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Mission: Impossible - Fallout Review

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The Mission: Impossible franchise is a bit of an odd one out in Hollywood these days. It’s the only major action series still anchored more by star power and stunts than special effects or brand recognition, but over the years it’s led to some phenomenal films.

2011’s Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (by Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird, strangely enough), but after a very game effort with 2015’s Rogue Nation, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is back to prove he can do one better and somehow, someway, he’s done it with Mission: Impossible - Fallout, turning in the best action film of the year so far, and the new high watermark for the series.

First things first, the new film - the sixth in the franchise, believe it or not - comes out in both the UK and US on 27 July 2018. Head to Fandango if you want to buy tickets in the US, or go straight to Cineworld, Odeon, Vue, or your cinema of choice if you're in the UK.

If you missed the last Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation, you can grab the DVD for cheap from Amazon or just pick up a box set of every Mission: Impossible film so far.
More than any other franchise, Mission: Impossible has always prided itself on making each new entry bigger than whatever came before it. First you get Tom Cruise dangling from the ceiling, and then it’s a cliff, then a skyscraper, then just an even bigger skyscraper, then he’s dangling out a plane, and finally now they’ve gone and thrown him out of a plane at high altitude for a HALO jump (high altitude, low opening, fact fans).

Perhaps the most telling thing about Fallout is that the jump sequence - the first time an actor has performed a real HALO jump for a film, supposedly - is actually the least impressive of the film’s string of increasingly ludicrous set pieces, which also include a dizzying rooftop parkour sequence in London, not one but two car chases through the streets of Paris, and what can only be described as a fistfight between two helicopters in the mountains of Kashmir.

It’s cinematic spectacle of the highest order, made all the more astonishing by star Tom Cruise’s very public commitment to doing all of this daft, dangerous stuff himself, which still adds some strange, undefinable thrill to proceedings.

So what’s got his Ethan Hunt hurling himself into oncoming traffic this time around? As a very knowing exposition dump lays out, his antics defeating Sean Harris’s Solomon Lane last time around left a power vacuum for new group The Apostles to move into. They want to get their hands on some stolen plutonium (natch) with the support of mysterious new figure John Lark, and Hunt and his team only have 72 hours to get in their way.

Longtime backup comes from Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, while Henry Cavill’s burly, brusque CIA hitman August Walker is there to keep them in line. Cavill - who’s been up and down at best in his recent work - is perfectly cast as Walker, who is, to put it bluntly, an absolute arse of a man.

Rogue Nation’s MVP Rebecca Ferguson is also back as former British agent Ilsa Faust, entangled in proceedings for reasons of her own, while The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby makes a stellar debut as a criminal broker named the White Widow - introduced with a subtle nod to the original movie’s arms dealer Max, played by Vanessa Redgrave (and the two share more than just a name and a similar part - Redgrave is reportedly a family friend of the Kirbys).

If all that sounds like a lot of people and organisations to keep track of, then you haven’t seen enough Mission: Impossible movies. Fallout is perhaps the most gleefully labyrinthine film of them all, with a plot builds twists upon twists upon twists. McQuarrie, who both writes and directs, has a canny sense of the franchise’s needs here, offering a plot so dense and convoluted that it would be impossible to fully follow on a first viewing, while simultaneously making sure it’s wriggling threads are almost entirely incidental to the bonkers set pieces.

It helps that underneath all the mess of story, there’s a reassuringly clear throughline to the film: is Ethan Hunt’s refusal to sacrifice one life to save millions a fatal flaw, or is it exactly what we need from our intelligence agencies? You can probably guess which way the film goes with that, and it’s unlikely to surprise you much, but it’s a testament to Cruise’s performance that it’s never less than compelling, helped in part by a timely return from Michelle Monaghan’s estranged wife Julia.

If there’s a fault to Fallout, it’s only that this serious underpinning brings with it a slight departure from the series’ sense of humour. Quips are few and far between, but luckily McQuarrie (not to mention cinematographer Rob Hardy, turning in phenomenal work) knows how to shoot the action with a light enough touch to keep things fun, playing the action itself for laughs even as the script mostly steers clear of them.


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