At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Mission: Impossible-Fallout

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Kristoffer Joner/ Runtime: 147 minutes

I feel that it must be stated, but there is truly nothing quite like the Mission: Impossible franchise when it comes to the movies that have come and gone in that fabled land that is Hollywood. This is because while to be fair, there are a few other series which have been around longer, most of those series have had to recast and/or rework themselves as time has gone by in order to stay fresh and with the times so to speak. On the other hand, the Mission: Impossible franchise has somehow managed to simply up the stakes more and more with each outing while all the while also managing to keep Tom Cruise’s lead character of Ethan Hunt front and center in the overall and encompassing story. Thus this all brings us to what is now on installment number six, and while conventional wisdom normally would state that this 22-year-old franchise which is being fronted by a now 56-year-old action star should be starting to go downhill by now, that is shockingly not the case herein. That is because this new outing has actually managed the, pardon the pun, impossible and has actually improved the series in almost every conceivable way possible. Thus when you look at the finished product, this is not just the best installment to date in the storied franchise, but it is also plain and simply one of the best action movies of at least the past 15 years period as well.

The plot is as follows: Set two years after the events of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, we find ourselves getting reacquainted with spy extraordinaire Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team as they are hot on the trail of three nuclear weapons that could spell significant disaster. However, when Ethan makes a moral judgement call that results in a botched mission to retrieve the weapons, the team finds themselves forced to ally with a less-than-enthusiastic yet highly skilled and ruthless CIA agent named August Walker (Henry Cavill), and soon the reluctant allies set out on a mission to both track down an elusive anarchist who wants to use the nukes to create a new world order, and the mission weapons themselves. Along the way, however ghosts from Ethan’s past begin to surface in the forms of the endlessly-enigmatic Ilsa Faust and the maniacal Solomon Lane and it starts to become clear that this might actually be Ethan and his team’s most difficult mission yet….

Now I feel we should definitely get this out of the way: it should be absolutely….well impossible for an action franchise to maintain a level of high quality with this much consistency. Yet I feel that what Tom Cruise and co have managed to do with this franchise is truly nothing less than astonishing. This is because Mission: Impossible –Fallout most assuredly is able to continue the series’ impeccable track record of managing to deliver a sense of nonstop action, but which is also defined by just who exactly the director behind the camera is. For this particular outing, it is Chris McQuarrie (back again from Rogue Nation), and I feel that he has pretty much managed to prove himself as the best director for a Mission: Impossible film. I say this not only because the fights appropriately brutal, the stunts wonderfully kinetic and vibrant, and the chase sequences as heart-pounding as they get. No I also say this because the director has truly managed to hone a lot of the traits that showed up in the previous Mission: Impossible from 2015 in order to fully deliver us a film that, at least from an action perspective, managed to top nearly anything that you got the chance to see in theaters back in 2018. Yes to be fair, movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 did manage to offer up some delightful set pieces, but they had the aid of strong special effects to go with the strong acting. Mission: Impossible – Fallout on the other hand, really is the type of movie that I feel will endure simply because of the sheer and audacious level of practical authenticity that is apparent in each shot. Indeed, even after everything we have seen from this franchise to begin with, it is astonishing to not that there are there are moments in Fallout that are unlike anything we have ever seen.

Of course I feel it must be said that a considerable portion of the credit for this film’s success should go to franchise lead Tom Cruise, who really manages to double down here on his status as an forever-enduring worldwide icon in the action film genre. Indeed from a single take HALO jump, a white-knuckle motorcycle chase, and all the way to a death-defying helicopter dogfight (among others), Mission: Impossible- Fallout definitely stands out as one of the most astonishing performances that Cruise has ever delivered. However stunt god status aside, it also doesn’t hurt that Cruise also manages to deliver what could be his best performance as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible franchise to date. Indeed that’s not only because, unlike a lot of the other films in the franchise, there’s actually a decent amount of pathos to the character this time around, but also because we get to see the emotional and physical toll that all of these daring exploits have started to have on Ethan. Indeed in addition to everything else, Fallout can also be seen as a meditation of not only how every choice we make has consequences, both good and ill, but also about a man realizing that sometimes what many assume is your greatest weakness is actually your greatest strength, and it really is unusually powerful stuff from a long and storied franchise such as this one.

Fortunately I can also say that the rest of Fallout’s cast manages to rise to the challenge of matching Cruise’s intensity, and they all deliver beautifully. This of course starts with series’ regulars Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg who remain both reliable and actually get their own character beats this time around as Luther and Benji respectively, while Rebecca Ferguson’s return as Ilsa Faust first helps to complicate the story, but then proceeds to become an integral part of it. Not to mention the fact that she and Ethan have a moment or 2 that really serves to add more layers to their…..relationship, for lack of a better word, than were apparent in the character’s introduction in 2015’s Rogue Nation. With all of that said however, it’s Superman ehhh Henry Cavill himself who manages to rise to the top of the supporting cast as Walker. Indeed calling him the “hammer” to Ethan Hunt’s “scalpel” isn’t enough to describe the ruthless, well-oiled, and very well-mustache-equipped killing machine that this man is, and it really makes me wish they had cast Cavill as a Terminator. Indeed Cavill does an amazing job of taking the muscle that he put on for Superman and using it to turn Walker into a brutally-efficient character who manages to not only get some jaw-dropping action beats, but also makes him one of the more intriguing characters in the Mission: Impossible franchise since Phillip Seymour Hoffman back in ’06.

Yet despite fine work from the game and engaging cast, they are all aided immensely not only by a strong sense of tone, and a beautiful visual style, but also a booming score that really does an extraordinary job of actually evolving the now-iconic Mission: Impossible theme in almost every way. Yet while there will be some of you who may find the whole thing a little bit jarring due to the aspect ratio changing throughout the movie since there are a few scenes that swap back and forth between IMAX and standard filmmaking formats, I feel that despite that this still remains one of the most beautiful-looking blockbusters that the year 2018 managed to give us for our viewing pleasure. Now it should be said that for everything that this particular Mission: Impossible does right, this movie does not have what you might consider to be a completely stand-alone story. This is because Fallout is quite arguably the most continuity-driven entry in the franchise to date, as we see that within the film itself there really are some deep references to the other entries in this series, with particular regard to one or two that happen to relate to a new character played by Vanessa Kirby known as the White Widow, that newcomers might not pick up on at first. Indeed while it is most certainly a minor quibble, and certainly nothing that could break this film’s expertly-executed story by any stretch of the imagination it’s just that, when compared to how relatively lean in terms of continuity-storytelling the past films were, this can possibly have the unintended aftereffect of making an audience member feel that perhaps Mission: Impossible- Fallout is a bit busier at times than it should be.

All in all though, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the most confident and capable action movies of the past 15 years easily. Indeed this is a unique curiosity among film series’ as this seems to be one particular franchise that, with the exception of perhaps the MCU, only seems to gain momentum with each passing installment, and in the process leave us hoping that Tom Cruise and this cast will continue to strive for this quality of excellence in these films for years to come. Thus I feel it is safe to say that, very much like Hunt and his team, this is one mission that you should choose to accept. On a scale of 1-5 I give Mission: Impossible- Fallout a solid 4.5 out of 5.