Review: 'Mission: Impossible – Fallout' Delivers Across the Board
This review was originally published for UW Film Club and has since been republished here with the author’s permission.
Action. Emotion. Stakes. Three elements that are at the core of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, a remarkably well-crafted, intricate, and sublime action film that puts itself at the top of the modern blockbuster heap. In the driver seats are Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie who deliver on the long awaited promise of the franchise and shatter the barrier that has limited past installments to create a truly marvelous film. This being the only film in the franchise where the director hasn’t been swapped out, McQuarrie is able to continue the momentum set out in Rogue Nation and move it above and beyond expectations. Top to bottom, Fallout is a blitz on the senses that delivers across the board and will leave you in utter amazement.
Fallout picks up where Rogue Nation left off. With the Syndicate dismantled, a subsect of their followers called the Apostles is on the rise led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and a mystery man named John Lark. Looking to create unity through suffering, the terrorist group seeks out plutonium cores to create three nuclear bombs. After failing to secure the cores, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), his IMF crew, and a cavalier CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavil) must go on a globe trotting adventure to stop the Apostles and prevent nuclear destruction.
Never forced and never out of place, the film operates like a well tuned symphony of action and reprieve, pausing only enough for you to take a breather and then resuming organically to create a constantly balanced ebb and flow across six set pieces. It’s a chaotic rush against time to prevent nuclear destruction and the pace of the film moves quickly, elegantly, and without a single hitch. Narratively, the story is complex, but easily understood if you hone in (though having seen Mission Impossible 3 through 5 really helps in understanding off hand comments, relations, and characters), and even though it fits the bill for your cliche action movie plot — that being a terrorist trying to detonate a bomb — the film’s injection of Hunt’s morality helps elevate the stakes.
And stakes are what make this installment so immaculate. From the opening moments you know what is at risk, what our characters stand for, and what they stand to lose, perfectly establishing the looming threat that envelops the entire film and making every action scene matter. Unlike the Marvel goop that is churned out, action is meaningful and carries a significance; Hunt is not just fighting for the sake of inserting action into the film, he’s fighting to save the world, those around him, and uphold his standard of morality.
Whereas past installments had one or two sequences that really flexed their might, this one has six, all of which have their own perks and highlights. An early on HALO jump only lasts about a minute and a half, but exudes so much technical mastery and cinematic tension, you might feel like it lasts for twice that. A sequence in a Paris night club has a hefty bathroom brawl that’ll make you feel every punch and kick thanks to superb editing and sound design. A motorcycle chase that has a firm grasp on delivering high octane speed while maintaining the clarity of it all. And a helicopter finale that leverages time constraints and parallel editing to generate a white knuckle experience. constantly moving forward and never doddling, every set piece is well realized and every set piece has something to gain or lose that matters to our characters and plot.
Hunt himself is a notable step up from past iterations. In the past, we’ve always seen Hunt as the spy who was one step ahead of everyone and someone who had a moral compass, and in this one, it is really emphasizes those traits through intelligent twists and meaningful moments of morality. Throughout you get the sense that Hunt isn’t just blindly pulling the trigger, but rather, cautiously calculating the value of life, seen not only through his pursuit to save millions from terrorism, but also through his camaraderie with teammates Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg), and Isla (Rebecca Fergusson). It’s multidimensional, meaningful, and naturally impacts the narrative at hand.
Cruise deserves special accolades for the sheer extremities he’s going through on screen. When we talk about actors going the distance for their performance, no one is coming close to the ‘method’ he is achieving. A long purveyor of doing his own stunts, Cruise is literally doing multiple death defying stunts all on his own. When you see him jump out of a plane at 25,000 feet, he’s doing that. When you see him jump a 20 foot gap between buildings and BREAK HIS ANKLE, he’s doing that. When you see him fly a helicopter into a cork screw nose dive all by himself, he’s doing that. It’s really a baffling notion to think about, and if anything, it only adds to the jaw dropping ‘WOW’ factor of the film.
Tonally, the film is spot on. The franchise has a history of being a fun action spy romp, and this film continues that legacy, but this time with a greater sense of urgency, seriousness, and conviction. This film is fun in all the right ways, knowing when to crack a well timed joke and knowing when to hold in order to maintain the tension at hand and continue the suspense. Aesthetically, the film is also a standout. The score carries an ominous and fast-paced tone that is conveyed with high tempo stings and momentous drums. When listening to past installments, the music is banal, orchestral passivity, but Fallout’s score makes active engagements to heighten what’s on screen; it’s a score where you can really feel when action takes place. Visually, the film looks much better than past installments. In the last two , you’ve had a very clean, bright images that made better for a network TV show, but here you have various color grades. Everything is a little darker, a little more contrasty, and a little more cinematic. The culmination is a film that looks and sounds as every bit impressive as the action taking place on screen.
Not only is this film the clear front runner in the series by a wide margin, but the film is down right marvelous. It’s stupendous. A bonafide achievement in the action genre. From the continual ante of set pieces to the injection of meaningful stakes to its effective theme on the value of life, Fallout fires on all cylinders. Cruise, McQuarrie, and the rest of the crew have made something that is truly an edge of the seat blockbuster for the ages. The consensus in the Twittersphere is that Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best action film since Mad Max: Fury Road, and after seeing it, it’s hard to disagree.