Thrill Ride of the Summer: Mission Impossible Delivers in Every WayJul 27, 2018
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller (TV Series)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Alec Baldwin
All Photos Courtesy: Paramount Pictures
Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Cruise, is 56-years old. You’ll want to keep that age in mind as you watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout...because yes, that is Tom Cruise actually clinging to the side of a helicopter as it pinballs through mountain canyons. So much has been made of the fact that Cruise does so many of his own stunts. And this movie is absolutely stuffed with stunts, car chases, fights, and feats of derring-do that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Perhaps the best thing you can say about the sixth Mission: Impossible movie is that it is a thrill-ride from the opening sequence until the end. The plot is a familiar one: a mission has gone wrong and now The Apostles, a shadowy terrorist organization, is planning to use stolen plutonium to detonate three nuclear bombs in Rome, Jerusalem, and Mecca. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Missions Force (IMF) are tasked with recovering the plutonium and capturing the mystery man behind The Apostles. Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are back in the saddle with Hunt for the mission. They cross paths with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a British MI6 agent we met in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Faust is trying to convince her superiors she didn’t betray them after spending two years undercover with the Lane (Sean Harris), the rogue MI6 agent who was the big bad guy in Rogue Nation. Also in the mix this time around is The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), a beautiful black market arms dealer with a surprising connection to Hunt (think “Max” from the very first Mission: Impossible movie) and August Walker (Henry Cavill), a merciless CIA agent with orders to kill anyone who gets in the way of the plutonium recovery…including Hunt, if necessary.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie keeps the action moving along at a near-nonstop pace with just enough breathing time to throw an improbable number of plot twists at the audience. Although some of the plot reveals are telegraphed from early in the game, it’s still great fun to see Hunt and his team deal move from carefully scripted missions to a more instinctive “make it up as you go” strategy. “I’m working on it!” becomes a standard Hunt response to repeated questions of, “What are we going to do now?” from his colleagues. That happens. A lot.
Most newcomers to the Mission: Impossible movies aren’t aware that it’s based on a television series that ran from 1966-to-1973. The IMF team was made up of leader Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), model and actress Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), mechanical and electronics expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), strongman Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), and master of disguise Rollin Hand (Martin Landau). Operating in the context of the Cold War, each episode featured one “impossible” mission which the IMF team would overcome with a combination of ingenuity, masquerade and sheer courage that often left the audience breathless.
The M:I movies have layered on the missions, having the team work their way through multiple impossible scenarios in each film. While the previous films have allowed the team enough time to plan their missions carefully, Fallout breaks rank with that rhythm and forces Hunt and their team to ad lib for nearly the entire storyline. The effect is to leave the viewer even more on edge than usual. McQuarrie also does a great job of visually faking out the audience so well that by the time the final impossible mission rolls around, there’s almost an expectation of failure because…let’s be honest, sooner or later the IMF team’s luck is going to run out.
And then there’s the real world truth that the 56-year-old star of the movie is performing a vast majority of the stunts. McQuarrie and his stunt team are more about practical stunts, eschewing green screen and CGI for a majority of the action. That creates a sense of the real-world impact that ups the stakes dramatically. Part of the fun of watching Fallout is trying to figure out which of the stunts is really Tom Cruise and which is a stuntman. Cruise, McQuarrie, and other cast members have acknowledged that a HALO (high altitude, low open) parachute jump was performed by the star as was a thrilling Paris chase scene. In fact, Cruise broke his ankle during that chase scene and had said that the moments you see him hobbling along after the accident is really him trying to run on the broken bones.
You can criticize Cruise all you like for his couch-jumping antics and participation in the weirdness that is Scientology, but you cannot question his commitment to making the action real for Mission: Impossible – Fallout…and that is part of what makes this the summer’s best action film and ranks it as one of the top two M:I movies.