Some series fizzle out in the end. Some lose more and more of their soul and character as each installment is added. But this series; ‘Mission: Impossible’ does what almost no other series has done, outdo itself. Yes, there was snags and hiccups in the series, and sometimes its tripped over itself, but ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ feels like a culmination of the series biggest hopes and dreams. It feels like an endangered species being shown to the world for the first time.
Let us begin with the direction. The director roulette this series was famous for is now over with Christopher McQuarrie (director) returning. He very literally redefines himself in this outing though. I was surprised at how different this film looked and felt compared to the last film that he also directed. Along with him, this outing is cinematographer ‘Rob Hardy’ and their image together is at times gorgeous. It is still shot (mostly) with film. The pallet here is much darker and the lights are blown out. There is a significant amount flaring from nearly every light source in this film. It’s never as obnoxious as ‘M: I 3’ but the visual language bears a familiarity with that piece. When the film goes big and it does A lot we get the beautiful vistas of gorgeous terrain. Places like Paris, Norway, New Zealand and Kashmir gleam with a natural beauty and the images composed really show it off. The final sequence on a mountainside is especially gorgeous. The other big thing I noticed was the visual intention that the last film lacked. Even outside the action sequences, there are intriguing visual elements and compositions. One sequence, in particular, plays out like a silent film, and it is a beauty. McQuarrie lets the image and score carry the segment to completion. There is plenty of instances where he let’s that happen. It is a testament to his confidence in the image, performance, and score of the film. Hands down this is the most gorgeous ‘Mission’ yet.
Speaking of the score. ‘Lorne Balfe’ is the new composer this go around and damn does he deliver. He is a ‘Hans Zimmer’ apprentice so you can hear the influence but ‘Balfe’ manages to create his own soundscape and rocks it out. The score is often ferocious as it highlights moments of absurd action. It has some beautiful pieces with a lot of instruments that fill the mood, like a great piano piece that layers in. It’s heavy with horns and thumps that add impact. The true standout of the score is the use of drums. They really set the tempo and anchor the image down to a fantastically frantic pace. It’s a great deal darker than any other ‘M: I’ scores as well. Hands down this is the most ferocious sound for the ‘M: I’ series.
Now to the part that makes this film shine. The action, the stunts, and the man Tom Cruise. I will admit the reason this film is a 10/10 is solely dependent on these factors. The stunts and set pieces shown on screen are the biggest, boldest and the best visualized and executed stunts I have ever seen in my life. Yes, in many ways it tops Mad Max: Fury Road the previous king.
I won’t spoil the specifics of the stunts, but damn are they shocking and progressive. I love the sense of chaos that are attached to them. It adds this sense of volatility that makes everything just explode onto the screen.
Early in the film, we get a HALO jump. It is one of the most beautifully captured skydiving sequences ever caught on film, Period. Did I mention it’s a one-shot? Or that it took over a hundred attempts to get right? Or that they only had a few minutes of daylight that they could shoot in? Or the few feet of distance the camera operator had to be in to keep Cruise in focus? I won’t even mention the risks attached to this stunt. This sequence alone deserves a documentary.
Then the film catapults into one of the fiercest fight scenes in ‘American’ cinema. All taking place in a beautiful white bathroom with the actors wearing black which gives a stunning contrast to the image. It is a gorgeously designed fight that rips onto the screen. The score goes silent and all you hear is the cracking, breaking, and pounding sounds of men beating the living shit out of each other. The Sound designers and mixers deserve praise. You hear the exhausted sighs, the grunts, and bass thumping impacts of every blow. This is what American action cinema should strive to be. For so long has American action been looked down upon. For so long has Hollywood been a place for shit editing when it comes to action, but no more. Editor ‘Eddie Hamilton’ and cinematographer and ‘McQuarrie’ all nail how to cut and when to cut the action. It is on par pound for pound to the ‘Raid’ films. The fight choreographer deserves so much praise for creating and orchestrating such a beautiful ballet of pain and knuckle busting action. Bravo.
We then scurry to London where we see one of the very best car sequences put to film. The car slams and scurries through traffic. It drifts chaotically, but the realism on display is superb. Why? Because of Tom Cruise and his stunt team. Tom Cruise does all his stunt driving so that’s literally him ripping through gears drifting like a manic. This one key element makes every other chase sequence look like a spoof. The way McQuarrie directs this is so you see Cruise slamming through gears. You see the violent propulsion. You see the screeching turns and brakes. You see this very real car and very real driver pushing this poor car to its limits, It is Glorious.
