Mission: Impossible has become the most impressive popcorn franchise going today, and not for how fantastical it is but for how grounded it is, whether Tom Cruise is actually climbing the Burj Khalifa (albeit via digitally erased harnesses) in Ghost Protocol or actually strapping himself to the side of an airborne plane in Rogue Nation. Not to mention, the episodic nature of the franchise allows for each director to give their own unique flavor to it. M:I 2 is in the bottom five movies I’ve ever seen, but I appreciate that the franchise is structured in a way that prevents an installment that bad from throwing the whole thing off.
M:I – Fallout, however, is the first entry of the series to have a returning director, Rogue Nation‘s Christopher McQuarrie, which results in it also being the first M:I movie to be a direct narrative follow up to another.
This time, not only is protagonist Ethan Hunt haunted by both Sean Harris’s Solomon Lane — the first returning villain of the franchise, whose terrorist syndicate has now named itself, ironically so given a touched upon anti-religious scheme of theirs, “The Apostles” — and his decision to marry a woman he can’t be with, Michelle Monaghan’s Julia, but he’s also put into situations that challenge him to compromise his aversion to unnecessary casualties, and it’s this respect for the individual life that could make him indirectly responsible for nuclear war when he’s forced to choose between rescuing a team member and commandeering a case of plutonium he’s trying to keep out of enemy hands.
From here, the plot takes so many twists that it’s hard to keep up with, especially when it eventually pulls off three or four major twists in a single scene, and the motif of moral dilemmas falls to the background from there. Of course, the biggest questions these movies raise regard what crazy stunts Tom Cruise is going to pull off in them, and this movie stuffs in more jaw-dropping stunts than any other entry, at times to an indulgent degree. A climactic helicopter chase had me freaking out like action movies rarely do, although it’s intercut with another showdown that gets ruthless in a way that didn’t sit well with me.
Still, the helicopter chase and the dual it leads to wowed me like no other action sequence I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road, as did a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump into France through a lightning storm that not only makes for a tense situation but also a striking (both figuratively and literally) visual.
Right of the bat, the movie establishes itself as not as lighthearted a romp as Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation through an eerie dream sequence that foreshadows the threat of nuclear war, though there turns out to be a catch to the grim developments of the prologue’s actual plot, which makes the opening credits with the iconic theme music all the more cathartic. While Fallout opts for a higher ratio of action and lower ratio of humor to break the tension than Rogue Nation, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg are still there to provide comic relief. There’s also an extensive foot chase through France that not only fills Tom Cruise’s running quota, featuring a stunt that infamously got Cruise’s ankle broken and ended up in the film due to his determination to finish the take, but also puts Ethan in hilariously awkward situations along the way.
Still, I left the theater feeling like I’d been through a warzone rather than an amusement park, and while that’s fine for a movie like Dunkirk, a movie about an actual warzone, that’s such a conflicting feeling for an escapist spectacle that it’s taken me over a week to figure out what to say about this movie (on that note, I found Ant-Man and the Wasp so fluffy that I feel totally unmotivated to write about it). While it’s a lot to take in, I admire how wild a ride it gets, and I want to see it again, which is something I can’t say about most movies I’ve seen this year (such as the comparatively grounded Tomb Raider), or M:I 2.