Like many long-running blockbuster action series, Mission Impossible arguably jumped the shark a long time ago. But the latest entry takes that act to new heights. In Mission Impossible: Fallout, the shark is in possession of armed plutonium bombs, and Tom Cruise soars over it on a speeding motorcycle, then flips around in mid-air, skydives into the water with lightning crackling around him, and disembowels the shark with a butterfly knife. As the indestructible Ethan Hunt, that's no more than people expect of him at this point.
At Fallout's start, Hunt is living overseas, estranged from his wife--who he's clearly still in love with--for reasons that you'd better remember from one of the previous movies, because this one sure isn't concerned with catching anyone up. His latest mission, should he choose to accept it, is to stop a mysterious villain called John Lark, who heads a clandestine terrorist network known as the Apostles. They have something to do with the bad guys from the last MI movie. There are three active plutonium cores, an anarchist nuclear physicist, and about nine other MacGuffins in play at any given time.
There's no point recounting further details of the plot, because Mission Impossible: Fallout doesn't want you to follow it anyway. It wants you to sink deep into your seat and marvel at its incredibly impressive stunts, fights, chases, and special effects, then be awed at its cleverness when the 20th double-cross leaves half the characters floored, as if they'd even be surprised anymore at that point. These shenanigans usually involve Hunt walking into the room making "gotcha" eyes like the To Catch A Predator guy, and someone tearing off a cartoonishly realistic 3D-printed rubber mask.
The endless twists and turns are tiresome at this point, especially when the story is so convoluted. Half the characters are double, triple, or quadruple agents. You can't trust what you're seeing from one scene to the next, because everyone is secretly working against everyone else, and several scenes are just setups where the curtain falls at the end to reveal they're actually on a soundstage, or someone once again is wearing a rubber mask posing as someone else. The entire movie is like the climax to an Ocean's 11 sequel. You don't know what's going on because you don't have enough information, so all you can do is go along for the ride. Yet at the same time, the one actual big "twist" is somehow telegraphed so early and obviously, you need to fall asleep in the first 20 minutes if you're going to miss it and actually be surprised.
Mission Impossible has come to treat its characters like the core members of the Avengers, but they're not actually anywhere near that memorable. Ving Rhames' Luther and Simon Pegg's Benji have no reason to be there, besides loyalty to Ethan, and they don't serve much purpose in this one. Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa, introduced in MI: Rogue Nation, is also back, although she too mostly takes the backseat to Ethan. As CIA operative August Walker, Henry Cavill is implacable and boring. His facial hair does look great, although it's mostly just funny to gaze at his mustache and consider that every single one of those well-groomed hairs was another nail in Justice League's ebony casket.
Cruise himself continues to defy the laws of the universe by never appearing any older, and although he's not actually as charming as these movies want him to be, the actor's well documented dedication to doing his own stunts pays off. Whether he's leaping gaps between skyscrapers, skydiving through a thunderstorm, weaving through traffic on a speeding motorcycle, or crawling around an airborne chopper's landing gear, Cruise's face is almost always front and center. The result is a rare feeling of actual danger from Fallout's many death-defying stunts; unlike most movies, the more you know about Fallout's filming, the more tense and exhilarating you'll find its action.
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That's really the movie's saving grace: The action is so unbelievably cool that the rest is mostly forgivable. Convoluted exposition dumps, weepy melodrama, cheesy dialogue, and Henry Cavill's absolutely terrible American accent are really just filler designed to get us to the next major action climax, of which Fallout has at least four or five (at 147 minutes long, it feels interminable). The bathroom fight glimpsed in the trailers is brutally awesome; who cares how implausible it is that the men's restroom at a packed rave would go unoccupied for long enough to allow it to happen in the first place? There's a question like that at the heart of most of these scenes, along with a readily available way to dismiss it and just enjoy yourself.
That does bring us to Mission Impossible: Fallout's most severe flaw, though: the indestructible Ethan Hunt. It's not just him, either; characters in this movie survive getting hit by cars, being struck by lightning, getting thrown from moving vehicles, flying headfirst over a motorcycle's handlebars--with no helmet--after a full speed head-on collision, being hurled through mirrors and walls, getting punched repeatedly in the throat, being hanged by the neck, falling absurd distances, and not one, but two spectacular helicopter crashes. And they do it all without a scratch. One and all, they walk it off, like the superheroes that they most definitely are not. It stretches plausibility to breaking; that's where Fallout jumps that shark so completely. Ethan Hunt and co. are supposed to be extremely capable super-spies, not super-humans.
That all and more is beside the point, though, if you just want to watch Tom Cruise do crazy stunts and save the world from nuclear annihilation for the umpteenth time. On that front, Mission Impossible: Fallout delivers, and damn the shark to its watery grave.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Incredibly impressive action and stunts||Melodramatic, cheesy dialogue|
|Spectacular special effects||Convoluted story|
|Henry Cavill's mustache||Endless, tiresome double-crosses and twists|
|Characters are inexplicably indestructible|
|Henry Cavill's American accent|
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