Getting Better with Age
If there’s anything to be said about the Mission: Impossible franchise it is that it lives up to its name by continuing to defy the odds with its little game of self-oneupmanship -- each new installment seemingly doing the impossible by keeping the franchise alive, viable, and relevant. One day the impossible will undoubtedly prove itself truly impossible. But for now there’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout to confirm that this 22-year-old institution just keeps getting better with age.
For the first time in its six installment run, the franchise is not handed off to a different filmmaker to mark the next episode with a new signature look, style and brand. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) returns to continue the story he began with 2015’s Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Fear not, M:I newbies, as there’s plenty of setup in this one to get you up to speed in the trials and tribulations of U.S. government spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his dangerous nemesis, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). In addition, the plot, although intricate and deftly handled, is a trivial footnote in these M:I films and exists here solely as a set-up for the next incredible stunt, or mind-blowing action piece. And there are plenty of those to come.
We learn that Lane is still in custody, having been captured in the previous film. But he has since deployed a league of loyal henchmen who call themselves The Apostles and are planning to cause chaos to world order by blowing up a series of nuclear bombs. However, in order to do so, they must first get their hands on three plutonium cores that have gone missing.
Meanwhile, Hunt and his team of fellow agents, consisting of jittery tech-guru Benji (Simon Pegg), loyal-to-a-fault IT guy Luther (Ving Rhames), Hunt’s ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and the agency boss played by Alec Baldwin, are also racing against the clock to beat the bad guys to the missing nuclear material.
When Hunt and his team aren’t able to get their hands on the bombs, they are forced to make a trade with the bad guys: Solomon Lane for the nuclear weapons. But things get complicated when one of Hunt’s old girlfriend’s gets into the fray along with the micro-managing CIA head Sloan (Angela Bassett), and newly inserted agent Walker played by Henry Cavill.
McQuarrie breaks up his somewhat complicated espionage plot with a series of heart-pounding stunts and tricks. We get an incredibly well-executed fight scene in a men’s washroom that features Henry Cavill’s much-talked-about arm gun reloading bit that’s as pleasurable in the film as it was in the trailer, a rooftop chase scene, a thrilling HALO parachute drop sequence, and a perfectly-choreographed car/motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, which is as thrilling as Detective Jimmy Doyle’s jaunt through the streets of New York City.
There are enough double-crosses, switcheroos, and cheap deception tactics -- even a couple of Scooby-Doo mask pull-offs -- to make your head spin. But it all works to keep spy movie fans delightfully engaged and is becoming somewhat of a signature for McQuarrie. He is an unquestionable taskmaster with his camera, and in Fallout never resorts to blurry or jittery motion to mask the practical effects and spectacular real stunt work.
Speaking of stunt work, everything to this point seems barreling like a runaway train toward the signature stunt piece. The one so heavily featured in all the trailers and rightfully being called the pièce de résistance of not only this film, but of movie stunts in general. It is the game of chicken played between two helicopters over the snowy peaks of Kashmir, followed by the harrowing cliff-hanging brawl that brings everything to an exciting climax. It is important to understand and appreciate that we are watching Tom Cruise, the actor, jumping from airplanes, flying helicopters, and leaping from building to building with as little green screen as possible. It lends everything a genuine sense of danger and authenticity so often missing from today’s big budget blockbusters.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a ticking time bomb of harrowing action, frazzled nerves, and edge-of-your-seat mystery. But, at the same time, it is way too long and its plot comes across as far too complex and convoluted -- especially considering the fact that it is really nothing more than the thread holding together the string of action set pieces. Regardless, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is everything we expect from an M:I movie, including an all-in performance by Cruise and plenty of much-appreciated loyalty to the original TV series that inspired the film franchise. This one does not self-destruct.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.