Review – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The Mission: Impossible franchise has quietly become one of my favorites.  Unlike so many other movie series, it has generally gotten better with age (before this film, the fourth entry – Ghost Protocol – was my favorite, with the fifth installment – Rogue Nation – not far behind.  Mission: Impossible II is easily my least favorite of the bunch.) and consistently steps up to offer more traditional, old-school adult popcorn entertainment in the form of a series of essentially standalone films that can be enjoyed independently of each other.  I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as anyone, but it’s good to have options, and Mission: Impossible has provided viewers with options for 22 years, now.

Unless I’m forgetting something (and let me know if I am), that would make Mission: Impossible the third-longest non-rebooted film franchise going, behind Star Wars and Jurassic Park/World.  It’s an impressive feat which has been accomplished by always upping their own action game, staying one step ahead of audiences (see, Antoine Fuqua?  That’s a key to longevity.), and simply putting out high-quality, reliably entertaining films with a strong lead who is identified with the franchise, and a talented supporting cast.  I made it sound as easy as these films have made it look, but it’s not easy, and the resilience of this franchise is something to be commended.

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I won’t get into any of the story elements because the story is just that much fun, full of twists, turns, and reveals.  Some you might see coming but, even if you do (which is not a guarantee, as the script works hard to keep the viewer off-balance), the journey is still absurdly enjoyable.  I remarked that the Mission: Impossible franchise is comprised of a series of standalone stories featuring recurring characters and, with Fallout, that’s still pretty much the case, though this film comes the closest of all of them to being a traditional sequel – in this instance, to 2015’s Rogue Nation.  That makes sense because this entry marks the first time in the franchise that a director – Christopher McQuarrie, to be specific – has returned to helm a second film.  McQuarrie picks up many of the narrative threads and character development established in Rogue Nation and carries them forward, here.  But, fret not; for anyone who hasn’t seen Rogue Nation (and shame on you) or hasn’t seen it in a while and doesn’t remember it well, Fallout catches you up on everything you need to know.

With McQuarrie returning, the series is allowed to move Cruise’s Ethan Hunt forward in a way that hasn’t truly been done, up to now.  Each previous film has essentially been a full reset, with new creative minds coming in to put their own stamp on the character.  Here, Ethan grows and learns from his experiences.  This mission pairs him with Henry Cavill’s CIA agent, August Walker.  Ethan and Walker are two sides of the same coin, quickly developing an almost-adversarial relationship, despite having the same basic goals.  Think Daredevil and the Punisher or Spider-Man and Deadpool.  For Ethan, there are rules; for Walker, the ends justify the means.  Giving Ethan this partner provides the film a unique – and unpredictable – dynamic that only further complicates his mission.

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As fun as all of that is – and it’s all a lot of fun – Mission: Impossible has established itself as a destination for insane, over-the-top action set pieces designed to dazzle the senses and blow minds.  Fallout is no exception.  Whether its due to the narrative developments or the action sequences, the film is a 147-minute rush of adrenaline, but some of these action scenes take things to a whole new level.  There was one moment where I literally heard about seven or eight people in the theater simultaneously let out a, “Holy $#!+!”.  I, myself, on multiple occasions, felt the urge to leap to my feet and let loose with an enthusiastic exclamation of some random choosing, simply because the film was so (choose your own adverb) exciting!  The movie is full of some of the craziest stunt work ever put to film and the massive, nerve-wracking climax only ups the ante.  Cruise is famous for doing his owns stunts and should be given the respect he deserves for the craziness he’s involved with in Fallout.  If you don’t see this movie in IMAX, you’re cheating yourselves, folks.

Speaking of Cruise, in this film, he once again illustrates why he’s had the longevity he has in Hollywood and why he and Mission: Impossible are such a perfect fit for one another.  Cruise was simply made for Ethan Hunt.  It’s his best-known role and his enthusiasm for the series is evident in his willingness to commit so much of his body and time to getting it right.  So many people are absolutely determined to hate this man for things that have no direct effect on their lives, things they don’t even know to be true, or just because he’s more successful than they’ll ever be.  But Cruise is a beast and he’s still at the top of his game and is one of the last few true movie stars that remain in the industry.  And he’s likely not going anywhere, anytime soon.  Thank goodness.

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Believe the hype, folks.  While, due to personal bias, I can’t state that Mission: Impossible – Fallout is my favorite movie of the summer, objectively, it’s absolutely the best.  It fires on all cylinders, then takes those cylinders, supercharges them, fills them all with nitroglycerin, puts each one in its own microwave within a nuclear power plant, sets the timers for 5 seconds, and then yells, “RUUUUUUN!” just to see what happens.  And, believe me, you want to see what happens.  The film is a sequence of one breathtaking event after another after another, culminating in a series of . . . well . . . impossible adventures that ensure the franchise lives up to its name.  And that’s great, because there are few disappointments greater than a film that breaks its promises.

Mission: Impossible continues to provide thrilling, sophisticated entertainment for grown-ups who are able to concentrate and keep their noses out of their phones for at least a few hours.  And it’s a rewarding, blast of an escapist experience.  It offers the best action outside of the biggest comic book blockbusters (and even stands tall next to those), existing with old-school sensibilities powered by modern-day innovation.  See this movie as soon as possible on the biggest screen you can find as many times as you can.  Because I want more.  So much more.

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