Up to this point each Mission: Impossible film has operated on their own mechanisms. The 1996 Brian De Palma-directed original felt like an organic extension of the 1960’s television series it drew its inspiration from; the 2000-released sequel was an orgy of unsubtle combat buoyed by the favoured-slow motion of Hong Kong filmmaker Jon Woo; J.J. Abrams’ second sequel in 2006 felt slightly more grounded in comparison, coming off like an appendage of the director’s own TV project Alias; 2011’s Ghost Protocol, under the eye of Brad Bird (The Incredibles), adopted the IMAX gimmick and went for broke in what possibilities lay in extravagance; and Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation in 2015 adhered to the modern temperament of the genre by delivering spectacle that didn’t overrun an intricate story.
So where do we sit with Fallout? The 6th entrant in this surprisingly robust series – one that has defied expectation at practically every turn – is very much a continuation of Rogue Nation, perhaps earning it the right to be considered the series’ first legitimate sequel. Christopher McQuarrie (the first director to pull returning duties behind the camera) clearly knows how to juggle the extremities of the genre, and whilst he is working with a story that is rife with obstacles, he never lets it get the best of him; and why should he when he wrote the damn thing! Instead he places trust in his ingredients, and what’s the one base flavour that is sure to never fail? One Mr. Tom Cruise.
At this point it’s getting a bit tired to continually defend Cruise from an acting perspective. His personal life and beliefs are open to criticism, but as an entertainer he’s undoubtedly one of the most committed to the craft. Since the series’ conception Cruise has been performing all his own stunts and, much like each respective film, they’ve only gotten more high-stake (i.e. dangerous) as they’ve gone along. It was highly publicised that Cruise fractured an ankle bone during a stunt that required him to leap from roof-to-roof throughout a London-based sequence (the footage ultimately remains in the finished film), and instead of taking the recommended 9 weeks off he returned to set a mere 5 weeks later, only to shoot a sequence that required extensive running throughout the streets of Paris. You can’t tell me that isn’t dedication to your job.
As for why Cruise is jumping across rooftops and running throughout Parisian streets, well that’s because his unstoppable IMF agent Ethan Hunt is looking to foil the nuclear plot of a mysterious villain known only as John Lark, the leader of a group of international libertines dubbed The Apostles. Lark is due to score a suitcase full of plutonium through a trade with a sensual arms dealer known as The White Widow (The Crown‘s Vanessa Kirby, seemingly channeling Vanessa Redgrave), and it’s come down to Ethan and his right-handers Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) to infiltrate the deal.
This would all be well and good if Ethan wasn’t being monitored by strapping assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill, proving the Justice League-disrupting moustache was worth the growth), called out by CIA Director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) who believes Hunt is no longer as dedicated to the job as he should be. Add to that complication the return of Rogue Nation‘s shadowy MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and homicidal anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), and you’re left with a plot that could potentially buckle under its own weight.
It does help to pay attention to the various double, even triple crossing McQuarrie’s script throws about with reckless abandon – not helped by the onslaught of action set-pieces that have been masterfully choreographed to steal focus at every turn – but there’s a brilliance at work here where everything falls so neatly into place once the dust has settled. But really, who cares about details when the film’s alphas Hunt and Walker graduate from a dazzling hand-to-hand combat in the men’s room of a Parisian nightclub to a helicopter chase above the clouds of Kashmir before battling atop a towering cliff, all the while a duo of bombs begin their inevitable countdown towards expected doomsday.
When it boils down to it, Fallout may still be somewhat cliched in terms of genre mentality, but it knows how to toy with the expected and present itself as a fresh product that we can’t help but gobble up in excess. Now, is it too early to request M:I-7?