by Michael B. Hock
Sequels are interesting. It used to be a rule that sequels were rarely better than the original, and that there would be a series of diminishing returns – sure Batman Returns was good, but there was a marked decline in quality. This seemed to be true of any sequel that wasn’t an even numbered Star Trek movie or The Empire Strikes Back.
I use this to preface the fact that Mission: Impossible – Fallout… the sixth movie in a 20 year old franchise.. didn’t have to be as good as it was. And yet somehow, it manages to be one of the best action movies of the year.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout continues the adventures of Ethan Hunt, who presumably has not left the IMF team even after the many times he’s been disavowed. These movies are never extremely complex: There’s a mission, it goes wrong, then after having gone wrong a steam works to make things right. After a disastrous mission in which he loses plutonium to a terrorist group known as the Apostles, Hunt is teamed up with a mustachioed CIA Agent August Walker to recover it. Along the way Hunt, Walker, and his team meet up with some old faces, including Hunt’s ex-wife. Also, Henry Cavill has this cool part where he resets his arms to go into fight, it’s in all the trailers, and it’s really, really cool. Honestly there’s a lot in those few sentences – this is a very long movie – but there are a lot of twists and turns. Honestly I’m the first person who rails against spoilers, but this is not something you should go into knowing anything other than the trailers.
It’s impossible to know where to start with a movie like this one, especially ones with a few twists that you see coming, and a few that only fall into place later. Tom Cruise is comfortable in his role as Ethan Hunt, a part he’s played off and on for the past 20 years. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg remain wonderful as the two people who keep Ethan grounded and as out of trouble as they can. Rebecca Ferguson has some great moments as Ilsa Faust And Henry Cavill brings some new life into the team as the CIA Agent that isn’t played by Jeremy Renner.
Oh, and his mustache really is that powerful. Maybe not “destroy the Justice League” powerful, but it’s pretty powerful.
The latest Mission Impossible doesn’t upend the system or try to remake the franchise – it continues a story that began a few years ago when the franchise was softly rebooted and dropped the numbers from the title. The movie franchise, while becoming more and more entertaining as time goes on, more closely resembles a television show: There’s a teaser, opening credits, and even “guest stars.” That may sound a bit like an insult, but it’s not meant to: after a few false starts – John Woo is a fantastic director but Mission: Impossible II is a little rough – the Mission: Impossible movies have fallen into a good pattern that manages to still manages to keep the audience surprised.
What makes this one so great is the way it manages to play into audience expectations while still subverting them. A twist is given off pretty early, but still manages to be surprising with the way it plays with the information, teasing it out just right and adding the right layers to it. The revelation, while hardly a surprise, takes on new meaning to the rest of the movie and what has been presented so far. It’s a rare balance that not many movies have been able to achieve: if played too seriously then it takes away from the seriousness of the movie. If it’s played off too much like a joke, then it delves into parody. This is one movie series that, even while finding new and exciting ways to go over the top, manages to stay grounded in the world it created with the very first movie.
Well, as grounded as possible for a movie that works this hard to bring in over the top stunts. There’s a halo jump over Paris, there’s a helicopter battle sequence, and a fight on a mountain that left me breathless despite the fact that it involved Tom Cruise and every rational thought in my head was “he’s not going to fall, he’s the star of the movie.” In terms of action, Mission: Impossible still manages to find new ways to top itself.
The only real flaw of the movie is the fact that it does tend to drag in places. At times, it seems as if it’s more concerned with getting to the next big set piece. Granted, that set piece is extraordinary, so in retrospect, they’re worth it. Yes, these missions are supposed to be difficult. But watching them fail and cope with their failure is usually the least interesting parts of these movies, especially ones that feature great moments. We need the build up, but at the same time, the lows don’t have to be quite so low. It does take away a little bit from some of the movie, but not a lot, as these moments are few.
Obviously, this is a fun movie. I’m sure the next twelve will be equally fun, and I’m sure it will involve a fair amount of Tom Cruise running.