It feels almost pointless to tell you to go see this movie. Surely at this point you’ve seen the trailer. You’ve read all the other cool reviews. You’ve heard that Tom Cruise got his helicopter license for the finale of the film, and that he honest to god jumped out of a plane. Is it exhilarating? Yeah. The whole movie is. So, you know, you’re mission, should you choose to accept it (I wonder, did you ever choose not to?) is to go see Fallout.
The Mission Impossible franchise has, arguably, one of the best possible setups for any action/spy movie. At the beginning of each flick a disembodied voice tells Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) what the mission is. We know, likewise, that by the end of the film Hunt will have completed said mission. So really all that we’re left to worry about is how? Which is all the fun of action movies anyway. By getting all the exposition out of the way at the beginning the film is able to pivot between clipped dialogue scenes (potentially and hopefully leading to some double cross or big reveal) and pure action scenes. Perfect.
Though it is almost entirely perfunctory the mission this time involves Ethan retrieving some Uranium that he let fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. Returning faces Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) run support. Also involved is CIA heavy August Walker (Henry Cavill, sporting an absolutely essential moustache), and returning friends/foes MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
Though the story doesn’t so much matter, the plot itself is tightly crafted (which is shocking, considering the fact that director/writer Christopher McQuarrie has been incredibly open about not really scripting the movie in advance). The uranium itself is a McGuffin, but that doesn’t mean the characters don’t all really badly want it. I’m reminded of a Vonnegut quote: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” The uranium is a fine glass of water. What matters is that all these characters want it badly, very badly, and they’re totally ready to do whatever it takes to get it. Betrayals? Okay. Impersonation? Yup. Double crossing? Check. Double agents? Triple agents? Double crosses? Triple crosses? Face masks? Hidden agendas are exactly what make spy stories so thrilling – who wants what, and how will they get it? Fallout’s plot raises those questions constantly before immediately satisfyingly answering them, over and over again.
The answer to “how will they get what they want,” is almost always “by pulling off an insane action sequence,” which is, of course, the best answer to that question. Action is tough to praise in writing because it’s best when it evokes a visceral reaction. Again, Fallout delivers on this front. A good measure for if a set piece succeeds is if you can easily title it and call it to mind. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to hear “the tallest hotel sequence” without immediately flash back to watching MI: Ghost Protocol. Fallout has a number of sequences that will probably get similar recognition, that will sit in our imagination for a long time: “the HALO jump sequence” “the bathroom brawl,” “the Paris motorcycle chase,” and particularly “that helicopter sequence.” I can’t praise them enough, except to say people in the theater were oohing, ahhing, laughing, cheering, and sitting on the edge of their seats (it was a 11:30 AM screening on a Monday – a potentially tough crowd to get to vocally respond). The sequences felt real (mostly because they were). Punches landed heavy. The action was coherent. The helicopters nearly fell out of the sky. Honestly, what more could you ask for?
That’s all I have to say about Mission Impossible: Fallout. What more could you ask for? From the opening sequence it makes us a promise: Ethan Hunt and Co. are going to have to pull off this impossible mission. How are they going to do it? It seems impossible! And then it delivers on that promise, so much so that by the final sequence even though I knew they had to pull it off I was sitting in that theater and thinking, verbatim and not ironically to myself: “how on earth are they going to pull this off? It’s impossible. Does this movie have a really dark ending? Wouldn’t I have heard about that by now?” It’s fun, it’s tight, it’s got some great reveals and double crosses, and it’s got truly thrilling action. Just go see it.
I give Mission Impossible: Fallout 10 crashing helicopters out of 10 mustachioed Supermans.
- I watched Rogue Nation for the first time after seeing Fallout. It’s also very good, but Fallout feels like it’s got the leg up at least as far as cinematography goes – the movie did more with dark spaces, which I really love and would like to see more frequently, especially in action movies.
- As McQuarrie states in this interview the final sequence works so well because everyone has something they have to accomplish. It’s exactly why large CGI final battles are so boring – if everyone has the same objective (kill as many faceless goons as possible) it sucks all the tension out of things. It’s also why the original Guardians of the Galaxy final sequence is probably the best final Marvel sequence – everyone is given a task, which keeps stakes high for all the characters.