If someone asked if I expected after 22 years the Mission Impossible franchise would be stronger than ever and entering its 6th incarnation I would have to say no, but then again when Mission Impossible 2 came out I was just as shocked. Despite my affection for the opening picture it didn’t seem like it needed a follow up or that it should have one. Even then, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) was an antiquated notion as the world entered the technological age of the internet and advanced computing.
However somewhere along the way from there to here Ethan has changed. When first introduced, Hunt was a scalpel, excising threats without ever being noticed while using advanced gymnastics to break into secure facilities. Somewhere along the line he turned into a machete, one who made brash decisions on the fly but still got the job done. Hunt changed to fit the times but the films never really answered why. Fallout seeks to remedy this in some small way while further encouraging the idea that Ethan Hunt may well be immortal but the people around him are somewhat less so.
Fallout follows Hunt as he seeks to track down 3 nuclear weapons obtained by an offshoot of the Syndicate (The shadow organisation Hunt took down in the previous outing) during a mission gone wrong. Desperate to rectify his mistake Hunt with the help of Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames) and CIA tag along agent Walker (Henry Cavill) travel the globe to in order to save it.
While Ethan saving the world is not a new concept, John Woo had him stopping a deadly virus in Hunt’s 2nd outing, this is as grand and outlandish the series has ever become. Fallout is a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed from the daring motorbike chases through the streets of Paris to the helicopter acrobatics that highlight the importance of practical effects in this modern age of CGI. Fallout is designed to give you one hell of an adrenaline high and while it never really gives you the kind of intimate character beats that the first film does it might just be better for it.
Back in the directors seat is Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise’s director for not only M:I Rogue Nation but also the opening Jack Reacher film and this continued collaboration has produced some awe inspiring action moments as the two have clearly pushed each other to new highs in search of the perfect sequence, from the climactic car chase in Reacher to the final chase scene through the streets of London in Rogue Nation. This competitive nature has created some iconic moments and has given each film its own sense of unpredictability.
I could effuse about the pace and way that action imbibes the film with a sense of fearlessness as it jumps around but this isn’t really a film about car chases, gunfights and terrorism. This is a film about embracing what has come before, even through the films newcomers. The idea that despite the ways the world has changed since 1996 there are still some intrinsic truths that will never ever falter and some roles that will always have to be filled. For example not only is newcomer Vanessa Kirby a nice way to link Hunt to his past but she is a way of saying that despite how clean these films have become there is still a place for someone willing to do the dirty tasks that everyone avoids or pushes off for someone with the moral depravity to do them.
Back again to further complicate Hunt’s mission is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Mission Impossibles first truly successful female character, an enigmatic presence that mirrors Hunt’s own desire for understanding in a world where the decisions he has to make can seem insane yet oddly believable. This connection is the emotional touchstone of the film and the films finale only really works thanks to this subtle character work.
Sure I could talk more about the plot itself but what makes Fallout one of the strongest outings in this series, one that since the 4th film, Ghost Protocol, has gone from strength to strength, is the fact that it rarely treats you like an idiot, it gives you the information to make your own decisions while surprising you none the less. Some moments which seem obvious become irrelevant thanks to an out of left field twist and some fantastically meta commentary on the series itself gets you through some of the pictures more fantastical moments.
The only time the film flounders is in its closing, one that wraps up too neatly after all the destruction that has just occurred. Sure this is Mission Impossible and the possibility of more movies to come means a true ending is unlikely but Fallout doesn’t so much end as it does peter out. A final moment between Hunt and a returning Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s ex wife Julia doesn’t so much complete this idea that you can reconcile with your past but confounds it. The past is always going to be there to remind you of where you have been but sometimes the mistakes of it are bound to be made again. This ending despite being honest is not as satisfying as McQuarrie thinks.
However there will never be a real way to rectify this ending dilemma until the final outing and considering how much life this series seems to have in it I hope that it isn’t for a long time to come.