An Overnight Success, Twenty-Two Years in the Making
I can scarcely believe what I am saying, but Mission: Impossible might just be the best action franchise of the last 20 years. While the jury may still be out on the former, it’s safe to say that Mission: Impossible- Fallout is this year’s best action movie by a country mile.
Each Mission Impossible film is different. The last film, Rogue Nation, had ambitious oeuvre and panache. In some cases, the movie felt similar to the likes of Sam Mendes’ Skyfall; instead of gunning for that same appeal of tuxedos and intrigue, Fallout aims to create a tense atmosphere of paranoia. All of that is only matched by the breakneck pace of a sharply written plot.
Although Fallout is the sixth installment in the series, it’s the first time a Mission Impossible film feels like a true sequel. Much of the feeling of continuity has to do with returning director Christopher McQuarrie, who has worked previously with Cruise in both Rogue Nation and the first Jack Reacher.
Another Mission, Another Race Against Time with a Stellar Cast
Two years after Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) caught ex-MI6 anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), he and his team have to deal with a new nuclear crisis, engineered by the acolytes of Lane’s Syndicate. As he races across the world to connect the dots, he crosses paths with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and has to team up with brawny CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill).
Their character growth is tightly plotted but effectively portrayed. Each principle characters shines brightly in action sequences, with their distinctive builds and fighting styles. Cruise, Cavill and Ferguson ooze chemistry. The standout fight scene of the film, a sink-busting slobber knocker in a Parisian bathroom, features all three working in tandem against a common foe.
Henry Cavill gets to flex both his muscles and his brains in a way that we haven’t seen since he donned the red and blue suit in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. He bristles with machismo and confidence, and is also the voice of reason in many early espionage and action sequences. Rebecca Ferguson continues to impress as a deadly femme fatale, with a penchant for efficiency that would give Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow a run for her money. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are competent in their supporting roles, and Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin are respectable during their brief screen time.
Knowing and Playing to its Strengths
The plot, for the most part, offers a fresh and thrilling take that acknowledges and often pokes fun at the traditional tropes of the franchise. From a very early point in the film, it is apparent that certain characters aren’t who they seem to be.
The screenplay, thankfully, anticipates this and instead focuses on character layering to build rapport with the audience. McQuarrie peppers moments of camaraderie between scenes of instant and high-stakes action. The team members bond as they squabble over their individual methods, the ridiculousness of face masks, and marvel at Hunt’s penchant for running quarter miles more often than driving them.
If Fast and the Furious is a ridiculous franchise built around cars and family, then Mission Impossible is built on impressive stunts, superb action sequences and, of course, a whole lot of running from Tom Cruise.
The ethos of the franchise is voiced clearly a few times in the film. The keyword of the franchise may be “impossible”, although Hunt’s IMF team always finds a way to do their job. No matter what the odds, and how many times he has been betrayed, Ethan Hunt has an uncanny knack for figuring out how to handle the situation and come out on top.
Celebrating Cruise’s Hyper-Human Endurance
To call Mission Impossible: Fallout an accomplishment isn’t an overstatement. At the heart of this kind of achievement is the maddening drive of the last action hero standing. Tom Cruise has found a way to channel all the darkness and upheavals of his personal life into a film career, maintaining a manic momentum for the last two decades.
We are left pondering, is Tom Cruise a superhuman? He holds his own while teaming up with Cavill. His fighting style is deadly, precise and within certain moral limits. For Fallout, He uses the Keysi fighting style, developed by Andy Norman. He has used this style since Jack Reacher, and it contrasts nicely with Cavil’s hulking, brick-like brawling style.
The fighting choreography, McQuarrie’s directing, Rob Hardy’s cinematography produce a very convincing illusion of authenticity.
As great as the film is, it falls short of being a masterpiece. And that is okay, because the film had no such aspirations. McQuarrie and Cruise set out to, and succeeded in, making the best action-adventure spy thriller yet filmed in the Mission Impossible franchise.
In the eighteen days since its release, the film has amassed a combined gross of $439 million. While these aren’t Marvel numbers, they are very respectable for a spy franchise. We can expect it to finish ahead of Rogue Nation, which earned $877 million in 2015.
Originally published on Medium and UpThrust on August 15, 2018.