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Movie Review: "Mission: Impossble - Fallout" Raises The Bar For Modern Action Films

Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, 
Rebecca Fergusson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby
Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin
Based on Mission: Impossible created by Bruce Geller
Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Reviewed by Patrick and Paul Gibbs

 Out of Four

After 22 years and 5 films, Mission: Impossible should absolutely be running out of steam as a franchise. None of the films has been overly strong on plot, their star is not the number one box office draw he used to be, and it's easy to dismiss all of this this as same old same old. When a 4th film was announced after JJ Abrams' supposed wrap up, people thought that Tom Cruise might be getting a bit desperate. And maybe he is.

But that desperation has resulted in a second trilogy that is actually better than the first (how many of those can you point to?) and a commitment to providing spectacular, practical stunt based thrills like no other star or franchise even comes close to providing. When we were kids, Erroll Flynn and Steve McQueen were touted as the only stars that did their own stunts. In an age when even stuntmen don't do their own stunts much of the time, Cruise has both of them beat by miles.

Fallout picks up right where Rogue Nation left off  (in stark contrast to the first trilogy, the past three films have been surprisingly interconnected.). Anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is being held in high security, top secret facilities by the CIA, but when intelligence suggests that his associates are trying to acquire plutonium, Ethan Hunt is sent to stop this. When Ethan is forced to make a choice to save his team mate, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the plutonium ends up missing, and the new CIA director (Angela Bassett) blames Hunt, so much so that she sends her own man to work alongside Ethan's team for the recovery mission.

Superman and the Queen of Wakanda in Mission: Impossible- Fallout.
(Images Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Enter Henry Cavill and the second most infamous mustache in the history of comic book films (right behind Alica Silverstone's in Batman & Robin.). Cavill plays August Walker, a CIA Special Activities Division assassin. Walker is sent to tag along to make sure that things get done right, and because with Jeremy Renner sitting this one out, they were minus a superhero.  The CIA begins to question Ethan Hunt's loyalty and his motives (because that's a change of pace), and Ethan and his team find themselves in a race against time while trying to prevent a global catastrophe.

Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie delivers the longest of the M:I films yet, bringing it in at 2 hours and 27 minutes, but the final third is so intense that it never feels overstuffed. McQuarrie and cruise may not have made much of an impression with Jack Reacher (McQuarrie also worked on the script for Cruise's disastrous take on The Mummy), but their pairing here has been pure perfection, and as the only director to helm two films in the franchise, McQuarrie is quickly establishing himself as a lot more than just Cruise's new pet. The skill with which the director weaves his action is inviting a lot of comparisons to the legendary George Miller, and we have to throw in Steven Spielberg. As much as we tend to be on the list of Crystal skull defenders, the great bearded one really needs to look at Rogue Nation and Fallout as the standard that Indy 5 must meet. In fact, the action is so thrilling and brought back such a sense of the glory days of Raiders that if Spielberg is intending this next film to be another attempt at passing the whip to a younger generation, we submit that McQuarrie is the first, last and only choice as a director who could take over the franchise. Mission: Impossible -Fallout quite simply leaves every other action picture this summer in the dust.

Fonzie finally snaps.
(Images Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Cruise not only nails the action, but he brings back the sense of humanity and morality that sets Ethan apart from every other superspy, and the way he communicates the tug of war inside Ethan's mind and soul every time he has to make the decision whether or not to kill (and does so wordlessly) is sublime. Fergusson does a bang up job, especially considering that she was pregnant when shooting the film (if you watch the choice of camera angles and edits closely, she is justifiably allowed more stunt double use the time around, but she still does more genuine action here herself than the vast majority of the MCU stars do in their movies.). Cavill is well cast as the stoic tough guy, as is Vanessa Kirby as White Widow, the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave's Max from the 1996 original (Redgrave is apparently pretty tight with Kirby's family in real life.). Pegg and Alec Baldwin obviosuly do strong work, but if we had to pick personal favorites it would be Michelle Monaghan returning as Ethan's wife, Julia (adding a much needed personal angle), and especially Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. The big guy's unabashed love for the franchise is infectious, and kudos to McQuarrie for giving him a lot more to do this time around. Cruise and Rhames easily sell us on the bond and trust that has developed between these two men over two decades, and a lesser actor than Rhames could easily makes Luther's fondness and loyalty to Ethan play like corny hero worship, but it never sinks to that level.

There are plenty of formulaic elements, and the plot is once again mostly a loose structure to justify the action, but it avoids feeling like a rehash, and when a movie is this fun it's awfully hard to complain (though we do have to voice one nagging frustration: how is it that the entire plot of the first film was based around the grave danger that came with matching IMF agents true names to their code names, but in every single film we hear the name "Ethan", along with others, spoken over open channels 20 or 30 times?). 

Cruise has officially played Ethan Hunt in as many films as any Bond actor other than Roger Moore now, and over a much longer span of time. As a producer, he's also managed to take the Hollywood fallback cliché of "the next one has to be twice as big"and pull it off so well and so consistently that after all this time, critics and audience still want more, and that is indeed a nearly impossible mission. 

The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole
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