Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review

Of all the ongoing action franchises today, Mission: Impossible has to be my favorite. Its first three entries were high energy action pictures in their own right, but with its fourth entry, Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible reached all new levels of entertainment. Through the sheer ingenuity and execution of its set pieces, Ghost Protocol ascended the series to one of the few in which the action becomes the narrative. The fifth entry, Rogue Nation, followed suit with action that flowed the story like exceptional dialogue. Now we have the sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which proves to be a wonderful threepeat of the franchise’s newfound excellence.

Fallout once again follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his band of IMF agents; Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson). Ethan’s team is tasked with retrieving three plutonium cores before they fall into the hands of the Apostles (the remnants of the terrorist organization Syndicate from the previous film). Ethan fails the mission, however, when he chooses to save Luther’s life at the expense of the plutonium. Ethan and his crew manage to uncover the Apostles’ next move, and set out to retrieve the plutonium before disaster strikes. Of course, because of Ethan’s earlier bungle, the CIA assigns special operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Ethan.

Story-wise, it isn’t too different from the past few Mission: Impossibles. Ghost Protocol was also about preventing a nuclear disaster. But the plot is still told gracefully when need be. The real story of any Mission: Impossible film, however, is in its action-packed set pieces. And Fallout delivers on just that in spades.

The film is almost one action set piece after another, and I don’t think a single one disappoints. Per the norm for the series, CG is used to a minimum, and Tom Cruise is still doing his own stunts, which gives the film a more grounded and authentic feel, despite the sheer absurdity of some of the action sequences.

“This is just another Tuesday for Tom Cruise.”

It’s long-since become a cliche to describe an action film as a ‘non-stop thrill ride,’ but that seems to be accurate with this particular series. And Fallout ranks among the best in how frequently it delivers scene after scene of memorable action. I remember during the first action sequence, I thought it was among the best action scenes I’ve seen all year. And then I thought that about the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The stunt work and cinematography used to bring these sequences to life is – as it was in the past two Mission: Impossible entries – really something to behold. If you’re getting a bit tired of seeing super heroes and villains destroy entire cities amidst their battles, it’s kind of refreshing to see a movie series that can continuously make the relatively low-key aspect of Tom Cruise punching several dudes standout. I mean, when a movie delivers one of the year’s best fight scenes in a men’s room, it definitely knows what it’s doing.

Unfortunately, there is a little bit of a downside to things in that it Fallout may seem a little deja vu at times. Again, its central plot seems to retread the last two MI pictures, and I think it may fall slightly short of its two aforementioned predecessors (albeit not by much). As terrific as the action here is, I still think the sight of Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol remains the series most memorable spectacle.

But if being a little derivative of excellent predecessors and falling slightly short of them is all there is to complain about, then I’d say Mission: Impossible – Fallout is doing okay. It still blows the Fast and Furious films out of the water.

If you’re itching for an all-out popcorn experience, but are a little tired of super heroes, then Mission: Impossible – Fallout shouldn’t be missed. Like it’s predecessors and Mad Max: Fury Road, it takes what is essentially one long string of action and turns it into a flowing narrative. If there’s such a thing as ‘artful action’ (and I think there is), then this is it.



Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

I really have to hand it to the Mission: Impossible film series, for nearly twenty years and five installments (a relatively low number for that many years, since most movies seem to rush sequel after sequel these days), the series just hasn’t lost its luster. Some say the second and third installments were low points in the series (I personally didn’t mind them), but while most series would see that as a time to reboot the whole thing, Mission: Impossible simply decided to reinvigorate the franchise with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol to great success.

This fifth entry, Rogue Nation, doesn’t quite reach the same heights as Ghost Protocol (that’s nothing to be ashamed of, since Ghost Protocol is easily one of the best action movies of the last decade), but it keeps the series’ momentum going at full speed.

It’s true that the Mission: Impossible movies, much like the TV series that inspired them, are more about death-defying action scenarios and espionage that are, well, impossible, than anything else. But what Mission: Impossible gets right that so many action movies get wrong is that they treat their action scenes as a story in themselves. Whereas a lot of action flicks just throw in a bunch of explosions and call it a day, Mission: Impossible’s action scenes are more elaborate, creative, and played out as their own kind of narrative. The action is the story.

Rogue Nation continues this tradition with exhilarating action set pieces that see Tom Cruise out Tom Cruising himself. The trailers and TV spots show off the scene where Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is hanging off an airplane as it takes off into the air (a practical stunt that involved no CG, a tradition of the series), and that happens in the first five minutes of the movie! If that doesn’t tell you that the rest of the film isn’t an excited roller coaster of events, I don’t know what will.

The action scenes are, of course, the movie’s biggest draw. They’re all terrifically played out, with few of them ever cutting away from the action, and some even going directly into another without the chance to catch a breath in between. There might not be a singular set piece quite as memorable as Tom Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, but there’s never a dull moment.

"A day in the life of Tom Cruise."
“A day in the life of Tom Cruise.”

The story sees Ethan Hunt tracking down a terrorist organization called The syndicate (named after the recurring criminal organization from the later seasons of the TV series), but the IMF is dissolved by a stuffy CIA director, and Ethan Hunt has to work on is own (recruiting his former teammates along the way of course) in bringing down the Syndicate and evading the CIA.

Admittedly, the plot retreads some similar ground as Ghost Protocol (how many times can the IMF be disavowed?), but again, this is Mission: Impossible we’re talking about. The stories of the action sequences are the real plot.

My only major complaint with Rogue Nation is that Ethan Hunt’s IMF teammates seem less important than they did in Ghost Protocol. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) gets the biggest supporting role of the returning cast, but William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) just feel like they’re along for the ride. A new female lead is introduced in Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who is involved with the Syndicate, which often puts her loyalties in question. Her presence adds some uncertainty to the team, which is a nice little spin on the formula, though nothing that will shake the series to its core.

This does bring up another little complaint I have with Rogue Nation though. The film keeps a solid continuity with Ghost Protocol (though it can easily be enjoyed on its own), and brings up the events of the previous film, including the attack on the Kremlin and its big finale. Yet, the female lead from Ghost Protocol, Jane Carter, is never even mentioned. Considering the established continuity, it just seems weird that a key character from the last movie is completely forgotten.

These are really not too big of complaints though, when you consider how entertaining the Mission: Impossible series still is at its fifth installment. How many movie franchises can keep up their pace through that many sequels?

In short, if you like any of the Mission: Impossible movies, or action movies in general, it’d be hard to not be impressed by Rogue Nation. It keeps the action-fueled spirit of the series alive and well. Tom Cruise hanging off the side of an airplane is, literally and figuratively, only the beginning.