Of all the franchises circulating in Hollywood right now, Mission: Impossible is the only one that has continued to defy the weariness that sets in once few instalments of a series are out in the market. What has also helped it retain a sense of freshness so far is the fact that until now, every chapter was helmed by a different filmmaker who brought his own vision, style & flavour into the Ethan Hunt saga. And it has only gotten better with every subsequent sequel. Mission: Impossible – Fallout continues the tradition of upping the ante when it comes to action set pieces & stunt work, however, it does it with such flair & flamboyance that it not only finishes as the best film in the series so far but also cements its spot amongst the greatest action films ever made.
The sixth film in the Mission: Impossible series and the first to have a returning director, the story of Mission: Impossible – Fallout takes place two years after the events of Rogue Nation and finds Ethan Hunt & his IMF team in a world of pain after they lose access to three plutonium cores when Hunt chooses one life over millions in a mission gone awry. Closely monitored by a CIA agent following the debacle, Hunt & his team must find a way to retrieve the missing plutonium cores before it falls into the wrong hands and puts the entire world at immediate risk. Things get even more complicated when there’s a conflict of interest between several involved parties but with limited time on their hands, they cannot afford to make any more mistakes that would lead to global catastrophe.
Written & directed by Christopher McQuarrie who becomes the first filmmaker to direct two Mission: Impossible films, Fallout is a direct follow-up to Rogue Nation, utilising the previous entry as its foundation to deliver an incessantly tense, edge-of-the-seat thriller. The film is intense from the get go and the tension only gets amplified as plot progresses as McQuarrie concocts a gripping plot around jaw-dropping action set pieces and makes even the dramatic moments brim with a charged intensity. Catapulting the director into the league of finest action filmmakers working in the industry today, Fallout is without a doubt his best directorial effort to date. What impressed me most isn’t just the emphasis on stunt work in those breathtaking action segments but also how smooth the narrative flow is from start to finish.
Most action films try to distract us with their extravagant set pieces in order to overcome the various shortcomings in the script but Fallout makes it look so seamlessly interwoven into the overall narrative structure that the very absence of those action scenes would be a shortcoming. Few action filmmakers have a clear understanding of what great action is all about and why the sync between action & drama needs to be consistent throughout, a necessity Fallout fulfils with effortless ease. McQuarrie’s screenplay doesn’t skip the basic fundamentals of storytelling either, fine-tuning every little aspect so that it contributes to the bigger picture while gradually magnifying the consequences of the risk of failure. It’s got action, drama, humour, conflicts, twists & its own patented death-defying stunt work but what really marries them all together is the tension palpable in every frame.
There are five key action sequences in the movie and every single one of them is a feat of breathtaking stunt work, all spearheaded by Tom Cruise himself as the 56-year old actor pushes himself further than ever before to give us moments that would make us gasp for air. Shot in exotic locations and decorated with splendid-looking & beautifully lit sets, the production design team keeps providing feasible environments for the drama to unfold. Cinematography is another highlight, employing clever angles & kinetic camerawork to capture each scene in clear-cut fashion while infusing an energetic vibe into those action segments. Its breakneck pace & immaculate editing adds a sense of urgency to the story while keeping the narrative flow perfectly balanced. And Lorne Balfe further uplifts the viewing experience with an intense score that gives more momentum to a picture that’s already sprinting in top gear.
Coming to the acting department, Fallout presents Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin & Michelle Monaghan reprising their roles while new additions include Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby & Angela Bassett. Ferguson was easily the best thing about Rogue Nation and returning as Ilsa Faust, she delivers another first-rate performance that exhibits no loss in form, plus her chemistry with Cruise picks up right where it left off. Pegg provides the comic relief when a scene calls for it, Rhames gets more to do this time than in past few instalments, and Harris aptly builds up on his previous act as Solomon Lane. Cavill plays a CIA assassin brought to shadow Ethan Hunt after IMF’s failed mission and he makes for a perfect contrast to Tom Cruise’s character. Bassett leaves a lasting impression too in her role of White Widow, a black market arms dealer.
But Mission: Impossible has always been Tom Cruise’s playground, giving him the liberty to push himself further than any Hollywood actor has since Buster Keaton. It is no secret that Cruise prefers performing most of his own stunts and he really revels the challenges that each action set piece brings with itself. He may not be counted amongst those actors who can get under the skin of their characters to play them from inside out but he is one rare action star who is willing to go the extra distance and doesn’t even mind risking his own life in an effort to entertain his audience. And for that, he deserves just as much respect & recognition. With feats such as climbing the Burj Khalifa or suspended on an aircraft over 5000 feet in air already in his bag, Cruise takes his thrills of cheating death to whole new level with Fallout, for this sixth film packs some of the most dangerous stunts ever filmed on camera. And he’s completely in character in those moments where one mistake could literally cost him his life.
On an overall scale, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is everything one expects a Mission: Impossible film to be, and then some. The first entry was an actual spy film, the second one switched gear and was more action-centric, the third provided a new vigour to the franchise with its relentless pace & vibrant energy, the fourth was well-balanced in all aspects, the fifth incorporated the best bits from its predecessors to deliver a solid action extravaganza. And now, the latest instalment takes this series to heights it never attained before. Some may see the franchise as a series of escalating stunt-based dares but unlike the rest, it hasn’t dropped down in storytelling quality but only the opposite. Fallout isn’t a masterclass of action filmmaking because of the mind-blowing stunts it has in store but because it cranks everything up a notch and still manages to make it all work in perfect harmony. The best instalment in the series, the best film of the year so far, and one of the greatest action films ever made, Fallout is blockbuster filmmaking at its absolute best.