There are levels of commitment to your craft, and right at the top of the Hollywood heap, like some kind of toothy-smiled demigod, sits Tom Cruise. Across his career, the 56-year old actor has repeatedly proven himself the most dedicated entertainer in Tinsel Town as he puts his life on the line over and over again to thrill audiences, and never more so than with his Mission: Impossible franchise. With the constant one-upmanship of the stunts of each subsequent sequel, it’s come to the point where whenever a new M:I movie comes out, I don’t know whether I will be writing a review or a eulogy.
And in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Cruise takes his death-defying antics to literal new heights with a stunt involving him doing a HALO jump from 25,000ft in the air. The whole hair-raising spectacle (which took over 100 jumps to get right, and was so dangerous that only a few countries would let them shoot it) is filmed with a combination of steady long takes and close-ups on Cruise’s face so that you have no doubt that it’s really him plummeting to the ground at terminal velocity while still acting out a scene involving a thunderstorm and an incapacitated teammate. It’s a breathlessly intense, near-suicidal bit of filmmaking the likes of which I’ve never seen done authentically before. It’s also only the first big action set-piece in the film and things escalate from there.
Following on from 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Fallout sees writer-director Christopher McQuarrie return with serious aplomb to turn in the Mission: Impossiblest Mission: Impossible that ever Mission: Impossibled. Picking up several plot strands from its predecessor (which I would advise a recap on), McQuarrie throws Cruise’s borderline superhero secret agent Ethan Hunt and his team into a globetrotting barnburner involving the incarcerated Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remnants of his Syndicate anarchist network (dismantled by Hunt’s efforts in the previous film), three stolen plutonium cores, and a mysterious new villain named John Lark.
And dropping into that mix with the subtlety of a nuclear bomb is Henry Cavill’s August Walker. With the CIA not trusting that Hunt and his maverick IMF team can get the job done effectively, they send the built-like-a-CIA-safehouse Walker to tag along. Whereas Cruise’s Hunt is a whirligig of frantic kinetic energy, Cavill’s Walker is the living personification of straight-forward blunt force trauma. Both his dress shirts and the camera frame struggle to contain Walker’s beastly physical presence as he grins and glowers his way through action scenes from behind a now infamous moustache.
Walker is perfect for the type of film McQuarrie cooks up here though, as there’s a painfully crunchy physicality to Fallout’s stunning action choreography. When Walker pinwheels an assailant through some bathroom fittings in a jaw-dropping early brawl, you feel every bone-jarring hit. Cruise makes you fear for his life with his stunt-work, but Cavill makes you fear for everybody else’s when he starts swinging. So too reinforcing herself as one of the best additions to this franchise is Rebecca Ferguson who returns as Ilsa Faust, the MI6 double agent who found a kindred soul in Hunt as she helped him take down Lane the first time in Rogue Nation. While Ilsa is once again a standout – Ferguson holding her own alongside her male co-stars effortlessly – her story is a lot more straightforward now.
That’s a relief as you can’t say the same about the rest of the narrative as McQuarrie leans heavily into the franchise’s signature pretzel-y storytelling. With rubber mask switcheroos, ambiguous motives, double and triple crosses being the order of the day here, trying to keep track of everybody’s allegiances and just who has those pesky plutonium cores will admittedly leave you cross-eyed. McQuarrie and Cruise keep everything barreling along at such a relentless pace though – helped along by a thunderous score from Lorne Balfe – that you don’t really have time to become discombobulated. This is especially true in the film’s second half where events keep building in size and scope in a daisy-chain of eye-popping action beats until the film is teetering on the very edge of its titular impossibility.
Luckily, Fallout does occasionally also stop for breathers, however briefly, allowing cinematographer Rob Hardy to frame some gorgeously picturesque backdrops all over the world. It’s also in these quieter moments that we get most of the spurts of levity courtesy of Simon Pegg’s techie Benji Dunn or some dramatic heart brought by Ving Rhames’ baritone-voiced Luther Stickell. Cruise himself gets to add a bit of tragic layering to Hunt here as well, as the story takes some unexpected dramatic turns. Some turns admittedly stretch belief to breaking point as characters seemingly plan events way in the future with unerring accuracy despite an entire Rube Goldberg machine worth of causality being required to get to that point.
McQuarrie is at the very top of his game here though, knowing exactly how to dazzle you to keep your attention exactly where he wants it. And – luckily for us – he often does this by cementing himself as a true master of the movie chase scene. Whether on foot (make that “broken foot”), on bikes, in cars, or in helicopters (with Cruise actually piloting a chopper for real, of course), McQuarrie uses stomach-clenching cinematography, a Nolan-esque commitment to physical stunts, and Cruise’s madcap willingness to fling himself bodily into every physical challenge with everything he has to leave you feeling like you’re right there in the action, barely holding on with white-knuckled fervor.
The result is a movie that is not just more twisty in narrative, more insanely ambitious in stuntwork, more technically competent in execution than previous entries in the franchise, but a movie in which every subsequent scene is more twisty, more insane, more technical than the senses-assaulting scenes before it. A masterclass in blockbuster action escalation fronted by a truly singular Hollywood action star, the high-octane Mission: Impossible – Fallout proves that this franchise is definitely not stuck in cruise control.
Last Updated: July 27, 2018