Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has made a costly mistake. Now he's being knowingly manipulated while having to choose whether to save those closest to him or side with the greater good in "Mission Impossible - Fallout."
For his sixth outing of the franchise, star Cruise has brought back "Rogue Nation's" writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, the first filmmaker to return to the series, and "Fallout" suggests he made have finalized a filmmaking partner. "Mission Impossible - Fallout," while not perfect, is hands down the best of the six films, a continually twisting exercise in double and triple crossing, non-stop action, insane stunts and, most importantly, emotional resonance. Never before have we cared about these characters as much as we do here, the return of Hunt's wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), last seen briefly in "Ghost Protocol," giving the climax additional weight.
The film begins with a few wobbles. After learning that his capture of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) has resulted in a global group of Apostles rising up to continue his plans, Hunt's IMF team, now led by former CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) must retrieve plutonium in their possession. With the suitcase in his possession, Hunt's attention is diverted by Luther (Ving Rhames) held at gunpoint and it is lost, even with Benji (Simon Pegg) backing him up. The mistake plays like amateur hour for the highly trained agent. They learn the plans for the next transfer by fooling nuclear expert Nils Debruuk (Kristoffer Joner, "The Wave") with a gambit that's readily apparent to anyone who's seen one of these films before, then head to Paris where a man named Lark (Liang Yang) is to meet with the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) under cover of her charity event.
But there is a catch. New Director Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett) insists that the mission include one of her own, CIA Agent August Walker (Henry Cavill), and he proves a serious thorn in Hunt's side when he loses consciousness after jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet into a lightning storm, the first of Cruise's increasingly mind blowing stunts. Things get worse when Lark is tipped off to their presence, the two men saved by the surprise appearance of MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). With Lark dead, Hunt must now hope the Widow is unaware of his appearance and play the part. But the Widow, who is obviously attracted to Hunt, doesn't have the plutonium. What she has is a deal to receive it by delivering Lane in a plot that includes murdering French authorities transporting him.
McQuarrie has devised ingenious ways for Hunt to thwart impossible situations, but again, a mysterious motorcycle riding assassin trying to kill Lane is obviously who we think it is. Once over that hurdle, though, "Fallout" really takes off, Cruise driving helmetless against Parisian traffic on a motorcycle, driving cars over stairs, climbing a rope dangling from a helicopter, ramming a helicopter in midair and scaling cliff faces (ironically it was a London rooftop jump that shattered the star's ankle in a scene that was used in the film). The film's climax even makes the old 'cut the red wire' bomb defusing cliche fresh, intercutting among three locations (one of which includes Julia). McQuarrie and his actors shred our nerves, piling on more and more obstacles as the minutes count down.
Cruise's stunts here are jaw dropping, but it is the relationships among the characters that really make this one so powerful. Hunt is faced with putting every member of his team and the two women in his life in serious danger. Hunt's reunion with Julia in Kashmir, where she is working to control a smallpox outbreak with her husband Patrick (Wes Bentley), is stunning, Cruise and Monaghan expressing a myriad of emotions nonverbally. Ilsa's presence is beautifully handled, Ferguson acknowledging the depth of Hunt's prior relationship in what amounts to a romantic succession. The complexity of all of these crossed wires almost makes the film's villain redundant, Harris incapacitated for most of the movie's running time, but while he's still alive at "Fallout's" conclusion, it is the White Widow I suspect we may see more of, Kirby applying a delicious amorality spiked with sauce. "Mission Impossible - Fallout's" first half hour wobbles, but once it kicks in, it never lets up.
Robin did not see this film.
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