Mission Impossible: Fallout begins with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team failing to keep a package of Plutonium out of the hands of a terrorist group. They set out to recover the nuclear material, now under the watchful eye of CIA operative Walker (Henry Cavill). They end up running headlong into another plot masterminded by the ideological mass murderer Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who is seeking revenge against Hunt. Complicating matters is the presence of British agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), who needs to get to Lane for her own purposes.
As always, there isn’t really much point to trying to parse the plot of a Mission Impossible film. It piles on the convolutions, every scene bearing the potential for some absurd betrayal or reveal or whatever else. In the end, the narrative is just a framework from which the movie can hang its increasingly ludicrous stunt sequences, which all invariably have its star in a genuinely perilous situation. It is more of the same, certainly, but that’s not such a bad thing for a series that consistently delivers some of the most ambitious set pieces in all of movie history. ‘The same,’ in this case, will always be a display of admirable technical insanity.
It must be pointed out, though, that a lot of it still feels painfully contrived. It is easy enough to accept the plot’s acrobatics in the middle of the movie’s literal acrobatics, but there are still moments where the choices of the characters, particularly the villains, really strain credulity. When they forgo a chance, for example, to just straight up kill Ethan Hunt, it all starts to feel like a game, and it becomes harder to buy into their threat against our hero. It is already difficult, at this point, to think of anyone defeating Ethan Hunt. There are points where the film makes it even more difficult, deflating what little narrative tension there is.
But at the same time, one cannot deny the visceral situational tension the movie generates whenever it mounts one of its action sequences. This movie has an intense high speed vehicle chase through Paris, several brutal fist fights, a thrilling sequence that traverses London rooftops, and an absolutely insane helicopter pursuit. The pretense for all of this insanity is paper thin, the characters literally going into most situations half-cocked, unsure of what’s about to happen next. But this is precisely why it works. Within the specific context of each stunt, the film is able to make the audience believe for just a little while that things can go very badly.
As always, it helps a great deal that we can see Tom Cruise actually doing all these things. Cruise continues to put himself in real danger for the sake of entertainment. It’s actually a pretty uncomfortable idea, if one really thinks about it. But taken at face value, it results in compelling sequences. Whether he’s driving against traffic, piloting a helicopter, or dangling from some ridiculous height, being able to see Cruise’s face adds a layer of terrifying realism that makes everything work better. The rest of the cast perform pretty well, but this has always been and always will be Tom Cruise’s personal stunt extravaganza.
Mission Impossible: Fallout makes its intentions very clear. The ‘fallout’ in the title refers to the consequences of Ethan Hunt’s actions, but it might as well refer to the character literally falling out of a bunch of vehicles. Because this is really the main attraction of the movie. The character largely remains a cipher; basically just a body that goes through a lot of hellish physical trials on the way to saving the world. This doesn’t take the franchise into any interesting new directions, but it is very hard to dislike the spectacle that the movie delivers. Even if there isn’t a whole lot behind it.
Mission Impossible: Falloout is currently in cinemas.