We’re six movies deep into the Mission: Impossible series and it’s only gotten progressively better with each new installment. While the initial trilogy was underwhelming in some regards – many still hold the first film up as the quintessential action/spy movie, though – the series has evolved to include bigger action set pieces, more character development, and generally more assured directors at the helm. Fallout is the second film directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who previously directed the excellent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. However, where fatigue might’ve set in for many franchises attempting to be this expansive, Fallout not only proves to be a highlight in the action genre, but one of the best action films of the decade.
Fallout picks up shortly after the events of Rogue Nation. Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, continues to do what he does best in the name of the IMF – foil the plans of bad guys who aim to create weapons of nuclear devastation. However, when his initial job is botched, Hunt and his team are forced to work with a new CIA agent, Henry Cavill’s August Walker, to re-acquire lost plutonium that’s a vital component of nuclear weapons.
The film’s plot isn’t necessarily fresh, as we’ve probably seen these beats executed in countless action films before, but Fallout stands out because it never strictly places emphasis on the threat at large. Instead, the film is a surprisingly character-driven, old-school spy thriller above an all-out action movie like its two predecessors, Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation. Some might find this change of pace jarring for the series, especially one that prides itself on absolutely insane and exhilarating action sequences, but it ultimately works in Fallout’s favour. It’s clear from the get-go that the film isn’t trying to replicate the success of previous installments, but rather tries to pay homage to the first film – featuring plenty of white-knuckle suspense and twists without resorting to giant action set pieces.
That’s not to say Fallout is void of those familiar action sequences, though. The film sets itself up as a spy-thriller first and foremost, but sprinkles in the action without compromising any of the pacing. It’s a superb balancing act that shows McQuarrie’s understanding of the genre; sometimes, subtlety packs more of a punch than, well, actual punches. The story is character-driven, for the most part, though it uses the basis of its nuclear plot thread to elevate those emotional highs for the characters. Hunt is especially put in dire situations where he has to make big choices on the fly, or risk losing something valuable. It heightens the tension of each moment and makes the last-minute, high-stakes decisions enthralling to watch.
When it comes to the action set pieces, though, Fallout has plenty of incredibly choreographed, eye-opening moments. A HALO jump scene into a thunderstorm, in particular, had me on the edge of my seat, which is followed up by a bathroom fight scene with fight choreography to rival the John Wick films. Another bombastic action sequence involving helicopters caused me to hyperventilate because of how exciting it was, yet none of the action sequences here lived up to the large-scaled ambitions of its past. As meticulously crafted as the action is, there’s no distinctive scenes, like the climb up the Burj Khalifa or hanging onto a plane as it takes off, that really wowed me as much as I’d hoped.
This isn’t to say the action is bad by any stretch of the imagination, though. In fact, even at its worst, it’s still leagues ahead of the incoherent Hollywood garbage that tends to plague films like Fast & Furious. This is all down to McQuarrie’s commanding presence behind the camera as he keeps the action moving at a relentless pace while escalating the stakes at every given opportunity; so the action isn’t as epically staged as Rogue Nation or Ghost Protocol, but it’s all backed by a solid emotional anchor. This is the most I’ve ever been invested in the characters during the action, which is why it succeeds.
As with all Mission: Impossible films, I have to give credit to Tom Cruise for performing all of his own stunts in the film. Fallout has him perform some demanding stunt work – things that I think even veteran stunt men would have second thoughts about. Above being a great actor, Cruise is one of the best stunt men in the industry, and his persistence to perform all of his own in-camera work is crazy but admirable. Henry Cavill is also the best I’ve ever seen him in a movie, proving to be a charismatic, fitting action hero when the occasion calls for it. In fact, the entire cast is once again excellent, including Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson who bring great human drama.
However, while I have very few flaws with the film, some might not warm up to its decidedly more dialogue-heavy direction. There’s not as much action as before, so I urge viewers to go into it with an open mind. The story isn’t original, but it is expertly crafted by people who understand the genre and wanted to make the best possible action/spy movie with all the resources they had.
In the end, Fallout won me over. It took me a while to really get invested in the Mission: Impossible series, but after Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation and now this, I can safely say that it’s one of the best action series of the century. The entire cast is likeable and bring their A-game, the directing is stellar, and the action is immaculately crafted. With plenty of twists to keep you hooked into the plot, Fallout solidifies its place as an incredible action film that goes beyond the expectations of Hollywood action movies today.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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27 July 2018
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