Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller
Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson
Tom Cruise just keeps on rollin’.
Who would’ve guessed that the Mission Impossible movie franchise would still be going strong after its sixth instalment, having trucked along now for three decades. The first three chapters don’t really have much of a unifying identity beyond Cruise’s casting as Ethan Hawke. They were directed by three wildly different directors – Brian De Palma, John Woo and J.J Abrams – and each had a distinct tone and style.
It wasn’t until Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the two subsequent films directed by Christopher MacQuarrie that the franchise has settled on a particular pattern. These three films all have tissue thin narratives and are primarily a set up for four or five massive set pieces that are noteworthy because whatever batshit crazy action takes place, know that Cruise himself is doing all his own stunt work. The guy is a mad man.
Mission Impossible: Fallout takes place two years after Rogue Nation. The treacherous Solomon Lane has been brought to justice but his terrorist organisation The Syndicate have reformed as The Apostles and are after black market plutonium cores so that they can access nuclear weapons and create a new world order. Ethan has an opportunity to stop The Apostles when the exchange is being made for the plutonium but the mission ends in failure when his friend Luther is taken hostage and he opts to save his life instead of stopping the terrorists. The CIA, outraged at Ethan’s decision, send in their own CIA operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Ethan as he attempts to bring The Apostles down.
That’s more or less the first ten minutes of the film and the time you take to read that last paragraph is about as much time you need to give Mission Impossible: Fallout’s plot. By now, everyone understands what we’re here for.
If we’re to rank the Mission Impossible films based on the quality of set pieces, then Fallout is easily the franchise at its finest. It follows a similar template to Rogue Nation. There’s a Heist, a Car Chase, a Brawl and a Showdown that mixes everything together. Like its predecessors, the film is shot in a number of exotic locations around the world. Fallout mostly takes place in Europe before an unlikely final stand in Pakistan.
It’s the film’s final act that makes Fallout a stand out. Put simply, it’s one long, uninterrupted 45 minutes sequence of total mayhem. This may sound exhausting or possibly too much of a good thing but I think Christopher MacQuarrie has a real flair for constructing a coherent, engaging action set piece in the same way that the best James Cameron, John McTiernan and John Woo movies can. And it bears repeating: whenever you see Cruise hanging off the side of a helicopter or off the edge of a cliff, that’s the main himself actually doing all of that stuff.
I’ve heard some chat online about this being the greatest action film of all time. I don’t know about that. I think time and perspective will be the judge of that. My first instinct is that it’s still not up on that same echelon as Die Hard and Predator but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve had some repeat viewings. Regardless, it speaks to the quality of the film that the discussion is being had at all.
A lot of weird stuff went down in 2018. In the world of action movies, who would’ve thought that the James Bond franchise would seem muddled and unsure about what casting direction it should take, the Bourne franchise would be winding down, but Mission Impossible would be doing bigger and better things than ever before.