In 1996 Tom Cruise starred in the Brian De Palma directed Mission: Impossible as its central protagonist Ethan Hunt and now, twenty-two years later, we once again join Hunt’s continuing mission to save the world in the sixth instalment of the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
Breaking the tradition of the revolving door of a new director taking the helm with each new movie, Cruise once again finds himself receiving instruction from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie who was also responsible for the writing and directing of the fifth film in the series, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), and this plays to the film’s favour as for the first time in the series, this story has a direct link to its predecessor. Although picking up two years later, Hunt still finds himself haunted by the man behind the last film’s diabolical plan to install a New World Order in the form of disgraced former MI6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Hunt is now hot on the trail of a group known only as the Apostles who are intent on carrying on what Lane started, aided by some stolen Plutonium and their plans to build three separate nuclear devices, headed up by a mysterious new fundamentalist known only as John Lark.
Hunt, having once again chosen to accept the mission of tracking down the sinister organisation, enlists the assistance of his regular team comprised of Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Thanks to the CIA also wanting to mount a mission to stop the Apostles, the group has a new addition in the form of Henry Cavill and his now infamous moustache, appearing as August Walker. Once again we are treated to an all-action, globetrotting spy thriller which features high-speed chases, thrilling high-flying stunts and superbly choreographed fight scenes.
In truth there’s nothing really new that M:I6 brings to the table that we haven’t seen before and it works perfectly well as a companion to both the fourth and fifth movies in the series. The plot provides no real new ingredients to the preceding films and is relatively simple in its central premise. The shadowy group is intent on bringing the world to its knees and Ethan Hunt will do anything to stop them. The rest of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) group will randomly be useful in certain situations but will mostly play second fiddle to Hunt. Given that the trailers had pushed Cavill’s character into the spotlight, I’d have thought that he would be given more to do, but unfortunately that’s not really the case until the final act. Make no mistake this is definitely a Tom Cruise movie and he is pretty much front and centre in every key scene.
As is now expected with the Mission: Impossible films, M:I6 features some amazing stunt sequences which are superbly executed and presented in jaw-dropping fashion by McQuarrie and his crew. Starting in Paris we are treated to a thrilling high-altitude Halo jump, followed by a visceral bathroom brawl, then onto a high-speed motor cycle chase past the Arc de Triomphe and along the winding streets of the French capital. Cruise is famous for his commitment to performing his own stunts and running really, really fast. Upon the story movie moving on to London, this is highlighted with an adrenalin fuelled, roof-top chase where Cruise leaps from building to building in pursuit of his foe, whilst receiving muddled directions from Benji.
Cruise of course hit the headlines for breaking his ankle during this set-piece and his physical commitment to bringing action to the screen really drags the viewer in and enhances the sense of realism and threat. Each time we see Hunt take a fall and once more pick himself up in breathless determination, you can’t help but find yourself totally buying it due to the fact that you are consciously aware that the exhaustion on display is completely authentic. The final act, involving Cruise hanging from a helicopter high above the mountains of Kashmir, is enough to give you vertigo and is an absolute pleasure to see on the big screen. McQuarrie, in this sense, benefits greatly from having such a willing leading man and is able to shoot close-up action shots in long takes, that are devoid of the usual reliance on quick cuts and CGI.
As I’ve previously alluded, M:I6 isn’t ground breaking in its structure and if you’re not already a fan of the franchise, this film isn’t going to suddenly change your mind but, seeing as the series is now six films deep, it’s hard to imagine any non-lovers of the franchise suddenly deciding to make the trip to the cinema for it anyway. Happy to tread the same ground, the movie does fall foul of the same tropes that have become all too familiar in the series. There are double crosses, clocks counting down toward disaster and various disguises used along the way, but it’s also a film that’s very clear in its intentions and that involves providing a solid piece of well crafted entertainment, stacked to the gills with action and excitement. Cruise is simply a force of nature when in the guise of Ethan Hunt. At fifty-six years old, his commitment to the physicality involved in bringing the character to screen is laudable and it must be said, that with a different actor taking the lead, the film would undoubtably suffer from his absence. It could be said that Hunt is his Bond, but whereas we are now accustomed to seeing various actors take on the role of 007, it would be hard to imagine anybody else but Cruise ever playing Ethan Hunt. The intensity and drive of the character just seems to be so well suited to Cruise and whilst this film does once again try and at least give a little time to Hunt’s own personal turmoil, it’s very quickly pushed aside to give way to the action.
The supporting cast are all adequate in their clearly defined roles and seem happy to take a back seat to the lead actor, without ever feeling as if they’re just there to fill up the empty spaces left on the screen, although I cannot help but feel that they could be given more to do. Cavill’s character is definitely the most interesting of the supporting players and his character arc is perhaps the most engaging addition to the movie, which could of course be mainly due to him being the new kid on the block for the IMF.
Without doubt Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the best entries in the franchise to date, if not the best and it is without any hesitation that I would envisage at least another film in the series coming along in the next year or so and no doubt, I will be buying my ticket to see Cruise run really, really fast all over again. How long they can keep this going is I think, more to do with the seemingly ageless Cruise wanting to continue more than any other factor. I can’t help but think that a change in the dynamic of either the premise or the supporting cast may be needed but again with these films you pretty much know what to expect by now and with this film already proving to be a considerable critical success, perhaps it’s a case of “if it isn’t broke then why fix it?” Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a finely crafted and action packed thriller full of jaw-dropping spectacle and gets my very firm recommendation, should you choose to accept it of course.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 8/10
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is on general release now.