In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray.
Fallout begins as you’d expect — with a terrific opening sequence that sets up the main plot with an actual message that self-destructs and all of the action, intrigue and misdirection that M:I has become known for. When a deal for three plutonium cores goes south, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must make a decision between protecting the cores or saving his long-time partner, Luther (Ving Rhames). When he chooses the latter, the cores are stolen by the Apostles, a new group of terrorists run by a rogue operative known only as Larke. To retrieve the cores, Ethan must go undercover as Larke, and learns this isn’t just another mission.
In order to get the cores, he must first break Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the leader of the Syndicate (aka the group he had to track down and stop in Rogue Nation) out of custody. Following him, of course, is enigmatic Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who wants to help Ethan as much as she can while still staying true to her own agenda. Much like in Rogue Nation, the chemistry between Cruise and Ferguson is flirty and fiery, leading to some well-choreographed action sequences and a secondary story line that works to build their relationship even deeper. At least her main objective is a lot more clear-cut than the last film.
During all of this, Alec Baldwin returns to the fold as Alan Hunley, head of the re-established IMF agency who reluctantly must saddle Hunt’s team with a new recruit: August Walker (Henry Cavill). Of course these two very A-type personalities clash on every move possible, including skydiving into a lightning storm. Both try to understand the other’s motives at every turn, and though they try to give it some ambiguity, it’s clear from the jump that August isn’t on the up-and-up, so how the twist halfway through the film occurs isn’t so much of a surprise, so much as when it happens, as I didn’t expect it to happen so early…
… or as early as it felt, as this film is much faster than its running time would suggest. Because of the clear connections to previous entries in the franchise, we’re already fully invested in these characters and their mission, and returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has a knack for making the two-and-a-half hour run time feel like half that time. Each action sequence is set up so precisely, when the film starts to get a bit weighed down by exposition or Ethan’s struggling with a bit of PTSD in regards to Soloman and his ex-wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), we’re juiced with another shot of adrenaline to take us through the next bit of downtime, each one leading us through the story without feeling tacked on or unimportant.
It’s also nice to see Ethan’s team returning without question (the obvious omission being Jeremy Renner’s Brandt). Just as there wouldn’t be any impossible mission without Cruise, the franchise wouldn’t feel the same without Luther, who takes on a much larger role in this film than I think he ever has in any of the previous films (except for maybe Rogue Nation). And of course there’s Simon Pegg, who, like Dwayne Johnson in the F&F franchise, was the main catalyst in bringing M:I to a new level. His presence and comic timing is still on point and his chemistry with his team is impeccable. As long as Benji sticks around, I probably will to.
As a producer of the entire M:I series, Tom Cruise holds no punches when it comes to making sure this franchise continues to grow and flourish in a way a lot of franchises show their age in subsequent installments. Instead of trading passion and excitement for uninspired tediousness, the Mission: Impossible series takes great care to make sure the audience remains emotionally invested in every one of these characters by continually evolving them as they move through their adventures with grace, dignity, and a lot of running, jumping, fighting and motorcycles.
My Grade: A
Because I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sicario, I wasn’t all that excited to see Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which may be why I found this sequel to be better than expected, although with a final act that fails to come to a solid conclusion and tries too hard to set up a franchise, Day of the Saldado starts with bang only to foolishly run out of steam. B
Next week, new movies include Christopher Robin, The Spy Who Dumped Me and The Darkest Minds. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.