Twenty-two years on and still not settling for Mission: Difficult.
Haunted by his past but as determined as ever, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) accepts his newest mission: the return of three weapons-grade spheres of plutonium before they can be claimed by the remains of the clandestine Rogue Nation, a group rebranding themselves as “The Apostles.” When the deal goes sour and the spheres are stolen, Secretary Hunley (Alec Baldwin) finds his authority over the IMF undermined by Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) who wants her trusted agent-with-mustache installed (Henry Cavill) to keep an eye on Ethan after his questionable failure. With his support team of Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) watching his back along with the apt appearance of an old contact (Rebecca Ferguson), Ethan does what he’s best at — but this time the stakes are not only the world but as personal as they come.
Since re-inventing the television series in 1996 for cinema by ripping up the team dynamic, it took J.J. Abrams directing M:I-3 to bring it back, reinstating a physical team to counter the Bond-like antics of Cruise’s Agent Hunt. Brad Bird carried this concept into Ghost Protocol before director Christopher McQuarrie escalated it into Rogue Nation, establishing a SPECTRE-like organization of former spies fed up with the shallow commands of their political masters. As the first actual sequel to a previous installment, Fallout touches on nearly every Cruise-controlled mission before it, but will recapturing the imagination and adventure for summer audiences translate into continued success at the box office?
In a world where it’s become politically incorrect to accuse an entire nation of being “bad guys,” the spy vs. spy dynamic rules the roost, recently illustrated by the success of Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde. The game is no longer out-teching the competition — everyone has access to the same — but to use it in the most unpredictable ways that count on misdirection and taking advantage of spy-thought. By combining a complex plot for thinkers, an action-adventure for thrill-seekers, and a buddy-comedy dynamic for those still on the fence, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is prebuilt to accomplish what few can: appeal to just about everyone and sacrifice nothing for it.
The Cruise/McQuarrie dynamic is now in its third film, hinting at the shorthand and trust these two have in making a film together. While it’s a valid complaint many sequences in Fallout go on too long — the helicopter and motorcycle chases to name two — they’re not without purpose. The film stuffs a lot of plot into two hours and twenty minutes, to the point where Cavill’s character Walker even hangs a lantern on the thought of how over-complicated it is… and he’s right. The best bits are the double-crosses, showing us what’s right in front of us and then showing us what really happened, a clandestine chess game where having the tech toys isn’t as important as exploiting them to their fullest. Getting in on the espionage act briefly this time, Baldwin’s Hunley admits he gets why the IMF enjoys the work.
To the advertising team’s credit, very little is revealed about the actual plot in the trailers, seeding more than a little misdirection with both dream sequences and out-of-order staged stunts, all used to the best effect. If there’s anything bad to be said about the film, it’s predictable in its unpredictability: something always goes wrong and there’s one more unknown variable that pops up at the last moment, so you know nothing goes exactly the way you think it will until the last wire is cut, the bad guy is foiled, and the day is saved. You didn’t buy a movie ticket to watch evil win, did you? That’s what horror films are for.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, for brief strong language, you’re going to do what with a helicopter…?!
Four skull recommendation out of four