When Tom Cruise jumping out of an airplane, getting hit by lightning, and saving Henry Cavill as they plummet towards Paris is maybe the least exciting thing in your movie, that movie is pretty special. Such is the case with Mission: Impossible - Fallout which is, in a word, incredible.
Written and directed by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), this sixth entry into the popular Mission: Impossible franchise is a relentless piece of action filmmaking. There’s no bullshit here. Two minutes into the movie, the entire plot is laid out—and then, for the next two and a half hours, that plot unfolds at a breakneck pace. Barely a scene is wasted as things twist and turn with obstacles upon obstacles being furiously placed in front of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF crew (once again including Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames). Nothing is ever easy for the characters. Ever. So while this installment is a little lighter on the high tech gadgets most people associate with Mission: Impossible, McQuarrie evolves it by making the missions actually impossible.
The story picks up two years after the last film, Rogue Nation, and is more or less a straight continuation. The villain from that movie, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), is back, as is Ilsa Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson was such a standout in the last movie, it almost feels like McQuarrie developed his layered, intricate script just as an excuse to bring her back. The complex connection she has to Hunt, left over from the last film, elevates the movie as the two constantly tangle throughout.
Superman himself, Henry Cavill, is a new addition to the franchise, playing a CIA assassin assigned to keep an eye on the IMF team as they execute their mission. It’s a great character for Cavill, one with very mysterious motives, and his charming yet brutish take is a nice juxtaposition to the more humorous IMF team. Angela Bassett plays his boss, a stern CIA executive, and Vanessa Kirby is a devious, intriguing new character named the White Widow (not, to be confused with this one). Alec Baldwin returns from the last Mission and Michelle Monaghan, who played Cruise’s wife in Mission: Impossible III, is back too. It’s her first starring appearance since that installment, which is just another hint of how deep the rabbit hole goes.
With all those characters and all those relationships, it goes without saying that Mission: Impossible - Fallout is very plot heavy. There is no problem filling its admittedly long runtime, thanks to the kinds of double-crosses and major reveals we’ve come to expect from the franchise (and the spy-fi genre as a whole). But seeing as how this is Mission: Impossible, all of that mostly exists to motivate big action pieces which, wow, does Fallout deliver and then some.
Things start, as we said, with the incredible jump out of a plane into Paris and move along from there, each scene building on the next. There’s hand-to-hand combat, motorcycle chases, car chases, foot chases, helicopter chases, chases on rooftops, chases on the street, and chases through mountains, just to name a few. And as the action scenes get more impressive, so too do the visuals. There are sequences in Fallout that actually may make you laugh, not because they are funny, but because you cannot believe what you are seeing and laughter is the only human response.
Along the way, McQuarrie always makes things difficult for Ethan and his team. Little speed bumps are continually placed in their paths—like a cop being in the wrong place at the right time, or a man going to the wrong sink in the bathroom—each meant to exacerbate what was already going to be a near-impossible situation. Then, as a result, everything has to change and adapt, making each action scene not just intense, but almost a puzzle for the audience and characters to put together.
One of the nice things about that approach is McQuarrie doesn’t placate the audience. He’s big on dramatic irony, letting us in on twists early so we can watch the film from a perspective different than the characters. He’s also not afraid to completely pull the rug out from under us to surprise with a big reveal. In fact, the script sometimes feels like the mega-budget version of The Usual Suspects, as Ethan and his team try to figure out who is on their side, who isn’t, and if they can win the day. The difference being, that film featured a lot of people talking, and this one is filled with gorgeous, IMAX-filmed action through Paris, London, and more.
Really, if there’s anything bad to say about Mission: Impossible - Fallout it’s that watching it feels like doing 50 miles on a treadmill. You’ll leave the theater delightfully exhausted after spending almost the entire length of the frantically piecing together the plot, feeling your adrenaline pumping during the action scenes, and gripping the seat from constant tension. This is what action movies are all about.
Mission: Impossible-Fallout opens July 27.
Correction: Kirby’s character is the White Widow, not Black Widow. Our embarrassed apologies.