PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

Is Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt Ready to Let It Go? 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt (© 2018 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.) (IMDB)

Hasn't Ethan Hunt saved the world enough to earn a lifetime of couch surfing?

Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Christopher McQuarrie

Paramount Pictures

27 Jul 2018 (US) 13 Jul 2018 (UK)

Other

There's probably a film to be made (or a Saturday Night Live sketch) in which super-spy Ethan Hunt chooses not to accept his mission and elects, instead, to spend the weekend eating pizza and watching golf in his underwear. Who could blame him? Now six films into a Mission: Impossible franchise that shows no signs of losing steam, Hunt (played with notoriously reckless abandon by Tom Cruise) has saved the world enough to earn a lifetime of couch surfing.

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie returns for Mission: Impossible – Fallout and delivers the strongest installment of the series. There's a lot of hyperbole in the critical community claiming this might be the best action movie ever made. While that's undoubtedly a stretch, there's no denying the film's excellence. More specifically, its concluding sequence – a spectacular multi-stranded sequence at the foot of a glacier in Kashmir – sets a new standard for over-the-top action set pieces.

Will Cruise finally lose his grip?

Photo by Credit: Paramount Pictures - © 2018 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved. (IMDB)

By now, the Mission: Impossible formula should be familiar. Something steep and unclimbable is climbed. There are aerial shenanigans that usually involve something crashing. Intricate car chases, usually involving at least one motorcycle, careening through major metropolitan areas. There are double-crosses, uncanny masks, and reversals of fortune. The conclusion involves the execution of a plan so complicated that even the characters involved seem confused. Oh, and there are fears that Ethan Hunt has 'gone rogue' from the shadowy spy organization, IMF.

Here, the 'fallout' of Mission: Impossible – Fallout refers to the consequences of Ethan Hunt's good intentions. As his IMF boss (Alec Baldwin) observes, Hunt has never been willing to sacrifice a single life, even with the promise of sparing millions in return. When forced to choose between three weapons-grade plutonium cores and the lives of his team (Ving Rhames as Luther 'the man in the van' Stickell and Simon Pegg as techno-nerd Benji), Hunt immediately sets about rescuing his pals.

Sean Harris as Solomon Lane (IMDB / poster)


The loss of those plutonium cores fuels the globetrotting plot, which screams from Berlin to Paris to London like a high-speed locomotive. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) returns as the primary baddie, still raw and vengeful after his capture at the end of 2015's Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Everyone in the intelligence community wants a piece of Lane, including a tough CIA director (Angela Bassett) and her trigger-happy henchman (Henry Cavill as 'Walker'), as well as MI-6, which dispatches Hunt's English counterpart and pseudo-girlfriend Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) to put a bullet in Lane's noggin.

It's all absurdly complicated, with allegiances changing faster than the bandages on Tom Cruise's knees. McQuarrie, Cruise's scribe of choice, knows that clarity is a relative term in the Mission: Impossible universe. He need only explain enough to keep the audience oriented as the action barrels forward. Unlike most action directors, who occasionally bring things to a screeching halt to re-orient the viewer, McQuarrie resets our bearings in the middle of the action. It's a fruitful approach that keeps things moving while testing each character's mettle under duress. The results are not only thrilling, but surprisingly emotional, as we come to appreciate how much Hunt and Ilsa have to lose if the mission goes sideways.

McQuarrie excels at imparting each scene with a propulsive momentum, partly through meticulously choreographed action scenes and the commitment of Cruise to perform his own stunts. You may have grown understandably tired of the accolades heaped upon Cruise for his daring-do, but it unquestionably impacts the pacing of the film, and for the better. Instead of being forced to cut his scenes rapidly – intercutting segments of the real Cruise with his stunt double – McQuarrie has the luxury of letting his scenes unfold through longer shots. We stay fixed on the action, giving the sense of one continuous scene rather than random bits cobbled together in an editing room. In other words, this shit is really happening.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and August Walker (Henry Cavill) in another narrow escape. (© 2018 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.) (IMDB)

The formula of Mission: Impossible now solidified, the filmmakers can focus on making everything bigger and more spectacular. Mission: Impossible – Fallout wildly exceeds expectations on this front, often staging the action at teeth-chattering heights. The fisticuffs rival anything you might find in Chad Stahelski and David Leitch's John Wick (2014) sometimes confined to tight quarters while other times sprawling across entire rooms. If you find the action in Mission: Impossible – Fallout to be pedestrian, it probably means you're a disgruntled James Bond fan.

Finding blemishes with McQuarrie's creation is a challenge, as it ruthlessly provides about everything you could expect from a Hollywood actioner. Perhaps it might benefit from more humor (Simon Pegg is under-utilized in his comic relief role), but this is a decidedly straightforward affair that doesn't have much time to wink at the camera. It could also use a bit more of the delightfully wicked Harris, who sounds like he just drank Tom Waits' gravelly voice through a jagged straw.

The cast is solid with the notable exception of Cavill who, though a commanding physical specimen, struggles to establish his presence on the screen. His wooden delivery and lack of comic timing stick out from the remaining ensemble cast, who play freely off one another with relative ease.

But these are minor gripes with a first-rate action film. Though it lacks the gritty humanity of something like George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Mission: Impossible – Fallout is no less impressive in its dedication to character-driven action and practical special effects. It's a dazzling, non-stop thriller that's sure to become an instant action classic. Ethan Hunt isn't even close to letting go.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.