By the time Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are tasked with their sixth impossible mission, things start to feel rather predictable. But “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” manages to pack in all of the greatest hits and fan favorites. Even while the film leaves room for these homages, the stakes are successfully upped and the plot suitably charged.
“Fallout” deals primarily with the, well, fallout of the previous franchise installation. Hunt and his team have slowly tracked down and eliminated the Syndicate — a group of ex-intelligence agents who stopped believing in the systems they formerly worked for — after its leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) was captured. Unsurprisingly, the Syndicate does not take kindly to Hunt’s hunt and hashes a plot to release nuclear destruction on the entire world. So, a run-of-the-mill “Mission: Impossible” plot.
Cruise is in top form in the movie, with plenty of lengthy running sequences suggesting that, if anything, age is only making him faster. The actor’s commitment to risky stunts is a time-honored tradition for both Cruise and the franchise. This determination to make these scenes as real as possible generates a quality of action sequences that is seldom seen elsewhere — the stakes feel real because, to a certain extent, they are. Cruise’s real-life obtaining of his helicopter license for one of the film’s more heart-stopping scenes was time well spent, as it provides the film with long takes of Cruise in the cockpit on location rather than in front of a green screen.
The film is bolstered by the sense that Hunt has finally found his team. The franchise notoriously has a massive turnover from movie to movie — Hunt and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) are the only characters to appear in all six installments. “Fallout” sees the return of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). The chemistry between Hunt, Benji and Luther has been apparent since the moment the latter two made their respective entrances to the franchise.
The narrative manages to navigate the romance between Faust and Hunt while still honoring the lasting effect Hunt’s ex-wife Julia Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan) has had on the character and the franchise itself. That’s not to say that the film is without its faults, however. Perhaps the most impressive stunt in “Fallout” is the way by which Hunt manages to age as his love interests remain perpetually in their 30s. Coupled with the new installment’s criminal underuse of Angela Bassett, the flick barely challenges the status quo of female action movie characters — regardless of these characters’ competence, they’re almost always love interests, underdeveloped or both.
“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” is an action movie done the way action movies are meant to be done. The film’s tight and fast fight choreography is engaging, and at its best, it’s akin to watching a dance on screen. The fight choreography of “Fallout” is relentlessly brutal, increasing what is sure to be an already astronomically high broken-bones tally in the “Mission: Impossible” canon. But it’s not all throwing punches — the success of the fight scenes is derived as much from the film and sound editing as it is from the choreography.
Ultimately, though, the best fight sequences still need narrative support, and the film’s overall message feels lackluster, as it sticks to the formulaic terrorist plotline — threatening men want to destabilize the world through death and destruction, with some vague allusions to religion and philosophy thrown in.
Despite this lack of depth, the film does manage to find a moment for an unexpected self-evaluation — the main conflict of the film is Hunt’s tendency to choose to save his team at any cost, and sometimes that cost is the potential loss of millions of lives. The movie acknowledges the way by which Hunt will save as many individuals as he can, no matter how impossible it makes the mission. Fans are reminded that the repetitive premise of the movies is due at least in part to the character’s ethos.
When the decision was made to produce another installment five years after the definitively conclusive third movie, it was hard not to write off the decision as a simple cash grab. However, “Fallout” is a testament to the fact that there is still the possibility for these films to feel exciting and worthwhile. They may not defy the expectations for a generic action movie plot, but they are still among the best of the genre — accomplishing an impossible mission in their own right.