But it doesn’t stop there. A motorcycle chase quickly ensues, and we get the best motorcycle chase to be put on film. (notice a theme yet?) His bike screams to life as he weaves through traffic. Gone are the days of CGI cars filling the streets, these cars are real. We get angles and shots that no other film can or could possibly obtain. We are there right beside Cruise as he seemingly races to commit suicide. It’s frantic and literally the edge of your seat worthy. The speed and danger is so real. Now I do wish the finale of this sequence was shot differently. I didn’t like how the final roll looked, but that is a nitpick in the grand scheme of this masterful sequence.
Yes, we get more. We get an entire sequence of Tom cruise actually climbing up a helicopter via a rope from hundreds of feet in the air. We get an intense helicopter chase sequence that leads to a clifftop finale. I didn’t even mention the rooftop jumping that broke Cruise’s ankle or the complexities and challenges regarding the motorcycle and car chases or the helicopter sequence. Look I could go into more detail, but that would take too long. This film is literally insane.
No one can deny this film its mastery of stunts and action. No one can deny how far they have pushed boundaries. No one can deny the insane amount of work, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and money that went into even one of these sequences yet alone all four. When this film ended I was left dizzy, drunk and perplexed by everything I had seen. I couldn’t process all the intricacies that had to happen for this film to exist. From the director to Cruise to the cinematographer to the stunt coordinator to the stunt men and women to the camera operators to the drivers, fliers, fighters. This film is a testament to all these men and women in the industry. This film is almost a swan song for stunts, action and special effects (not CGI). This is art. This film not only terrifies me logistically, but it inspires me. One day, I will make something that tops this and I hope the rest of the industry watches this film and says ‘Okay, mission accepted’.
Now let us get to the story.
I love how they are tying all the previous films together in this. I love how ‘Ethan Hunt’ is still portrayed as a reckless egomaniac convinced that he and only he, dangerously, with seemingly godlike luck can save the world seconds before complete destruction. On the same coin of that, I wish they could of it pushed it further. I wanted to see more consequences come to fruition. I feel like this is the root of the problem I have with all the ‘M: I’ films. They never fulfill what they are hinting at. They never really push the theme to completion. It ramps up but it always teeters off thematically. I want to see hunt make a terrible choice and have it change or destroy his character and his beliefs and his morals. (I know that might be asking too much) The intro of this film, for example, has a choice but it wasn’t executed strongly at all. Its purpose was to set up stakes and granted it did. There was just no immediate consequences or risks shown on screen that mattered or made me feel anything. It only proved that this film was never going to push any boundaries. I didn’t for a second believe any character was going to die in this film and that sucked, especially cause one actually does die and I barely cared.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this plot and story is leagues above most of all the other missions. It’s still lacking in that finality though. At the end of this film, I still see hunt as the exact same character from the beginning of the film. Nothing really changed. Another big issue for me was the twists in the movie not being pulled off that well. I’m not saying that every twist needs to be huge and revelatory but the film was constantly wedging you to who the villain is and what’s gonna happen. The whole reveal ‘moment’ turned out flat and it chocked the pacing of the film because of it. Also, the villain is still a bore and I felt no real terror or fear of them.
Look, for a film that went into production nearly scriptless, I am shocked at how well all the moving parts of this story fit. Because there is a stunning amount of exposition and plot movements going on in this film. It is stuffed with things and people and devices. It’s an achievement that the script even worked. The story is better than all the other ‘M: I’ but unfortunately that isn’t saying much.
The returning cast is all great. Newcomer Henry Cavill does fine in his role, and Vanessa Kirby does well too. I wish there was more for these actors to latch onto but its all fine.
So, in Ending. This film is a gargantuan exercise in action. The craft, attention, passion, risk, and skill that went into even one of the four massive set-pieces is mindboggling. This film will leave you dizzy with how much action it has. Tom Cruise again proves that he is willing to die for film, a testament very few actors and filmmakers share. The plot and story suffer from some thick exposition and a very complex story that touches on great themes but never executes. It is still the best story in the series and good for an action film. McQuarrie manages the most mind-numbing feat in the action genre to date. The entire filmmaking team from director to stuntmen and woman deserve all the praise and love in the world for this achievement. This film is a masterpiece of dedication. How easy could I’ve been to just greenscreen this entire film? ‘M: I-Fallout’ might as well be called the ‘Savoir of Action’.