Mission: Impossible: Fallout (aka Mission: Impossible VI) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Now in its sixth chapter, the Mission Impossible franchise has proven that it still not only has Tom Cruise’s drive for insane stunts but also real grit to go the extra mile. With a series involving spy disguises, fast-paced action, and double-crosses that go so deep they may reach double digits, director Christopher McQuarrie has ensured we won’t get bored or grow tired with the spectacle. If these movies are indeed a showcase of a Tom Cruise action vehicle, McQuarrie has tuned up the engine, filled up the tank, and mounted nitro boosters to make the best damn Mission Impossible yet.
Whereas the last Mission Impossible movie had Cruise shoving nearly all his co-stars into the background as he dived into the water and hung onto planes, Fallout finds a better balance. No longer the one man holding his own in death-defying stunts, Henry Cavill enters the picture as the perfect rival for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Cavill plays CIA agent August Walker who doesn’t entirely trust Ethan or agrees with his methods. Walker would rather punch a suspect to a bloody pulp them drug them up and assume their identity. And while this causes Ethan’s plans to go awry, I have to admit it’s a hoot to watch Walker mess stuff up (figuratively and literally) and Ethan formulates new plans on the fly. Unless he already has a plan for when those plans go wrong?
McQuarrie’s direction always keeps us guessing who the true backstabber is in this fast-paced spy thriller that never stops, as though its brakes for tired exposition had been cut. The story moves so quickly between the snarky smarts of partners Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), the questionable allegiance of former MI:6 agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), and the shady behind the scenes work of agency directors Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett). It moves so briskly that we don’t have time to become too bogged down in a tale of stopping nukes from going off, complete with wires to be cut at just the right second and a button to be pushed as the countdown timer goes from green to red. Even the usual bad-guy banter of returning villain Solomon Kane (Sean Harris) is kept to a minimum with all the exciting chases, on in foot, in cars, and dangling from helicopters.
It’s hard to gush about how finely crafted the action scenes are without dissecting them like spelling out the recipe of a tasty dish. Let’s just say McQuarrie and Cruise took a step back when looking at these scenes and decided to go one step further. A tight car chase through oncoming traffic is exciting, but what if Ethan took a major tumble or had to deal with a lone police officer on his mad dash from authorities? A duel of helicopters around mountains is intense, but what if it was more intense by having them both crash down the mountainside in a destructive tumble that seemingly never ends? Every sequence is a real treat and elongated enough to appreciate the true craft of the action at play.
Another strong aspect of Fallout, for being a direct sequel, is a heavier focus on Ethan as a character. If the last film had him leaving everyone in the dust, Fallout slows him down just enough to show off Hunt’s capacity for never leaving a man behind or sacrificing someone’s life for the greater good. It’s an inspiring nature for an agent typically involved in acts of great lies and working with the enemy, bringing him to nearly gun down innocent law enforcement in his quest to uncover plutonium. We also get more of a peek into Ethan’s mindset of keeping the women distant in his dangerous line of work, fearing he’ll lose everything, as Solomon seems to mutter continuously in his mission to cause chaos.
Despite a running time of 140 minutes, Fallout is by far the most exhilarating of the Mission Impossible franchise, which is saying something for being the sixth film in the saga. Few films make it this far and prove they still have spry and clever ideas to make a blockbuster action film as wise as it is big. While Ghost Protocol remains my favorite entry of Mission Impossible, Fallout is so close that maybe one or two more viewings would convince me this is the best of the series.