TSJ’s Spoiler-free Review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT

Christopher McQuarrie has had quite the career as both a writer and director, and with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT he has cemented himself as one of those next-level action directors, in the club with Spielberg, Cameron, Miller, Abrams, Nolan et al. His directing in FALLOUT is impeccable. The movie moves from one incredible set piece to another, with a good amount of exposition between them to keep the story leaning forward, and the result is an octane-fuelled rush of acceleration that doesn’t let up for 2.5 hours. There’s a healthy amount of humor, led by Simon Pegg, and the actors are top-notch. It’s wonderful to see Ving Rhames (Luthar) again, as well as Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa), who made such an impression in ROGUE NATION, as well as Alec Baldwin and Henry Cavill.

I could go on for 10 000 words about the action sequences (Tom Cruise even flew the helicopter during the chase) but the thing that is equally impressive about this movie are the quiet little moments that develop the emotions, build on the characters, and increase the stakes when any of them are in danger. The movie opens with one such sequence that only lasts for maybe sixty seconds. It slowly builds in intensity before suddenly it’s over. It’s a fascinating way to begin such a massive action film, but it bookends the entire experience and raises the stakes for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Kudos to McQuarrie / Cruise for opening with the scene. It’s something that’s been missing from action films recently, and the filmmakers nailed it here. I wrote earlier about the lack of “character-driven action films” on my blog, and this franchise is a clear exception, because there is a ton of character development here.

Tom Cruise has uniquely branded himself as the actor who does all his own stunts (in Hollywood, at least … Jackie Chan did this decades ago in Honk Kong) and it really pays off. See that guy hanging from the bottom of the helicopter? Yup, it’s Tom Cruise. See that guy jumping from building to building? Cruise. And that guy hanging from the plane? Yeah, that’s him too. You know he broke his ankle there, right? The brilliant thing about this is that audiences do know! You can just feel them on the edges of their seats around you, fully aware that it’s no stuntman doing these crazy things. The knowledge has permeated popular film culture, and Cruise has carefully and cleverly cultivated this. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy, and no doubt he will keep expanding this aspect of his filmmaking.

It makes the movies better.

Is this the franchise that James Bond should aspire to emulate? It’s an interesting question. Bond has decades of history and many unique iterations, but the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series, thanks to Cruise and producer JJ Abrams, has captured the formula perfectly. ACTION + STORY + HUMOR + CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT + HIGH STAKES + GREAT ACTORS + MORE ACTION. The best thing about the series is that you can tell the actors are all having a great time doing this, especially Cruise. Other franchises prefer style over substance. Or action over character. Not this one. Cruise doesn’t take over the entire film. He builds a cast of characters around him who have loads of screen time, are interesting to watch, are likeable, and are clearly having fun.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT is a fantastic movie, an experiential ride, and it’s one of those “Saturday night” films that don’t come along very often. And dare I say this: It’s actually a great date movie. Don’t doubt me on this. Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Monaghan have chemistry with Cruise, are compelling to watch, and their presence is absolutely necessary to the film and story. Ferguson, in particular. (She has recently been cast in two new genre projects: the new MEN IN BLACK and DOCTOR SLEEP, the sequel to THE SHINING. She’s a rising star.)

Go see this movie on the big screen. Enjoy the ride. It’s a character-driven action movie with some of the best action set pieces on film (including a bathroom fight that I assume is an homage to James Cameron / Arnold Schwarzenegger’s scene in TRUE LIES) and an ass-kicking female co-lead. I can’t wait for more.

TSJ’s rating: 9/10

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