The Mission: Impossible movie franchise is 22 years old. Think about that for a second.
As I was re-watching the first movie it occurred to me that I had never watched it in widescreen, which was crazy to realize. My brain kept waiting for the screen to pan over to show something else and it didn't happen because it didn't need to, but the movie released in 1996 and I got it on VHS for Christmas so that was how I watched it most of the time. That was 8th grade for me.
Now I'm in my mid-30's having just watched the sixth film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible Fallout and it's very clear that over the years one thing has remained absolutely true the entire time:
Tom Cruise is insane. Seriously.
I don't mean that in an insulting or derogatory way like a lot of people do with regards to his personal life choices and whatnot. I couldn't care less what the man does offscreen because that's his business. No, I'm talking about the beyond ridiculous level of stunt work and sequences that I know he did for this movie and it's abundantly clear how much of it he did all the way through. It's common knowledge that he broke his ankle on a building jump stunt and caused the production to shut down for weeks while he healed up and when you watch the movie you completely see the scene where he did it and even the actual take where he limped away after he broke it (it's not gruesome, don't worry) but that's not anywhere near the most ridiculous thing he did for this movie. It's without question some of the most incredible stunt work and action set pieces I have ever seen in a movie.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here though, this one has got a solid story like most of the movies in the Mission: Impossible franchise does. What we are looking at here is pretty much a direct sequel to Rogue Nation, the previous film in the series. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) has been captured of course, but things haven't calmed down in the two years since Ethan Hunt took down his syndicate. In fact, they've kind of gotten worse as the remnants of that organization, who are calling themselves The Apostles, are all over the map sprouting up terrorism for hire. Things get testy when some of the more fanatical members of the group look to get their hands on weapons-grade plutonium to set off major nuclear attacks to bring the world's systems down in one shot, leading the IMF to send Ethan and his team to stop them.
Naturally, the situation is more complicated than that not only because of Hunt's involvement in the situation but also because the CIA, led in this movie by the character Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) has decided she doesn't trust the IMF and is sending her best assassin, August Walker (Henry Cavill) to impose his way on the team and keep Ethan in check. Tensions rise, nerves get shot and chaotic action ensues. It's a wonderful thing.
Cruise is in his element the whole movie as the bonafide action hero who has been doing this for a long time. I lost count how many times Ethan told someone in the movie "I'll figure it out," which is literally how he has been proceeding for the entire franchise and why it works so well here. Anyone that has followed these films from the beginning is richly rewarded with the fact that there is a genuine linear continuation with the story, including some great easter egg callbacks to the previous movies that pay off rather importantly in this film, and again those stunts. Seriously. I'm sitting in the theater going, "this guy is 56 years old and he's running faster than I am, I don't care if it's just a movie." Cruise doesn't look long in the tooth at any point, even when he's getting beat up and it's a hell of a thing to watch.
I did not think I was going to say this going into the movie, but this is best performance I have seen from Henry Cavill to this point. I'm not kidding, I mean every word of that. There are times in this movie where his character is brutal, ruthless and utterly cold for a variety of reasons and he made it completely believable that he was capable of that behavior. He has always been a great emotionally stoic actor with his facial expressions and body movements, but some of his dialogue delivery in this film displays a range that I really don't know if we've seen too much from him over the years, but it's absolutely there and it was fun to watch. Also for what it's worth, the mustache was absolutely necessary and served his character well, if for no other reason than it really served to visually separate Cavill from any piece of his Superman persona and trust me, he is the polar opposite of the Man of Steel in this film. He made me hate him in this movie for a number of reasons and that's the hallmark of a great actor, when you can play a character like Superman that I have loved and enjoyed for the past five years and then turn around and do a role like this that makes me turn on him emotionally. It truly is a great display of range for Cavill's career here.
The rest of the supporting cast is the usual suspects from the franchise that all play their parts well as always. Ving Rhames as the loyal Luther Stickell from the beginning, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn who joined the team in Mission: Impossible III and has been a valuable member since, and Rebecca Dunn as Ilsa Faust who joined the team in Rogue Nation as a result of Kane's previous Syndicate actions. We also get Alec Baldwin returning as the IMF boss Alan Hunley and a welcome return from Michelle Monaghan as Julia, Ethan's ex-wife. She serves the more emotional layer of this film very well with her presence in it.
That is one of the most impressive things about Fallout is how it is able to blend the tonal history of the franchise into a true action-spy hybrid film. In many ways, you could argue that the first Mission: Impossible movie directed by Brian De Palma is the only true "spy movie" in the series before it took a turn toward the action genre with John Woo's Mission: Impossible II and then finding its footing with J.J. Abrams directing the third movie and setting a strong action tone for the rest of the franchise. With Fallout though, you get elements of spy craft from the first movie, plenty of action beats from the second movie and beyond and the emotional weight and depth of the third movie as well. Christopher McQuarrie, who also directed Rogue Nation found a great balance between all of those elements in Fallout and builds a tour de force that is without question one of the best entries in the series.
It also doesn't surprise me one bit that he wrote the script given that he also wrote one of the best crime thrillers of all-time in my opinion, The Usual Suspects. Let's just say that while I didn't catch any direct callbacks to that movie in Fallout, I also lost count of how many twists and double crosses occur in the span of nearly two and a half hours. Seriously, there's one scene that has about three or four in a row, I think. It was awesome.
Bottom line, Mission: Impossible Fallout deserves all the praise it has been getting for its incredible action sequences and might be the best action movie of the year hands down. For as long as it was in production from start to finish, it was well worth the wait and now the question is how many more does Cruise have left in the tank at age 56 and beyond? No idea, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he kept it going and I'll be there on opening night for those ones just the same.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE FALLOUT - 5 out of 5 - In theaters July 27, 2018