There are action movies and there are action movies, and Mission Impossible Fallout is purely and simply one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. The adrenalin rush is almost constant, so much so that you feel spent well before the movie’s end. A skydiving sequence, a bareknuckle brawl in a toilet block, a car and motorcycle chase through Paris, a helicopter melee in Kashmir (actually Queenstown) – these are seat of the pants sequences, superbly conceived, shot, sound and picture edited and set to music. In particular the camera work aboard the helicopters, and during the skydive, is truly fantastic. As many of these type of scenes as you may have seen before, as much as you think there’s no way to make such scenes seem fresh, this film brings them grippingly to the screen.
Around me throughout the screening I attended, I heard gasps, oohs and ahs, and also laughter, not at comic inventiveness, but at the audacity of what you have seen in front of you. Deep inside you know some of what you are seeing defies the laws of nature, but you don’t have too much time to dwell on it. The next piece of action is moments away.
The question before us is though whether this is enough. Well the story here breaks no great new ground. A villain from the previous film, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) returns, and as in previous films in this series, the plot centres around a rogue terrorist group out to wreak nuclear destruction. We see the return of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and again for part of the film her motives and allegiance is under question. There are the usual IMF twists and feints.
And of course, there is Tom Cruise. As usual, he dominates proceedings, and, as usual he is credited with doing many of his own stunts. But let’s not dismiss that. In this film, those stunts are impressive. Apparently little or no computer-generated technology was used, and while stuntmen must have been employed here and there, there’s no doubt you do see Cruise jump out of a plane, fly a helicopter, hang on to the side of a chopper mid air, scale a cliff face, and ride a motorbike and drive a car at speed. This is two things; yes it’s showing off, but it’s also adding a huge dose or realism to what you see in front of you. In the end, the latter overshadows the former: an ego trip it may be, but what a ride.
So to answer the question of whether the action is enough when the plot breaks no new ground, the answer is, actually, yes. And there’s one more reason for that. The film’s darker, grittier tone. A brooding soundtrack is frequently employed. The fighting and shooting sequences seem more visceral – more like Bourne or Daniel Craig’s Bond. And the comic element, although not dispensed with entirely, is reduced significantly. Simon Pegg’s Benji is absent for a large part of the first half, and without him the film plays out more like an actual thriller than a broader adventure. This style is more my cup of tea, but Pegg does return in full force, but combines comic touches with more serious duties.
One other observation to throw into the mix is the deliberate attempt to increase the emotional intensity of the story with bigger roles for two previous characters in the series. Luther, played by Ving Rhames, was given small bit parts in recent outings but has much more time on screen here, and Ethan’s wife Julia, played by Michelle Monaghan, is also given a significant role. All this is done to tie together the connections among the IMF team. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is impelled by his loyalty to his team mates and to his wife.
And what of Mr Cruise? It’s easy to get caught up in his gossip-mag history, scientology, and apparent control freak approach to movie making. Perhaps this matters more to reviewers than to anyone else. He has hits and misses with his films, but when it comes to this franchise, Cruise knows how to put together a winning piece of entertainment. Mission Impossible:Fallout is, or deserves to be, a hit.