With the release of Fallout, the Mission: Impossible franchise has been going strong for over 20 years. This impressive run has been fueled by its ability to continually put out great films. This consistency seems to come from an understanding as to what makes them so great. There is a formula to these films that is followed regardless of the director. These movies are all about creating the most fun movie experience possible via big action set pieces, a plot full of twists and just enough humor to take the edge off. Director Christopher McQuarrie proved with Rogue Nation that he is more than capable to handle this formula and made one of the best, if not the best movie within the franchise. His return for Fallout adds to the anticipation since he was able to craft a near perfect action movie with Rogue Nation. He showed a real understanding of the franchise and how to create a thrilling film experience. Topping that seems impossible but McQuarrie did. If Rogue Nation was near perfect, then Fallout is a perfect action movie.
The elements of a great action movie are pretty simple, with the most important element being the obvious: the action. A large part of the success of the M:I franchise can be attributed to the insane action set pieces. This consistent success can create a bit of a burden for McQuarrie, the expectation being to top the action from the previous films. Action franchises die when the action becomes stale or repetitive and that is easy to do since there is a limit as to what can be done in a film. To avoid this potential stumbling block, directors usually tend to make the action bigger. That’s not exactly what McQuarrie did with Fallout, instead of bigger action he went for smarter action. The stunt choreography was well thought out and told a story all on its own. It had layers to it and did a great job of moving the larger story forward. There was an artistic element to these sequences. They were beautiful to watch, thrilling to experience and astonishing to think about. It’s one thing to come up with some of these ideas, it’s another thing to bring them to life and it’s something else all together to pull them off flawlessly! While McQuarrie did go large in scale (i.e. a helicopter chase) he didn’t solely rely on huge action. The motorcycle chase in the second act was breathtakingly tense and felt different from the motorcycle chases in the prior films. McQuarrie successfully accomplished this by adding layers to the chase. It follows a plot twist so we are caught off guard and it also comes after an impressive car chase involving a truck. It ends in a way that you never see coming and is bound to make you smile from its cleverness.
In most action movies the action sequences seem to simply try and be fun without regard to the larger story it should be servicing. McQuarrie cleverly avoids this potential by using the action to tell a small story within the larger story that is being told. This helps to make the set pieces feel original and adds the tension that these scenes need to be truly memorable. While the action is telling its own story, Fallout is also successful because the larger story makes sense and is easy for the audience to invest in. The franchise isn’t known for its stories but the franchise has consistently delivered solid espionage stories, Fallout is no exception. It’s not the most complex story, however it is solid. The action is the driving force of this film, so a complex story could take away from what everyone is really there to see. McQuarrie (who also serves as the films writer) gives a solid story to follow. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team need to stop a terrorist organization from getting plutonium in order to build a bomb. There are twists all throughout this story, but the main one is easy to track. That simplicity is exactly what this needs. If the film is too complicated it’s easy to check out and get bored, but if the story is simple enough (with some well placed twists), you can stay invested and interested. That is what takes Fallout from being really good movie, to a great one.
The M:I franchise isn’t known for its stories but it is known for its practical action sequences, and that shines again here. Tom Cruise has extended his career and ingratiated himself with audiences again because of his work in these films. It’s not much of a secret that Cruise does his own stunts and risks his body for the sake of entertainment. That shows on screen in a valuable way. It makes the whole film feel more real and makes it easier to become emerged in the story. It also allows for shots that other action movies just can’t get. Cinematographer Rob Hardy made the most of this opportunity and shot an absolutely gorgeous film. There were several stunning tracking shots, with the most memorable coming during a chase sequence while Cruise was running. A few helicopter shots provided a scale that is important to the film, which helped to build the tension. All of that lead to a film that is beautiful to look at, which in and of itself is worth the price of admission.
There is so much to like about Fallout because all of the pieces perfectly came together. There is wall-to-wall action that never feels unoriginal or exhausting. It is well paced around the action and the cast is great. There are several actors returning to their roles and they continued to do a great job. The most notable return is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. She was incredible in Rogue Nation and she managed to keep her character fresh, which brings a lot to the film. Simon Pegg as Benji and Ving Rhames as Luther, provide just enough humor to cut the tension and they are still a lot of fun. The addition of Henry Cavill (August Walker) worked much better than I expected. Walker represents a physical threat to Ethan Hunt that feels real and imposing. His character was a great addition to the franchise. All together Fallout is a perfect action movie. It has everything you could want and is everything a summer blockbuster is supposed to be.
4 ½ out of 5 stars
Director: Christopher McQuarrie Writer: Christopher McQuarrie Starring: Tome Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby & Alec Baldwin Release Date: July 27th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hours and 27 minutes Image Credit: Paramount Pictures via Imdb