Movie Review: ‘Mission: Impossible - Fallout’ Among Franchise Best
In the opening scenes of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt attempts to buy three orbs of weapons-grade plutonium from a Berlin arms dealer before it falls into the hands of The Apostles, a group of international anarchist-terrorists bent on causing a global nuclear event in order to, uh, make the world a better place.
But when Hunt sacrifices the plutonium in order to save Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), it’s presumably picked up by the villainous anarchists who have ambushed Hunt and his team.
Or is it? A short time later, the plutonium is back on the black market, and now being pursued by mysterious Apostle associate John Lark. This time, the seller wants something a little special in return: the release of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the imprisoned villain of the last film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
But who has the plutonium at this point, and why are they willing to give it up for the release of Lane, who would presumably want the plutonium himself? Keeping track of the MacGuffin at the heart of Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a thankless task: impossible to do in the moment, though you hold out hope that everything will be tied together by the end.
I think it might. But I’m still not sure: making sense of the twisty-turny storyline in M:I 6 requires some leaps of faith by the audience, and involves some really sketchy character motivation on behalf of the villains for any of it to make sense.
“You’re making this too complicated,” one baddie shouts at the other during a climactic scene. Indeed.
But 20 minutes in the movie, the already-convoluted narrative of Mission: Impossible - Fallout becomes almost irrelevant when star Tom Cruise and the cameraman-stuntman filming the movie make a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump from a military aircraft over Paris in one of the most impressive action sequences ever put to film.
Cruise is known for doing his own stunts, but this one is something else that elevates the entire production to a higher level of action entertainment; because the scene is set during dusk, the film only managed a single take each day, resulting in over 100 jumps across 3+ months in the skies above the United Arab Emirates (filling in for France).
The result is a breathtaking single-shot take that tracks Cruise/Hunt's entire minutes-long descent. During that time, he also has to save the life of CIA hotshot August Walker (Henry Cavill), who has managed to lose his oxygen on the way down, before covertly landing on the rooftop of Paris’ Le Grand Palais without being noticed.
The HALO jump is a total knockout, but it’s just the first in a series of dynamite action scenes that pepper the rest of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which turns its contrived story into a mere frame to hang edge-of-your-seat action sequences.
Right after the HALO jump, there’s a bangup bathroom fistfight between Lark and Hunt & Walker, in which Chinese stuntman Liang Yang turns Cruise and Cavill into punching bags before Rogue Nation’s Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up to lend a hand.
That’s followed by a Dark Knight-esque bust-out chase scene on the streets of Paris, a rooftop run & jump scene in London during which star Cruise was actually injured (in a shot that has been painfully left in the final film), and a Top Gun-like helicopter battle over the mountains of Kashmir.
Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, once best known as the screenwriter behind The Usual Suspects, has now firmly established himself as perhaps the finest action movie director now working in Hollywood after a trio of films with Cruise (Jack Reacher and the last two Mission: Impossible sequels) leading to this, his finest achievement.
The action scenes here do not inherently become better with the knowledge that Cruise is performing his own stunts, but there’s an almost-intangible quality to the practical effects work and dedication to realism practiced by the production that elevates Mission: Impossible - Fallout to the highest echelon of action movie entertainment. In an era where fights between invincible comic book superheroes induce more boredom than excitement, the action in Fallout keeps you glued to the screen at every step.
It also renders the ridiculous storyline, which include head-scratching exposition from government honchos (played by Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett) and a tidying up of Hunt’s personal storyline introduced in the third movie (involving a wife played by Michelle Monaghan) an afterthought. Mission: Impossible - Fallout may not tell a great story, but it is an undeniably great action movie.