Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

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The faces of bathroom PSD: Paramount Pictures/Skydance Media

Get excited, but not too excited; MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT is probably only the third best Mission we’ve chosen to accept. While I think I’ll always prefer the self-awareness of GHOST PROTOCOL and the sheer style of ROGUE NATION, there’s still a helicopter’s conveniently detachable payload’s worth to like in this, the series at its biggest and boldest so far.

Following a mission gone very wrong, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team hunt down three nuclear warheads and those who would detonate them wherever they might be hiding across the world. Complicating matters further are CIA guard dog Walker (Henry Cavill) attached to Hunt’s team to prevent further costly slip-ups and the need to deal with a dangerous and influential new player in the world of shady brokering (Vanessa Kirby).

Fallout outdoes itself in terms of the series’ trademark tricksiness. That’s not to say the plot is overly complicated (it’s not) but if like me you always thought the worst part of these movies is the stupid masks (that apparently include extra height to allow Cruise to convincingly become Jon Voight and Philip Seymour Hoffman over the years), prepare to get a little annoyed. If you like that plot device being deployed liberally and unexpectedly, then you’re in for a treat.

Refreshingly, there are finally a few nods to Cruise’s (relatively) advancing age, from taking (slightly) longer to get up after being put down to not really keeping up in a punishing bathroom brawl between three combatants. You also don’t see Hunt receiving serious medical attention very often either, so he is human after all (Cruise or Hunt? Take your pick). Returning writer-director Christopher McQuarrie gets a little bogged down in the M:I grammar, spending a long time on inelegant exposition and throwing so many complications at our heroes you almost expect them to finally concede the mission is indeed impossible this time, but this is par for the course on film number six.

Vanessa Kirby threatens to steal the whole show with only a handful of scenes as arms dealer the White Widow, always brimming with cunning and making the very most of her character’s connection to a previous series power player. There’s still so much joy to be had in watching Cruise playing a superhuman who nearly always screws up and has to bring it back from the brink. It’s also a great deal of fun to watch Cruise lock horns with a hulking Cavill in a rare villainous role, a great scalpel vs lump hammer battle if there ever was one. I’m quite amazed by how long Walker has survived doing what he does, I’m more astounded that he managed to become the CIA Director’s (Angela Bassett) top guy, because he is shown time and time again to be monumentally thick. Elsewhere Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t quite get to be as high-impact as Ilsa Faust this time, despite her having to tie up Rogue Nation’s loose ends in a satisfying fashion (her plot is unfortunately sidelined for a good chunk of the film). Long-standing fans of the series will be delighted to see Ving Rhames and Michelle Monaghan getting proper screentime again, and they ground proceedings considerably in and amongst all the chaos.

The stunts are as amazing as you’ve heard. Competing action franchises can’t really keep up because as bombastic as they might go, as perfect as the action conception or location scouting might be, other ongoing action franchises don’t have Tom Cruise. Fallout’s most eye-popping action sequences are probably the HALO jump, with Cruise doing the skydiving (and SFX putting a thunderstorm around him for good measure), and the helicopter battle at the end, with Cruise doing most of the flying (and SFX allowing for the fight to continue even after the helicopters are reduced to rolling cockpits).

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one hell of a ride. It might feel unsteady on its feet to start, and suffers from the same niggling doubts as most of the previous franchise entries, but once it has momentum it really doesn’t let up. The stakes couldn’t be higher, Tom Cruise couldn’t be madder, he couldn’t have a more entertaining ensemble supporting him. You almost want Cruise to just leave it here, go out on a high after three pretty stellar entries back-to-back, but you know he won’t. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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