scene look even better as a result. I’ve yet to talk about Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), but she returns with an interesting plot thread. This film delves into the themes of the greater good and personal justice in a multitude of ways, and she is just one of the many ways that’s all unpacked. Ethan Hunt is given the opportunity to hone his moral code here by the situations that come, and as a result, he becomes a far better character overall. The danger dampens the opportunities for humor, as mentioned, but Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) get chuckles right when we need them. Also worth mentioning is how this film finds great ways to incorporate plot elements from the entire series here, a true first in a series that has felt so disjointed. Alongside that, I felt genuine emotion towards the end with character interactions rooted in long-running plot developments from earlier films. That kind of emotion only comes with films connected by plot, and I’m so glad that the series has embraced it.

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Content-wise, the violence hits hard, but there is nothing gratuitous to me or unnecessary. Everything feels real, and as a result, gore or death isn’t glorified. I was disappointed in the F-Bomb delivered here, and considering who gives it and his other well-known film role, it felt cheap and unnecessary to me. Sexual content is completely a non-factor here, which is interesting in a spy film. The terrorist group being named the Apostles and their planned attacks on the world’s Holy Cities ties the film to the Bible, but it doesn’t explicitly go any deeper than that. I am authoring a Geeks Under Grace Bible Study for the film, and I plan to go into the themes of providence and the sanctity of life; check it out once it is published.

Overall, I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It’s satisfying on so many levels. In a summer of Thanos and dinosaurs, it’s quite a testament that of all those films, I think I had the strongest compulsion to re-watch this. If you have even had a passing interest in any of the preceding films in the series at all, you owe it to yourself to catch up to this one and experience the thrill ride it offers. It is a further perfecting of what the series can deliver, and kudos to Cruise to continuing to find new ways to put himself into the ire of insurance companies everywhere, doing things no sane person would attempt. The meticulous direction from McQuarrie has me hoping that he and Cruise work out a deal for him to continue directing this partnership until jumping or hanging from any high point is…well, impossible. With the series being this good this far into itself, long live Ethan Hunt!

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