Ageless and unstoppable as ever, Tom Cruise returns in Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth instalment of the spy movie adaptation of the 1960s TV series. This 22-year-old franchise seems to gain more momentum with each sequel, as the set-pieces grow bigger and the stunts ever more insane. Returning director Christopher McQuarrie is the only filmmaker to accept the mission of making two Mission Impossible’s… but will it be a success, or will it self destruct?
Fallout opens two years after the events of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, catching up with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as leader of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF), still working alongside reliable pals Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames). After an operation to apprehend black market nuclear warheads backfires, due to Hunt making a moral judgement call, the team are forced to ally with CIA watchdog agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) to ensure they don’t fail again.
As the IMF go on a mission to track down the missing nukes, they meet with the enigmatic White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), who gives them vital intel about a potential buyer of the warheads: elusive John Lark, an anarchist that wants to create a new world order and reign destruction on the world. Along the way, demons from Hunt’s past resurface as he again finds himself face-to-face with maniacal Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who soon escapes Hunt’s grasp. Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s been shadowing Hunt for an unknown company, then agrees to join the IMF as they try to find the warheads before Lane unleashes the largest terror attack the world’s ever seen.
Sprinting like Usain Bolt, driving like Mad Max through the streets of Paris, and leaping from building to building (resulting in a real-life broken ankle), Cruise once again gives it his all as Ethan Hunt. He displays some of the most impressive physical performances of his career, and after seeing Fallout it’ll be hard to argue Cruise isn’t the enduring figure in the action genre right now. Not only did Cruise perform the majority of these dangerous stunts himself, he also gained a helicopter pilot’s license in the space of six weeks during filming!
Cruise delivers one of his best performances as Hunt, partly because there’s a healthy balance of physical and emotional pain to explore this time. He conveys pure exhaustion over his crazy exploits, showing an emotional turmoil that wasn’t apparent in the previous five movies. Realising the sacrifices Hunt’s had to make helps enrich the character and his dynamics with others, and brings to light why Hunt would sacrifice the safety of the world for a member of his team.
Now 56-years-old, Cruise allows his character to show a bit of age—both emotionally and physically. He humanises Hunt, who stumbles several times, as his punches don’t land with the force they once did. He presents a more realistic, downbeat version of Hunt, eschewing the superhuman we’ve known until now. However, while definitely allowing a new vulnerability to shine through, Cruise continues to make Hunt a remarkable force of sheer determination.
Henry Cavill’s CIA agent August Walker is a magnificent addition, and while most viewers will know him as Superman, Fallout lets Cavill stretch out in a role that’s more dangerous. Using his acting and physicality to his advantage, Cavill becomes this movie’s secret weapon. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this role opens up plenty of new opportunities for Cavill, straying away from his nice-guy image.
Another impressive addition is Vanessa Kirby as The White Widow, femme fatale of the criminal underworld. Walking straight on to the set of Fallout from playing Princess Margaret in Netflix’s The Crown, Kirby demonstrates unexpected range here.
For the first time in the Mission Impossible franchise, McQuarrie returns to the director’s chair for what’s essentially a sequel to his Rogue Nation. He thus drops audiences straight into the narrative, wasting no time in getting important plot details out of the way so the action can begin.
The heart-racing set-pieces boasts some of the most stunning cinematography and choreography I’ve seen on the big screen. Despite being the sixth instalment, its meticulously planned action eclipses those of its predecessors. McQuarrie puts audiences amongst the action at the most visceral perspective, using the camera to capture sequences from inside a car during a demolishing extraction scene, or tightly following a motorbike racing through Paris. There’s less of the standard wide angle or long shots to capture high adrenaline moments. He embraces the knowledge that he can place his camera in these positions during the action, making audiences closely follow the characters by adding an extra layer of authenticity to every set-piece.
Just like the airplane take-off sequence from Rogue Nation, there are many moments in Fallout where the franchise’s preference for doing things practically ensures the action feels real and fresh.
However, for everything Mission Impossible: Fallout does perfectly, it’s not completely airtight. The same plot device returns as several nuclear warheads are held to ransom and Ethan must track them down and re-obtain them. However, this isn’t the only reoccurrence. Fallout is the most continuity-driven Mission yet. There are several deep cut references to the previous instalments, particularly in relation to Faust and Lane from Rogue Nation. Newcomers may not pick up on the references at first, and have difficultly understand the full breadth of the narrative.
It’s not enough to lose the structure of the story entirely, however. Unlike the previously straightforward storytelling one could expect, Fallout does feel slightly too busy and might be difficult to grasp at times if you didn’t see the previous outing.
Fallout also falls victim to overstaying its welcome slightly. For a movie that delights in draining audiences with white knuckle action sequences, sitting through this epic becomes exhausting itself. There’s a sense that certain scenes could’ve been shortened or cut entirely to tighten the narrative, like many of The White Widow’s scenes, an additional fight following an intense bathroom brawl, and an awkward kiss that didn’t add or create any depth for its characters. This is the longest Mission Impossible movie we’ve had, and it might have become the best with 30-40 of the flabbier minutes removed.
Although McQuarrie’s story and script isn’t as memorable as his Oscar-winning The Usual Suspects (1995), audiences will be distracted by the sheer amount of spectacle, as Cruise cheats death several times for our entertainment. With stunts that could put Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) to shame, and car chases that leave Baby Driver (2017) stalled at the traffic lights, Mission Impossible: Fallout benefits from a combination of thrilling and insane practical stunts that will leave one breathless.
It’s knowing how much time and effort was put into the practical stunts that gives Fallout added must-see appeal. If the mission was to create an intense thrill ride of a summer blockbuster, consider this mission accomplished.
Cast & Crew
director: Christopher McQuarrie.
writer: Christopher McQuarrie (based on the TV series created by Bruce Geller).
starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett & Alec Baldwin.