No pretensions and no let up, Mission: Impossible - Fallout is the summer blockbuster to beat.
You’ll have heard the story by now. During the production of the latest instalment in this long-running spy franchise, Tom Cruise, being the absolute madman that he is, broke his ankle performing a stunt which involved jumping from one rooftop to another. Cruise has discussed this in interviews and the shot that captures the break was actually used in promotional material, foregrounding the extra mile the mega-star has gone to in order to achieve realistic-looking stunts. In the finished film, the shot in question is kept but thankfully obscures the break itself. What remains clearly evident, however, is Cruise’s astonishing commitment to practical stunt filmmaking.
Fallout essentially functions as a showcase for the actor’s adrenaline addiction with a narrative that, though full of exciting twists and turns, primarily acts as a device to hurry from one death-defying action set-piece to the next. A genuine annoyance in 21st-century filmmaking is the reliance on CGI to heighten the stakes; blockbusters like Justice League and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies often conclude with computer-generated bonanzas where any sense of reality goes completely out of the window. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the big moments of tension almost look too real. Whether Cruise’s super-spy Ethan Hunt is hanging for dear life from the skids of a helicopter or bombing through stormy clouds as part of a breathtaking HALO jump, Fallout delivers on spectacle again and again and again.
The plot this time around sees Cruise’s Hunt and his IMF buddies attempting to foil nuclear annihilation. That’s about all you need to know going in. In all truth, this is the only Mission: Impossible film that I’ve seen thus far. To say the franchise deals in simplicity would be unfair; it is to its credit that it remains comprehensible and coherent for newcomers to the series. There are obviously ties to previous entries, especially with the prominent presence of Sean Harris’ Soloman Lane and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust – both introduced in the previous film Rogue Nation. Yet Fallout does exactly what you want a summer blockbuster to do, that is to provide uncomplicated action spectacle of the highest order and not get bogged down by excessively intricate plotting.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie stages the whole thing with a brevity and zippiness that sees a runtime of just under 2-and-a-half hours feel more like 90 minutes. The film is relentless, with a director and cast working in perfect unison. Cruise is excellent, Rebecca Ferguson fierce, with Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames as charming, reliable support. The customary new face arrives in the form of Henry Cavill’s CIA operative August Walker. Cavill’s involvement in the film has been the other big headline-stealer in the build-up to its release. For his part in Fallout, the Man of Steel actor sports a delightful bit of facial hair, a neat moustache-and-stubble arrangement. When reshoots became required for Justice League, Cavill’s Mission: Impossible contract forbade him from shaving off the fluff – meaning his clean-cut Superman in the DC Universe would have to be produced via moustache-erasing computer effects. The final results of this were atrocious, producing abundant news articles and memes.
Now Fallout has been unleashed, we can say that keeping the moustache was a wise move from Paramount execs. Though not directly interlinked with any aspect of narrative, it gives the shady Walker a bit of well-needed edge. He offers a fascinating contrast to Cruise and Hunt, lightly underscoring his age and the fact that surely (?!?) he can’t maintain this level for that much longer. For the present though, Cruise has still got game. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is his show. Everyone else, including the audience, is just there to enjoy the ride.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is distributed in the UK by Paramount Pictures, certificate 12A.