By the time the first Mission: Impossible film came out in 1996 Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond had already become a legend with no less than nineteen films in the franchise with eight different actors playing the titular spy extraordinaire. Despite the characteristic appeal of Fleming’s universe with its suave protagonists and ravishing Bond-women, the franchise became too over-the-top for its own good and the repetitive template became a tad boring. Brian de Palma’s big-screen adaptation of a TV series of the same name gave a fresh story-telling experience through the trials and tribulations of Impossible Mission Force (IMF) spy Ethan Hunt. As compared to the MI6 gentlemen at the Queen’s service who blended in with gentry, Tom Cruise’s portrayal was that of a covert operative who worked in the shadows and got the job done, without anyone the wiser. With never-before-seen action sequences and an incredibly catchy theme-score by Lalo Schifrin, Mission: Impossible was able to carve a niche for itself which, thanks to Cruise’s star-power, has grown into a $3 billion franchise.
Director Chris McQuarrie returns to work with Cruise after Jack Reacher (2012) and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015). Despite a handful films in his directorial portfolio, McQuarrie has been associated as a writer with iconic films like The Usual Suspects (1995) and X-men (2000), and Valkyrie (2008), The Wolverine (2013), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) among others. Fallout does not waste a single moment dwelling on the previous films in the franchise and jumps right into the plot. Ethan Hunt receives his mission details wherein a terrorist group known as the Apostles, led by Solomon Lane, are planning to get their hands on three portable Plutonium spheres from a fundamentalist named John Lark. With the help of a Nuclear Expert Delbruuk, the Plutonium spheres would be weaponized into Nuclear bombs. Hunt, Benji, and Luther are able to intercept Delbruuk and trick him into giving up the Apostles’ next move. Pretending to be one of the Apostles, Hunt and Benji try to acquire the spheres but they are attacked by the members of Lane’s syndicate and lose the Plutonium. This doesn’t go down well with the CIA and Director Erica Sloane (played by Angela Bassett) arm-twists IMF chief Alan Hunley (played by Alec Baldwin), to put her own man August Walker on the operation to retrieve the Plutonium. Walker knows about Hunt’s reputation and despises his methods. He is a pure-bred agency man who has little patience for discretion. As Sloane succinctly describes the men – “This is the CIA’s mission. You use a scalpel. I prefer a hammer.” In order to complete the mission, more than putting their skills to the test, the two men must set aside their differences and work together.
Fallout is sprinkled with references to the previous films in the franchise right from the scene where Hunt and team trick Delbruuk with a fake hospital setting. This is very similar to the method shown in the opening scene of the first M:I film where Hunt and his team plot a fake murder-in-a-hotel scene where there was no murder and there was no hotel either. Just four walls in a garage. The classic bike scene from M:I-II also finds its counterpart in Fallout, except that this one is far more nail-biting than before. Cruise is a man on a mission with some incredible stunts which should be well-nigh impossible for a man who would turn 60 in a few years. And yet, you watch him running endlessly, jump off of buildings several times and fight men who are half his age while hanging onto cliffs and ledges.
Also check out this hilarious analysis done by Rotten Tomatoes: The more Tom Cruise runs, the better his movies are
Henry Cavill, who plays the hammer August Walker, sports the mustache that ruined Justice League (thanks for that!) and looks the part of a used-car salesman. On a serious note though, I was a bit skeptical about having Cavill as a supporting cast in a Mission: Impossible film but McQuarrie knew what he was doing and Cavill more than redeemed himself through his angry-jock antics and his funny chemistry with Hunt. The scene where Hunt and Walker gate-crash a close event to confront John Lark in the Men’s room is one of the best-choreographed fight sequences I have seen in a long time. Simon Pegg as Benji and Ving Rhames as Luther retain their good comedic timing and camaraderie.
McQuarrie understands the essence of Mission Impossible. He knows that the audience cares about the plot only until a point. You need to have the quintessential close-shaves that are so integral to an M:I film. You need to have those hang-by-the-chair moments that would make you gasp – “No way they are going to make it. This is really impossible !” Fallout checks all those boxes and then some. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Hunt other than Cruise but judging by his energy, he has at least a few more Missions he can take on, if he chooses to accept them that is.