REVIEW: The jaw-dropping 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in  Mission: Impossible - Fallout , directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

You know the setup: IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets an impossible mission but with a lot of running, jumping, climbing and fighting he manages to save the world. That’s the general gist of Mission: Impossible – Fallout and when it comes to saving the world, no one does it better than these guys.   

Two years after the events of Rogue Nation, Hunt is joined by his usual team, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), and instructed by IMF to retrieve three plutonium cores that have been stolen by a terrorist group known as The Apostles. His mission is complicated by the return of MI6 agent and love interest Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who has motives of her own, and CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill), who has been instructed to tag along and keep them out of trouble.

The film is very aware the story is not its strong suit; the entire plot is explained in the first 10 minutes in classic Mission: Impossible secret message fashion, and then promptly ushers you into an incredible two-hour escape. What’s most impressive is that it feels like there’s a legitimate mental and physical weight to the things Cruise is put through and that’s undeniably a part of his charm. He can sell a movie before it even hits theatres because he’s so willing to show that he’s more dedicated than anyone in the biz. How much of the franchise’s marketing campaign has basically been: “Hey, come watch Tom Cruise do something crazy?”

Rebecca Ferguson returns as British intelligence agent Ilsa Faust.

Rebecca Ferguson returns as British intelligence agent Ilsa Faust.

Take a look at the biggest box-office action film draws since 2017 by domestic gross: Six are MCU, two are DCEU, two are Star Wars and then Jurassic World 2, Deadpool 2 and Ready Player One. They’re all CGI-heavy. When budgets for action films ballooned in the ’90s and CGI became more accessible, practical effects gave way to special effects, and somewhere along the way we forgot how awesome – and inimitable – it is to just do something for real.

The scene where Cruise breaks his ankle is kept in the film, and with that in mind the HALO jump, the bike chases and the helicopter duel (yes, you read that right) seem all the more impressive because he actually did them. He looks nothing like the beefcake action stars of the ’90s, yet despite his small(er) stature also feels like the most genuine action star around. Dwayne Johnson comes close, but he doesn’t have the handsome movie star charisma the 56(!)-year-old Cruise exudes.

Director Christopher McQuarrie’s also done an excellent job of pacing the film so that it never loses your attention. He allows the chase scenes to breathe; instead of going from zero to 60 in a snap, the buildup is more deliberate and ramps up as the chases ramp up. Brad Bird, who directed the franchise-saving Ghost Protocol, and his cartoony ingenuity continues to live on in this franchise, especially in one of the first scenes when Hunt sets a trap for a deranged nuclear weapons expert and literally reveals his deception like a DIY explosion box.

Henry Cavill as CIA operative August Walker, and Angela Bassett as DCI Erica Sloan.

Henry Cavill as CIA operative August Walker, and Angela Bassett as DCI Erica Sloan.

We’re so blessed to have what may be two of the best action films ever – Fallout and Mad Max: Fury Road – released so closely to each other after decades of stagnation when the solution was simply to make CGI bigger and louder. Just as Furiosa’s fight for the Five Wives is a believable motivator for the events of Fury Road, Hunt’s internal (and eternal) struggle between choosing one life against millions of others pits him in impossible situations, but both characters always manage to find a way. The Mission: Impossible films are impressive that way; we know how it’ll end, but we continue to feel genuine suspense and surprise. Fallout, if you haven’t gleaned from reading this yet, is by far the best film in the franchise.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout gets four stars out of four.

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