"Mission: Impossible" is one of the more consistently reliable of all
long-running franchises. Across six films and an almost unbelievable span of 22
years, the series has never grown stale, reinvigorating itself with increasingly
outrageous action set-pieces and fresh blood at the helm nearly every time.
Brian De Palma's 1996 original, John Woo's 2000 sequel "Mission: Impossible 2," J.J. Abrams' 2006 follow-up "Mission: Impossible 3," Brad Bird's 2011
Protocol" and Christopher McQuarrie
2015 entry "Mission:
Impossible-Rogue Nation" each one feels like a coherent
piece of something larger even as each filmmaker has brought their own
individual style and flair to the intrigue-filled, tautly designed, stunt-heavy
proceedings. For "Mission: Impossible – Fallout," McQuarrie (the first director
to return for an encore) has upped the ante once more, and to sometimes dizzying
degrees. Even as the viewer watches, he or she can scarcely believe what has
been pulled off.
The Impossible Mission Force is never long without a megalomaniac to thwart, and
this time agents Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther
Stickell (Ving Rhames) have in-custody anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and
an entire terrorist group called The Apostles—led by a mysterious figure named
John Lark—with whom to deal. IMF's mission, if they choose to accept it (and you
know they must), is to retrieve three plutonium bombs in The Apostles'
possession before they are able to fulfill a trio of cataclysmic coordinated
attacks. As Ethan & Co. trot the globe, whisking off to Belfast, Paris, Berlin
and Kashmir, allegiances are tested as Ethan struggles to get a handle on
Special Activities operative August Walker (Henry Cavill), tasked by no-nonsense
CIA director Erica Slone (Angela Bassett) to shadow IMF on their latest
assignment. Also returning to the fold: MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson),
torn between helping Ethan and satisfying her own separate mission, and Ethan's
ex-wife Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), now working as an international doctor.
"Mission: Impossible – Fallout" is better and decidedly more impossible than
ever, and yet there is never any doubt in Ethan's cunning, dexterous,
near-superhuman abilities to jump from buildings, climb cliffs, hang off the
outside of aircrafts in flight, and whisk through busy city streets in trucks
and on motorcycles at 100-plus mph. At an ageless 56, Tom Cruise (2014's "Edge
of Tomorow") plays the part magnificently, exhibiting his signature charisma
and intensity while personally executing the kind of bonkers stuntwork other
actors wouldn't so much as wish upon their own stuntperson. If there was an
Academy Award for performing the most death-defying feats in a single picture,
it wouldn't be necessary to nominate anyone else because Cruise would be the
only logical choice.
From the subtly ramped-up opening studio logos clear through to the lighting of
the end-credits fuse, the film rarely stops moving, its rat-a-tat pacing as
assured as its somewhat standard but exceptionally well-designed plot.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie finds a rhythm at once controlled,
spatially coherent, and rousingly, wincingly intense. An overload of exposition
up front gives way to blessedly little thereafter as the assuredness of
McQuarrie's visuals do much of the talking (dialogue is used sparingly for long
stretches). Double and triple crosses, sly mind games, and wickedly entertaining
about-faces—the film consistently finds ways to surprise every time it begins to
feel like a certain situation has been seen one too many times before.
Inventiveness doesn't stop there; the lens-ing of action sequences are full of
extended shots and cohesive editing, and whatever might be the result of CGI
effects trickery proves seamless since so much of it has been completed
practically. Consider, as examples, the marvelous early scene where Ethan and
August skydive through a lightning storm, or a white-knuckle brawl in a
nightclub bathroom with a Lark decoy (Liang Yang), or a breathtaking motorcycle
chase that leaves one questioning how they did it, or a climax so impressive and
layered it's best for viewers to discover it on their own without a single
spoiler of what it entails.
In terms of what he's willing to do onscreen in order to raise the bar from the
previous five "Mission: Impossible" films, Tom Cruise might have no choice but
to call it a day on Ethan Hunt after this one. Short of literally blasting
himself into outer space, where does he go from here? As CIA tag-a-long August
Walker, Henry Cavill (2015's "The
Man From Uncle") effectively raises
suspicions while leaving the viewer wondering if his motives go beyond Sloane's
request to shadow IMF. There is little which can be discussed about Cavill's
performance without giving key developments away, but he succeeds mightily in
fulfilling the requirements of his role. Rebecca Ferguson (2017's "The Greatest
Showman"), the easy standout in "Mission:
Impossible-Rogue Nation," is
excellent once more as Ilsa Faust, her part not quite as central to the plot
this time but given plenty of juicy chances for ass-kickery all the same.
The only actor beside Cruise to appear in every installment to date, Ving Rhames
of the Galaxy 2") has too often been ushered to stand
along the sidelines; at long last, he is given significantly more to do as
trusty IMF agent Luther Stickell. Rhames knocks a pair of intimate exchanges in
the second act out of the park. Also making welcome returns: Simon Pegg (2016's
Trek Beyond") as agent Benji Dunn, and Michelle Monaghan (2011's "Source
Code") as Julia, her storied, bittersweet relationship with Ethan (introduced in
"Mission: Impossible 3") coming full circle in emotionally satisfying ways.
Finally, Vanessa Kirby (2015's "Everest") exudes a sensual, intelligent charisma
as femme fatale arms dealer White Widow, stealing each of her scenes, and Angela
Bassett (2018's "Black Panther") makes a deliciously memorable entrance as CIA
director Erica Sloane, shadily describing IMF in her opening scene as "a bunch
of grown men in rubber masks playing trick-or-treat."
"Mission: Impossible – Fallout" features characters seemingly teleporting
themselves from one country to the next in the time it takes to cut between
scenes, and as for eating and sleeping, well, they've somehow found a way to
bypass these middling necessities and are no worse for the wear. Thinking too
hard about basic logistics in a film like this is fruitless. Instead, what's
important is the adrenaline rush of the experience, and how well it is achieved.
The answer: exceedingly well, right down to that old chestnut, the ticking time
bomb, cause for a final fifteen minutes of classic crackerjack suspense. With
nary a sign of series fatigue in sight, "Mission: Impossible – Fallout"
thrillingly hums along while devising a cavalcade of daring stunts the likes of
which have seldom before been attempted. In terms of pure, sustained,
crowd-pleasing excitement, it's the must-see, big-screen event of the season.