Is Mission Impossible: Fallout the one with the huge glass building abseil in Dubai? Oh, no: that’s Ghost Protocol. Ok, so is it the one where Tom Cruise clings to the side of an aircraft as it takes off? Wait, nope: that’s Rogue Nation. Ah yes, Mission Impossible: Fallout is the sixth movie in the franchise and is the one where Cruise broke his foot. Whilst jumping off a roof. In a scene not long after a for real high-speed motorcycle chase in Paris. Which wasn’t long after a for real HALO parachute jump (High Altitude Low Opening).
As the Mission Impossible series of movies has progressed and sneakily dropped the numbering system since MI III, it has been the signature stunt work that has been the key identifier between entries. The stunts are jaw-dropping, popcorn-munching, hold your breath inducing triumphs of action cinema, even if the actual plot of the movies is somewhat secondary and interchangeable. Indeed, such interchangeability is built into the design of the movies to the point where when you see that one of the recent crop of Mission Impossible movies is on TV or available to stream, you are happy to watch because even though you likely can’t remember which ‘one’ it is; you know damn well that come the end you will be entertained regardless.
In Fallout there is some standard peril to be overcome. Nuclear devices are in play with baddie kerfuffle about ‘ending society in order to rebuild it’…yadda yadda yadda. Historically, baddies haven’t ever been Mission Impossible’s strong suit but that said, Fallout features a satisfyingly maniacal turn from returning villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Battling the threat are the usual gang played by Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg as well as additional welcome and badass returnee Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) as a former MI6 agent who helps out where possible. All of whom are lead by, of course, Tom Cruise as IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent, Ethan Hunt.
It almost goes without saying that the stunt work in Fallout is superb, considering the series trades so strongly on this reputation. But even such razzmatazz would be for naught if the central performances were lacklustre and one reason why the latter MI movies have landed so well is the superb mix of characters. Simon Pegg injects some much-needed comedy as the technically adept but frequently fearful Benji and his back and forth with Cruise is invariable entertaining.
Rhames has little to do but play solid support, which he does well, and newcomer August Walker (Henry Cavill), a CIA assassin sent to keep a watchful eye over proceedings, gets the gang’s backs up in a fun way so that sparks fly. The scenes where our protagonists bicker is every bit as entertaining as the car chases and explosions.
Tom Cruise can be somewhat of a polarising actor with some enamoured by his aura of charm while others think him lacking anything of note behind the eyes. I sit quite happily in the former camp and would also suggest that while Cruise is lauded for his commitment to “oh no don’t do THAT!!” stuntwork, he also does not get enough credit for his comedy talents. It not for nothing that his chemistry with Simon Pegg works so well as there are plenty of moments of little looks, prickly banter, and endearing chastisement that keep things from ever being too macho.
Another key ingredient in the mix is that Ethan Hunt is not superman (that’s Cavill, surely?) and his efforts frequently seem on the verge of failure. In Fallout his plans go awry, he loses fights, and he barely succeeds in his mission objectives. Again, this keeps us engaged as we see Hunt & Co wriggle out of ever-worsening situations. The final sequences where Cruise (again, for real) is clinging to a helicopter rope while Faust hand to hand fights for life and non-fighter Pegg is mere moments from death is a triumph of editing and pacing that keeps you hanging on through every otherwise overblown moment.
You don’t even have time to pause and process how Hunt is now throwing fists literally on top of a mountain with tumbling helicopters to dodge. How did we get here? Who cares! Shovel more popcorn in!
With a series that rests so heavily on stunt work for it’s wow factor, the elephant in the room must be the series’ aging star. Cruise, at the time of writing now 58 years old, surely can’t keep up this intensity? The most self-aware that Fallout gets is when characters gather around a battered Hunt and plainly stress as to what would happen if he wasn’t there to save us, as if pleading the audience to suspend disbelief and get behind more installments. With MI 7 and MI 8 both in production surely a graceful bowing out of sorts must be on the cards?
In the meantime, slap on Mission Impossible: Fallout and enjoy having your brain awash with deeply satisfying munchable entertainment, especially the bit with the speeding train / super long real-time underwater sequence/fight at the opera…wait, which one is this again?
Words by Mike Record