For the longest time, Tom Cruise has prided himself on the novelty of having each installment of the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise, going back to 1996, have a different director, and therefore a unique ‘flavour’ helping to form a tapestry of styles, movie by movie. We were lucky enough to get talented directors behind the camera, the likes of Brian De Palma (‘The Untouchables’), John Woo (‘Hard-Boiled’), JJ Abrams (‘Star Trek’), Brad Bird (‘The Incredibles’) and Christopher McQuarrie (‘The Way of the Gun’). Time does change things, and for the first time, a previous director has returned to helm another installment. That director is Christopher McQuarrie. Despite ending the streak of different ‘voices’ coming to the series, it does make sense in this instance as, also for the first time, ‘Fallout’ is a direct continuation of 2015’s superb ‘Rogue Nation’, also written and directed by McQuarrie. And thank Crom for that! This flick is terrific! Before I get into that, I have to acknowledge that the ‘Mission Impossible’ series, against all odds, is a rare gem in the wasteland of Action Movie franchises, in that it has definitely found its stride, and actually seems to improve with every new title. The series faltered a touch with ‘Mission Impossible 2’, with John Woo going REALLY ‘John Woo’, within the confines of a water-down PG-13 rating. It’s entertaining…but stupid and ridiculous. That’s saying a lot, for a franchise as inherently silly as this is. But after that, they gave JJ Abrams, who was primarly known for highly successful TV series’ like ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost’, his first shot at a feature film career with the 3rd movie…and we were off and running! (Tom Cruise style!). Which leads us here.
I knew this one was coming for a while. ‘Rogue Nation’ was a great action / espionage thriller and it deservedly made serious money at The Box Office. From what I understand, ‘Fallout’ was green-lit a few days before ‘Rogue Nation’ premiered, the faith in ‘RN’ that there was from Paramount and the staggering multitude of different studios involved. Since then, we’ve been kept up to date fairly well on it’s production, especially the details and footage of Cruise fucking his ankle up during a relatively straight-forward stunt, which forced a two month hiatus in filming. But as soon as they were able, they were back at it, intent on reaching their release date on time. And on time it was! I started hearing surprisingly good word-of-mouth from the online film-critic circuit, with it being compared favorably to the others in the series and a handful of undeniably good-quality action films, most notably one of my absolute favorite films, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. When a movie gets to be compared to a new-skool classic like that, I get interested. So on what promised to be another scorcher of a Saturday (damn you, Climate Change!), I headed out into the already uncomfortably warm morning light to check it out.
Picking up 2 years after the end of ‘Rogue Nation’, where deadly rogue agent ‘Solomon Lane’ (Sean Harris) was captured on terrorism charges, we catch up with Impossible Mission Force Agent ‘Ethan Hunt’ (Tom Cruise) and his small team of operatives, ‘Benji’ (Simon Pegg) and ‘Luther’ (Ving Rhames) as they attempt to intercept a trio of plutonium spheres, that in the wrong hands will undoubtedly be used to deadly effect. After the op goes South, ‘Hunt’s new boss ‘Hunley’ (Alec Baldwin) is overruled and the head of the CIA, ‘Erica Sloane’ (Angela Bassett), assigns a bull-doggish agency thug named ‘August Walker’ (Henry Cavill) to supervise the search and recovery of the stolen nuclear materials. From there, the story explodes into this exhilarating mix of top-tier action scenes and engrossing spy intrigue.
‘Fallout’ was a blast! I had a terrific time chilling in the air conditioned theatre with my popcorn and M&Ms, watching as real-life Looney Tune ‘Tom Cruise’ proved once again that he’s one of the best physical actors out there; a guy who SERIOUSLY commits to delivering solid entertainment. And he’s done it again! I can very much understand the comparisons other reviewers made to ‘Fury Road’, as the break-neck (but not overpowering) pacing and inventive, in-camera stunt work in both films are of an unusually high calibre. The ‘Mission Impossible’ series is one of those ones that simply won’t age badly (well…maybe #2 will) because the story and the production value is (mostly) VERY commendable. They’re ‘popcorn’ movies to the highest degree…and I very much mean that as a compliment.
