Tom Cruise is a madman. The man is pushing 60 and still doing most of his own stunts. While other older action stars have long been phoning it in (hi Mr. Willis!), Cruise is still finding ways to outdo himself. Jumping across rooftops (breaking his ankle in the process), riding against traffic in the busy streets of Paris, and a high stakes helicopter chase are just some of the moments here where you can’t believe a man his age is actually doing all of it. Mission:Impossible Fallout definitely ups the ante in terms of action, but how is it as an actual film? The plot may not stick with you a few weeks after viewing, but it’s well crafted enough to where you want to see if Mr. Cruise can keep this up.
Fallout, despite being the sixth entry in the franchise, is the first film that is a direct sequel. Early on, Ethan Hunt makes a choice to save the life of a teammate Luther (Ving Rhames) instead of securing some plutonium cores. They end up in the hands of returning uber terrorist Solomon Lane, who not only wants to cause mass havoc in the name of violent cult leader John Lark, but also to settle a score against Hunt. Rebecca Ferguson also returns as Cruise’s love interest, making at least a passing knowledge of 2015’s Rogue Nation necessary to get the most out of this.
Having Fallout be a direct sequel is the biggest issue I have with this film. The Mission: Impossible movies have never been ones with particularly memorable or compelling characters. As a result, they kind of blend together, distinguishable more by the set pieces and who the antagonist is, than by any major plot points. I guess there’s only so much you can do with a spy story at this point without crossing over into farce, so I am more forgiving of thin characters and some of the more boilerplate plot elements as long as the final product is competent. The plot here is compelling enough to keep you invested in the story, but it doesn’t stand out enough to make overly memorable. Like most of these movies, it mainly serves as a way to spur increasingly grander action sequences, and oh, what sequences they are.
The raison d’être for the M:I films are the action sequences. Tom Cruise hanging off of cliffs, scaling buildings, chasing foes down on motorcycles–each installment has tried to up the ante with expertly choreographed and filmed action sequences. Fallout is no different. I will be the first to admit that a lot of the exhilaration comes in watching old man Cruise doing stunts that actors half his age use doubles for. There are plenty of moments here where you can’t believe someone is actually doing a stunt, let alone someone his age and not on a soundset in front of a green screen. The high stakes real world actio is what elevates Fallout, and the Mission:Impossible films as a whole, to a level above your average big budget action blockbuster. There is a sincere sense of fear when someone is dangling off a real cliff, as opposed to when you can clearly tell that they are on a soundstage, barely ten feet off the ground. This heightened sense of danger is something that’s missing in many of today’s CGI heavy action movies, regardless of how well they are made. My hands haven’t gotten this clammy during a film since the Bourne franchise.
It’s rare when the best entries in a franchise are four through six, but that’s what we’ve got here. A big part of that is due to Tom Cruise, who, at 56, is more active than I have been in my entire life. The guy (rightfully) gets a lot of shit for some of his real world dealings, but until we find a closet of dead bodies, that’s not going to stop me from enjoying this franchise. Mission: Impossible Fallout is the smartest throw away action movie of the summer, an expertly crafted piece of entertainment that will leave you wondering how they can top it. Even if in a year you only remember it as the one with the helicopters.