MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (2018)
2 Hours and 27 Minutes (R)
Villain Solomon Lane tells Ethan Hunt that the end he’s feared is coming and describes it as “the fallout of all [his] good intentions”. That statement could also apply to Mission: Impossible – Fallout and it’s director, the first ever to return for a second go-around in the series, Christopher McQuarrie. With this direct follow-on to the story events in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, McQuarrie’s aim is clear: he is going for a home run of an action flick while attempting to marry the best parts of the series into a cohesive whole. But you know what they say about good intentions…
The impossible mission that Ethan Hunt (the ageless wizard Tom Cruise) and his crew face now is one of the more straight forward in the series. It revolves mostly around retrieving stolen plutonium to prevent terrorists from launching nuclear attacks. This is not a ground-breaking story concept by any means, but McQuarrie structures the plot in such a way that there are still plenty of smaller motivations in play along the journey while always keeping the “ticking clock” in mind. And, of course, we’re dealing with spies here so this wouldn’t be Mission: Impossible without a double-cross (or two, or three, or… you get the point). One of the biggest strengths of the film is the way in which the story borrows elements from multiple films in the series and weaves them together successfully without making the result feel recycled. There is a through-line of a very personal nature reminiscent of Mission: Impossible III, there is the aforementioned “save the entire world from destruction” big stakes, and there are some wonderfully developed team dynamics that get focused on as well. There are also quite a few callbacks to specific scenes from past movies. Though it remains interesting throughout, the one big knock on the story is how telegraphed it is. If you’ve seen a trailer for the film, you already know how this is going to go and there aren’t many surprises in store for you. Even if you managed to stay trailer free, a very early reveal robs the film of what could have been much more impactful events later on. There are also some workings of the plot that create extremely high senses of danger and emotion in the audience only to later expose that there was no reason to have those emotions in the first place.
Where McQuarrie’s good intentions do manifest into something utterly brilliant is every single one of the film’s action sequences. The film moves fast from one terrific adrenaline-pumping set piece to the next in the best of ways. Whether it’s the early on HALO jump (my personal favorite that had me holding my breath) or the hand-to-hand combat inside of a club bathroom or a motorcycle chase in heavy traffic or the well-documented insanity of Tom Cruise actually climbing onto a helicopter mid-air and then piloting it in a dogfight, the audience is left breathless and physically reeling from the practical effects and stunt work on display. Not to go unmentioned, because it’s a major contributor to these pieces, is the wonderful sound design and use of the score. At times symphonic, at others completely absent, and often just incredibly powerful pops of a bullet or punches of a fist or revs of an engine, the sound in this film greatly enhances the overall experience.
Another aspect of the series that is less frequently mentioned is its humor, and Fallout may just be the best at this. Some of the most hilarious lines come from Hunt’s team of Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), and Director Hundley (Alec Baldwin). But the film’s most interesting relationship, between Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) and Hunt, provides plenty of laughs also, as the two spies spend the majority of their time on screen together in a battle of who has the most testosterone. The results frequently evoke a light-hearted chuckle at just the right moment to provide a brief respite from the film’s intensely driven plot. Last but not least, fan favorite British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns and despite seeming less important while being in more scenes, manages to ground the team in a few key emotional moments that would otherwise not have been possible.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout jumped out of the gate to critic claims of being the next action masterpiece. While it does excel in this area, and is certainly one of the decade’s best, technical achievement is not the only aspect of a great film. Fallout’s story is good, but not without hiccups. It’s unfortunate telegraphing of surprises holds it back from being truly special, though it has some tender emotional moments that help offset that small critique. Regardless, the film is a 2.5-hour high octane ride with a master of propulsive action and this generation’s biggest star, resulting in yet another fantastic entry into possibly the best spy film series of all-time. Don’t walk, run like Tom Cruise to the nearest theater and experience this summer’s best blockbuster in the loudest theater with the biggest screen you can.
Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.