Friday, July 3, 2020

Review: "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" Goes All Out

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2020) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Running time: 147 minutes; MPAA – PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language
DIRECTOR:  Christopher McQuarrie
WRITERS:  Christopher McQuarrie (based upon the television series created by Bruce Geller)
PRODUCERS: Tom Cruise, J.J. Abrams, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jake Myers
EDITOR: Eddie Hamilton
COMPOSER: Lorne Balfe
BAFTA nominee


Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Angela Bassett, and Alec Baldwin

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a 2018 action-thriller and espionage film directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise.  It is the sixth film in the Mission: Impossible (M:I) film franchise, which is based on the American television series, “Mission: Impossible” (CBS, 1966-73), that was created by Bruce Geller.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a direct sequel to 2015's Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  Fallout finds the members of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) racing against time after a mission to obtain plutonium goes wrong.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout opens two years after the events depicted in Rogue Nation, which saw Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team take down Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the anarchist mastermind who was the leader of the international criminal consortium, the Syndicate.  Now, the remnants of the Syndicate have reformed into the terrorist organization known as “the Apostles.”

Hunt and his two longest serving IMF teammates, technical field agent, Benjamin “Benji” Dunn (Simon Pegg), and IMF agent Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), are in Berlin, Germany to buy three plutonium cores from Eastern European gangsters before the Apostles do.  The mission goes awry, which forces Hunt to track the cores to whomever or whatever organization now has them.  The person who may know the cores' whereabouts or have them is the mysterious Alanna Mitsopolis a.k.a. “the White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby).

Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett), the new Director of the CIA, is furious at Hunt and current Secretary of the IMF, Al Hunley (Alec Baldwin), for failing to secure the plutonium.  Director Sloane insists that one of her agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), an assassin working for the CIA's Special Activities Division, accompany and Hunt and his IMF team to Paris to meet the Widow.  What Hunt doesn't know is that a recent ally, former MI6 agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), is also tracking Hunt, and her mission may or may not be a danger to Hunt's.

I divide the six Mission: Impossible movies into two trilogies.  Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), and Mission: Impossible III (2006) make up the first trilogy.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011),  Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) form the second trilogy.  Each film in the first trilogy has a different director and a different tone or sensibility.  The second trilogy only has two different directors, Brad Bird for Ghost Protocol and Christopher McQuarrie for Rogue Nation and Fallout.  However, beginning with Ghost Protocol, the films depict IMF as being a team of outsiders fighting both to save the world and to justify its existence, if only for a moment of goodwill immediately after a successful mission.  Afterwards, the security state apparatus of the United States is back to mistrusting the motives of IMF or to being downright hostile to it.  This intensifies the recent films' sense of drama and also sets them apart from earlier M:I films.

The recent film, Fallout, is the best of this second trilogy or second lot of films.  It certainly lives up to both the words “mission” and “impossible” in its name.  Every thing upon which Ethan Hunt embarks is a mission; these can't be adventures or mere chases because every move has a purpose.  The “impossible” comes in because the missions always involve these impossible set pieces, and Fallout sets a new standard in M:I insane set pieces.

Tom Cruise may be Hollywood's most consistent action movie star and its most ambitious.  As of the release of Fallout, the M:I film franchise was 22-years-old, with the seventh and eighth installments already preparing for release in 2021 and 2022 respectively (as of this writing).  One can call M:I III a bit of a box office misstep (but not by much), but as of Ghost Protocol, the franchise has been bigger, better (in some ways) and tastier with each new film.  Fallout, to date, is Tom Cruise's most extravagant, deliriously fun film, blending mind-bending action set pieces with brutal, physical, man-to-man fights that are sometimes to the death.  Cruise is so hungry to blow our minds ever more with each film that he actually was hurt performing a crazy and dangerous stunt himself.

In Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise seems to have found the perfect director for his aspirations for this franchise.  McQuarrie began his Hollywood career as a screenwriter and won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects.  In the last decade, however, he has proved to be a director of imaginative and inventive macho films that balance high octane action and conspiratorial intrigue.  McQuarrie gives us meat-and-potatoes action films, but the meat is of a high quality and the potatoes are sustainable and artisanal.  It is no coincidence that this already-good franchise has found a way to improve since McQuarrie began directing it and writing its screenplays.

The supporting cast is also excellent, with Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg finding places to shine next to Cruise's supernova.  Angela Bassett chews up two of her scenes; it is easy to take this magnificent actress for granted.  Of course, you will regret it.  I have to admit Henry Cavill impressed me in a way he has never before, and I have to say that I loved every moment of Rebecca Ferguson.  And it is always good to see Alec Baldwin.

At the end of my review of Rogue Nation, I wrote, “Seriously, Tom Cruise is as glorious as ever as Ethan Hunt.”  That remains true, and Mission: Impossible is also as glorious as ever.  I love it so much that I will say even to people who are not fans of the franchise: see Mission: Impossible – Fallout.  For a moment while I was watching this film, I thought to myself, “M:I has replaced James Bond.”  Yikes!

9 of 10

2019 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Sound” (Gilbert Lake, James Mather, Chris Munro, and Mike Prestwood Smith)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

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