Mission Impossible: Fallout - Review
The Mission Impossible franchise can now count itself among the new breed of Hollywood super franchises like Fast and The Furious, Star Wars, and the ever growing marvel cinematic universe. Over the course of six films dating back to 1996, Tom Cruise and co. have led us through an ever escalating series of world threatening events, conveniently located in some of the most beautiful cities on earth. With this much history and character development, the sixth entry in the series has plenty of story to draw on, and the temptation to steep the series in even more lore must be maddening for studio execs watching Marvel's success. But, in a surprise move, the latest Mission Impossible practically ignores its lengthy backstory in favor of unrelenting action and introduction of new characters, and it's all the better for it.
Tom Cruise had a rough 2017. His starring role in the ultimate bust Mummy revival was a misstep most won't forget, but it was easy to hold on hope for his inevitable return to his sturdiest franchise, Mission Impossible. While each film varies in quality, the rewrite sensation that was Ghost Protocol is still being felt by fans who enjoyed the series' jump into the real world of espionage and cyber-whatever. 2015's lackluster Rogue Nation wasn't enough to deter fans, though, as it sprouted even more hope for people like me, eager to see the creative team behind the series dig themselves out of a narrative hole. So, what did writer/director Christopher McQuarrie do with the situation? He threw out the story.
Gone are the days of lengthy set up, tense mission briefings, and elongated romantic rendezvous. Nearly every second of Mission Impossible: Fallout is used to progress the story. Even characters who exist solely for narrative structure, like Alec Baldwin's IMF boss, are utilized creatively in Fallout, where in the past they only served to box in Hunt and his team. In many ways, Fallout feels like a big risk, as it focuses far more on the written word than story functions. The perfect example of this is the final act of the film, in which Hunt is chasing someone in a helicopter he stole, and his team is desperately trying to find and diffuse nuclear bombs that could pollute 1/3 of the world's water if set off. After the lengthy sequence ended and characters came back to earth, I couldn't help but be amazed by the way I was manipulated. For the first time in an action movie since Die Hard, I felt like the characters were actually in danger.
Fallout doesn't rely on one big set piece to make it's mark (Rogue Nation's plane scene); instead it turns almost every situation into an opportunity for Hunt and his team to outsmart everybody. Fallout takes back control from the viewer, asserting itself early on as an unpredictable film that requires close attention to be fully understood. It is a tricky, clever action film that uses everything it has to make itself great, except story. And for that, it may be the best Mission Impossible film yet.