Since featuring an out-of-this-world stunt or two in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise and his team have pushed for wilder stunts and wilder action as the franchise grows older. After viewing the latest instalment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, it will seem like an impossible mission to surpass the latest Mission: Impossible as an action spectacle.
Closely picking up where Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation left off, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the hunt for three plutonium cores, stolen by The Apostle – an ultra-dangerous terrorist group evolved from the previous film’s villains, The Syndicate. The Apostle, however, currently operate an affiliation with… John Lark. No outfit, whether it be the CIA or IMF, posses intel on who this actually is. Though with a legitimately scary motive that reads “the greater the suffering, the greater the peace,” John Lark has the feel of a contemporary villain, despite the mystery and anonymity.
Although they always get the job done (somehow), Ethan Hunt and his team cannot be trusted to operate alone in a situation with this much potential catastrophe at stake, thus the CIA’s underhanded involvement, and introduction of August Walker (Henry Cavill) – a CIA assassin, with a bad reputation, tasked with overseeing Hunt and co’s conduct and ensuring that the objective is complete no matter the cost.
The hunt for the plutonium, the signature mask making and Hunt’s infiltration of identities, Mission: Impossible – Fallout sees transition after transition around the world from the likes of Belfast to Paris to London and to the winter mountains, almost resembling an advert for holiday locations. Can the plutonium be obtained? Can the genocide of a third of the world’s population be prevented? Can Ethan Hunt pull it off one more time?
Despite the earlier instalments retaining cast members and characters, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the first and only of this franchise to possess the ambience of a direct sequel. Creating this atmosphere establishes a new comfort for the viewer, plus it more or less means that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will have to undergo a rewatch beforehand, though you have probably just marathon-ed the entire Mission: Impossible franchise anyway, right?
The direct sequel feel is of a major credit to writer and director, Christopher McQuarrie, who has reprised his creative roles from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. McQuarrie has not only successfully replicated his skillset from the previous film, but he has bettered his last outing. Notably, despite wild action sequences here and there, McQuarrie has mastered his pacing to a fine art. The pacing in the third act, of which is action cinema at its finest, is perfectly executed, establishing a third act which is not only memorable and thrilling, but simply beautiful. Right now, Christopher McQuarrie is the best director in action cinema.
Yet again, Tom Cruise continues to defy what is generally capable for the body of a 56 year-old. From his robot running, glamorously captured in a number of skyline wide-shots, to the heavily publicised ankle injury when jumping from building-to-building in London, Tom Cruise is a spectacle in his own right, within an action spectacle of a film. When it comes down to actual acting and not being a glorified stuntman, Tom Cruise is still a fun viewing as Ethan Hunt, the reliably spy, though often set against the odds…great odds. Though the physical acting is constantly on the up, there is still a feeling that Cruise has not had a great emotional layer to Ethan Hunt since Mission: Impossible III.
Henry Cavill as the handsomely suspicious August Walker maintains his Superman physique, though now sporting the controversial Justice League moustache, almost resembles the moustached dancer from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, but on steroids. Seriously, however, as Cruise adds an athletic/fitness spectacle, Cavill adds a physical strongman spectacle to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The Superman physique may have been maintained, but he now fights like a lethal cocktail of the 1984 Terminator, Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, and WWE’s Brock Lesnar.
And of course, the charming supporting heroes of Luther and Benji, played by Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg respectively, add the occasional comedic element, but quite importantly too, an emotional element – something that is rare, but when done right, is a tremendous device in luring the viewer into possessing a deeper connection with the film in question.
The beauty of the modern Mission: Impossible film – especially Fallout – is that there are multiple windows of admiration. There are multiple reasons as to why this can be a great experience for variations of audiences. In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, there is content to excite: any fandom of its cast, especially Cruise and Cavill, obviously; spy film fandom; action film fandom; Mission: Impossible fandom, of course; blockbuster fandom; and even non-CGI stunt fandom among many more.
In a cinematic world dominated by CGI, the excessive usage of non-CGI stunts in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is not only a terrific throwback to the action of yesteryear, but it is a spectacle in itself. The layer of authenticity is something that film fans crave in action cinema. The notion of something being real not only looks better, but feels better too in that the viewer is immersing into something that took physical tolls and risk/danger, instead of a mass-produced computer creation. How great does, “Yeah, he really did that.” sound? Of course, CGI is present here and there in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but it is frequently masked or overshadowed by other real visual occurrences.
The subsequent Mission: Impossible films are getting increasingly bigger, and will live an almost eternal life through the iconic moments – especially the recent ones. The stunts can get bigger, the explosions can get bigger, the box office can get bigger, heck, even the running time can get bigger…but nothing from this franchise will be more iconic or memorable than Tom Cruise hanging from the wire, avoiding the floor, in the first Mission: Impossible film. Hanging onto a plane is great though.
Ultimately, it is more than reasonable to suggest that Tom Cruise has now legitimised himself as a superstar of action. At the age of 56, Tom Cruise has entered a realm in which the likes of action legends, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, could not enter: maintain and entertainingly vehicle an action franchise, keep it unbelievably popular, without said franchise de-evolving into self-parody. But will Mission: Impossible – Fallout be the last mission?