Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley.
Most film franchises seem to run out of inspiration before too long, but the Mission Impossible series seems to have gone from strength to strength, with the Brad Bird helmed Ghost Protocol being arguably the strongest film to date. Rogue Nation (2015) took the series in a slightly different direction under the direction of Christopher McQuarrie (Oscar winning writer of The Usual Suspects, etc). McQuarrie returns to helm the sixth film in the series and he ups the ante and gives us the best action film of the year by far.
And although there are nods to elements of the popular television series created by Bruce Geller– the burning fuse, the iconic theme, the clever use of disguises, and the tape that self-destructs five seconds after delivering the briefing – the Mission Impossible series has moved further away from that concept and now seems entrenched in the territory occupied by the likes of Bond and Bourne.
Mission: Impossible Fallout works as a direct sequel to Rogue Nation. This time around Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team are charged with obtaining three plutonium orbs that will be sold on the black market and used to develop dirty nuclear bombs and trying to prevent a global catastrophe. The plot involves a mysterious arms dealer known as John Lark, whose real identity is shrouded in mystery. The trail links back to Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Hunt’s nemesis from Rogue Nation and the head of a shadowy terrorist group known as the Apostles. But CIA director Erica Sloan distrusts Hunt and the IMF and sends CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) along on the mission. Walker’s instructions include watching Hunt and if he goes rogue of off mission then to take him out. Sloan and IMF boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin, returning from Rogue Nation also) are at odds over the need for the team in this modern world.
The plot itself is a little too convoluted with plenty of double crosses and more twists than a corkscrew, but that hardly matters as it is merely an excuse around which to build a series of impressive action set pieces. McQuarrie has grown as a director and can now match it with the more accomplished directors of action movies and gritty set pieces, and he maintains a furious pace throughout.
The action moves quickly through a host of exotic locales and features a punishing fight in a well-appointed bathroom of a night club, an extended car and motorbike chase through the streets of Paris, a rooftop chase across London and even a helicopter chase through the treacherous mountain passes of Kashmir. The kinetic editing from Eddie Hamilton (who also edited Rogue Nation, etc) keeps things moving at a frantic pace.
But it all comes down to the cliched nuclear countdown clock, which had some audiences at the preview screening laughing.
McQuarrie delivers plenty of audacious, spectacular over the top stunts that would have killed a lesser man than Cruise. McQuarrie has collaborated with Cruise several times now (Jack Reacher, Rogue Nation and he wrote Valkyrie for the star) and he knows how to push him to his limits and get a committed performance from him. Kudos to the actor though for actually putting himself out there and attempting all the physical stuff himself. McQuarrie effectively blurs the line between CGI and live action with practical stunts by having his star do most of the heavy lifting himself. Such is the realism here that they have even retained the scene in which Cruise famously broke his ankle while leaping across rooftops – and you can see him hobble painfully out of the shot. The effects are augmented by CGI, but you can hardly tell the difference.
And cinematographer Rob Hardy (Ex-Machina, etc) shoots the film in such a way that we can see that it is Cruise riding that motorbike, hanging off a cliff, and dangling from a helicopter. And locations in Norway and New Zealand adequately doubled for the mountainous region of Pakistan. Production values are first rate throughout.
Harris brings a sense of menace to his performance as Lane, who is bent on exacting revenge of Hunt, but he is not the most memorable of villains. Bassett registers strongly in her small role, while Cavill, not surprisingly, has a strong physical presence as Walker. Returning star Ving Rhames has been a regular in the series and again he brings a healthy cynicism to his role as Luther, while Simon Pegg brings a nervous energy and welcome comic relief to his performance a Benji, the former tech guru who has been promoted to field agent. Rebecca Ferguson also returns here as the enigmatic MI6 agent Ilsa Faust, and Michelle Monaghan returns as Hunt’s wife Julia, who has been absent from the series since MI III, and her presence is an attempt to bring a measure of humanity to Hunt’s character.
However, at 147 minutes, it does seem a tad long and some scenes are stretched almost to breaking point. Mission: Impossible Fallout certainly delivers plenty of thrills and action to nail audience to their seats and is on track to become the biggest grossing film in the series so far. It sets up huge expectations should the series continue to a seventh film in the franchise.