Speaking of compliments, first off…I have to mention The Obvious. The Action. Holy shit! McQuarrie, Cruise and their team have outdone themselves! There are so many cool, unique set-pieces, several of which had me physically squirming in my seat as my mouth dropped open in awe. I mean, we get a white-knuckle HALO parachute drop / mid-air rescue, a crazy high-speed motor-bike chase through downtown Paris, an absolute bruiser of a fist-fight in a bathroom, an elaborate multi-vehicle prisoner break, and a gnarly and exciting helicopter dog-fight through a mountain range (that will probably become a classic)…among others (no, seriously…there’s more). There’s also a liberal dose of gunfire and fisticuffs scattered throughout the 2 hour 27 minute run-time. As an Action Movie, ‘Fallout’ succeeds wonderfully!
I also liked how the story played out, and some of the subtle adjustments that were made to the now-expected ‘M:I’ formula. As the movies have cheekily pointed out in the past, much of what transpires during ‘Ethan’s missions could easily be dismissed as just dumb luck…combined with some sort of just-below-the-surface super hero-ness. Not here. Several times, plans don’t work out as planned, as an unforeseen factor opts to interfere, be it a motor-bike that doesn’t start when it’s supposed to, or an innocent bystander moving into the wrong place at the wrong time, forcing improvisation from our heroes, while also effectively raising the stakes and tension. I also liked that people got hurt. Sure, folks live through shit that in reality would splatter their asses, but characters get hurt as the story plays out and I appreciated the touch of vulnerability this brought. Even though I know for a fact that cool scenes where removed in Post Production (just look at the trailers…you’ll see what I’m talking about-*blood drips off barbed wire*), it was probably for the best, as the pacing through this one is spot-on. I also appreciate when a movie is able to surprise me, and ‘Fallout’ got me a couple times. One was a classic ‘M:I’ gag that should’ve been obvious from a mile away, but was handled so deftly that I broke out into a big shit-eating grin when they got to where they were going with the scene, because I found myself as surprised as the character on the receiving end of the grift.
I don’t need to itemize each actor but you just have to look at the poster to see the impressive line-up. And they all give us solid performances in service of the twisty turny story-line. In a nutshell…no complaints about the casting.
If I had to complain, the one that comes to mind is minor, but it’s one that I’ve had for the last couple ‘M:I’ flicks. I know it’s in keeping with the original series and all, but stop showing us a multitude of quick-cut shots from the MOVIE WE’RE ABOUT TO WATCH during the opening fucking credits! Just reaching back through the heat-induced fog of my mind…I think that’s all I’ve got to bitch about.
All in all, Kudos to Tom Cruise and Co.! They set out to give us another exciting, worthy installment to the mostly awesome ‘Mission:Impossible’ series…and they succeeded wildly. This movie has it all! The action set-pieces and actual stunts on display are excellent, the story keeps you invested, while throwing surprises out there too, the cast is solid, and the run-time, for the story they’re telling, is almost perfect. I wasn’t bored once. I also need to mention the 3D. ‘Fallout’ has one of the most impressive 3D presentations I’ve seen in a long while. The layers of depth were conveyed beautifully and I found myself appreciating little incidentals like dust motes, rain drops and lens flares (especially). This was 3D that worked and some of the action scenes were definitely augmented by the use of the 3rd Dimension (HALO jump!), so if you see it…I highly recommend the 3D version. You also get a tonally-perfect, but occasionally fun music score and, as with all of McQuarrie’s movies, the Sound Design is sexy as hell, especially engines, gunfire and explosions (of which we get our fair share of each). By now you’re probably picking up what I’m laying down…but if you’re not…and you’re a fan of the ‘M:I’ series or just well-crafted action films…GO SEE ‘MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT’ IN THE THEATRE!! It’s the right kind of Summer Tent-Pole Blockbuster flick…done really, REALLY well!