Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller (based on the television series created by)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
It’s hard to believe that the Mission Impossible franchise is now over twenty years old. I can’t sit here and say that I was always a massive fan. I was only seven when the first came out and the early iterations were fairly repetitive affairs, with an ever changing blur of black market arms dealers making up the antagonists for Ethan Hunt to see off. That all changed with 2015’s Rogue Nation however. Christopher McQuarrie gave us a more nuanced, villainous group to contend with.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some memorable antagonists prior to Rogue Nation and Fallout. Phillip Seymour Hoffmann’s Owen Davian from the third film was an outstanding adversary. But the Syndicate led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), brought an array of interesting characters. A group of freelance, for want of a better word, individuals with a shared, common goal. It’s the same group, albeit evolved, that resurfaces. They’re known as the Apostles now and they’ve got a noble, albeit genocidal cause. They’re all about world peace, but first the worlds major religious hubs and institutions must fall.
“There cannot be peace without great suffering” is their mantra. “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace” we hear Lane and others repeatedly say. That just isn’t going to fly in a world with the IMF and its maverick leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) however. There’s an early dream/nightmare sequence, during which Hunt is haunted by Lane, who’s laying into his past misdemeanours, before McQuarrie thrusts us into a botched plutonium arms deal that’ll set the tone for the entire film. The deal goes south, hijacked by the Apostles, who obviously have nefarious reasons for wanting it.
Hunt is then sent to Paris by Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) to muscle in on a meeting between the notorious John Lark and the equally infamous middleman/woman, the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). It’s their only lead on the missing plutonium, but there’s always a spanner flung in the works in these films. This particular spanner comes in the muscled form of the mustachioed August Walker (Henry Cavill), a CIA agent working for Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett). She’s not too keen on Ethan and wants her own man on the mission to oversee matters, and obviously make sure things play out to her liking.
It’s later revealed that the Widow is a CIA informant, incidentally, which isn’t the only revelation to be revealed in a film that’s literally full to the brim with two timing, incredibly realistic face masks, double agents and general backstabbing.
This is a franchise that’s became synonymous with slick, action set pieces and stunning visuals and we get all of that and more in the opening twenty minutes alone. I’ve not enjoyed the first act of a film this much in a quite some time. It’s got everything, from stunning, cloudy, electrical storms raging below a cargo plane, to an adrenaline rush of a dive down onto the night, cityscape of the French capital and then a thrilling three way fight in a nightclub toilet. Major props to Liang Yang, Cavill and Cruise for that sequence, because it was fantastic. All of this takes place before Fallout’s story even gets going, incidentally.
Once it does swing into action then McQuarrie sends Hunt and the best part of half a dozen primary characters to various different locales across the world. It’s done in a such an organic, realistic manner too that it’s not even jarring either. For instance, Lane is wanted by Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), an MI6 agent, that’s been tasked with capturing the rogue, British agent and so it’s only obvious that the story heads to London, and once the revelation of Walker being a double agent for the Apostles is revealed, the inevitable race against time to disarm two nukes takes the story even further afield to Asia, where Ethan’s ex is stationed.
Speaking of Walker, I thought Henry Cavill was outstanding too. I’m not accustomed to seeing the man playing an antagonist, but after his showing here, I wouldn’t be adverse to him doing it again. I’m not entirely sure that there was any need for the moustache mind, but maybe that was a classic disguise trick? Who knows. Whilst I’m on the subject of performances, I’ll fire some praise Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames way too. The latter has been synonymous with this franchise for twenty odd years, but the combination of those two and Cruise just works so well. There’s great chemistry there and their funny chatter in several scenes, adds some comedic levity. They grow in prominence.
There wasn’t really a weak performance in the film. Cruise is in his element in this genre. He’s a bonafide action star, he does his own stunts, he can fly helicopters in real life and ride motorcycles, and so it all feels authentic when he does it in the film. And man, that helicopter sequence was glorious. He’s still in ridiculous shape, certainly for a guy in his mid 50’s and you can only take your hat off to him for battling through a broken ankle. Rebecca Ferguson was back again and there’s the hint of romance brewing between Ethan and Ilsa. I also thoroughly enjoyed Kirby’s showing as the White Widow too.
Without giving the entirety of the plot away, I think it would be fair to say that most people will know the way the film ultimately ends. Ethan and his IMF team save the day, but not without a right struggle. The Apostles were a truly worthy opponent, they always seemed a step ahead throughout, with twists and double twists coming fast and furious. The split perspective finale was riveting, full of tension despite knowing the inevitable outcome and given the deep, interconnected, every man nature of their organisation and the fact that they’ve got members incognito, within major establishments. It opens the door for another instalment with Lane once again central to the plot.
And that’s a refreshing change for Mission Impossible. It was a big positive I took away. The way it connected Rogue Nation, the way that the story was a direct continuation in a sense and the fact it’s almost like a trilogy within a six film franchise.
I’ve seen a fair few action films already this year. With the likes of Rampage, Skyscraper and even the Meg had action elements within the overplayed shark sub-genre. Mission Impossible: Fallout doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with any of them though. It’s an infinitely superior experience. The story was intelligently crafted, the characters within were interesting, the action was fantastic, as was the visuals and the antagonists were some of the best in the entire franchise. For me, Fallout is the best film in a franchise that defies the usual trend of ever diminishing returns and instead keeps on getting better.
It had me riveted from start to finish and I would absolutely recommend giving it a watch.