I recently read an article claiming that ‘Mission: Impossible’ was the best film franchise ever. At first thought that seemed a bit far-fetched, but the more I thought about it, the more I considered that they may be right. All of the films (well, if you don’t count #2) have been well-received both critically and commercially, the series hasn’t felt like it’s dragged on unnecessarily, even with five instalments behind us, and it’s retained its core cast and added some crowd favourites, without resorting to expanding its onscreen talent pool to 30+ people like the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. So that bodes the question: with the sixth film ‘Fallout’ set to self-destruct on our screens, does the latest offering still have that same appeal?
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, 'Jack Reacher' franchise, 'Top Gun') has received his new mission, if he chooses to accept it: track down a crapload of plutonium which is about to fall into the hands of a terrorist group known as the Apostles, set for delivery to their latest client, grandiose fundamentalist John Lark. When Hunt has to choose between saving the lives of Luther (Ving Rhames, 'Pulp Fiction') and Benji (Simon Pegg, 'Star Trek' franchise, Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy) or retrieving the target, he loses the plutonium, and gets CIA assassin Special Activities operative August Walker (Henry Cavill, Justice League franchise, 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.') assigned to watch over him. They travel to Paris to track down the contraband - which leads to chases, backstabbings, hand-to-hand combat and, of course, surprisingly convincing rubber masks.
This is the second ‘M:I’ film directed by Christopher McQuarrie - the first time a director has gone a second round on the franchise - and there’s some pros and cons to that. He displays a familiarity with the concept that makes action scenes particularly riveting, and there’s some great new cinematic devices which really pull you into the scene - in particular, a shot where a police truck with a prisoner inside is sinking on its side in the Seine River, where we watch the water rapidly rising vertically on screen. There’s also great use of fixed cameras inside vehicles as they crash and roll; you can feel the impact as you see our hero inside being bounced around.
That familiarity does lead to a few concerns, though. McQuarrie also wrote this film, and it does have an unnecessarily complicated storyline. Trying to work in previous storylines (such as a continuation of the Solomon Lane plot from ‘Rogue Nation’) and characters (including Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust and Hunt’s ex-wife played by Michelle Monaghan, both of whom are scarcely present) and layering on top a bunch of new principal characters (Cavill’s CIA agent, Angela Bassett as the head of the CIA and Vanessa Kirby as a black market broker) as well as a few too many twists does make the story feel a little convoluted. This wouldn’t be such a problem if this padding didn’t make the film feel really long - at almost two and a half hours, there are a few too many complications and resolutions, and there’s really only so many chase sequences you can sit through before going numb (both physically and emotionally).
At almost two and a half hours, there’s really only so many chase sequences you can sit through before going numb (both physically and emotionally).
A few other (granted, much more minor) criticisms of the film - if you happen to be epileptic, this may not be the movie for you. The first half of the film is generously adorned with lighting flares in practically every shot; those that were not there naturally have been added artificially in post. It’s a style, sure, but it’s a little heavy-handed. Given that this particular screening of the movie was seen by half of the SWITCH team (hi Jess and Jake), one of the biggest topics of discussion afterwards was... Tom Cruise’s awkward running. It really is quite bizarre to watch. Given that the man is now 56, there have been questions as to whether or not he can still adequately pull off an action film.
Still, Cruise’s crazy running style does lend us one of the more humorous moments of the film - Simon Pegg’s Benji is directing him remotely to chase a fugitive on foot, without realising he’s about six floors above street level. While there are a scattering of moments like this throughout the film, ‘Fallout’ doesn’t quite have the fun or snappy humour its predecessors did.
It’s far from a perfect film, and although it does overstay its welcome, ‘Mission: Impossible - Fallout’ maintains the franchise’s status as an above-average action film series. Granted, this one is even more over the top and marginally less enjoyable than the previous offerings, but it’s an ‘M:I’ film through and through. Alleyway shootouts, HALO jumps, knife fights, countdown timers, bathroom brawls, car crashes, truck crashes, motorbike crashes, helicopter crashes - this is a film where you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth of action.