2 Hrs., 27 Mins.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout August 1, 2018
no longer interested in watching the authoritative Peter Graves and an intrepid coterie of superspies embark on daunting, espionage-tinged adventures on a small screen.
Nonetheless, the autochthonous serial worked off a formula that would last. During the show’s inaugural run, Mission: Impossible’s creator, the multihyphenate entertainer Bruce Geller, mandated that each episode follow the same basic structure. The Impossible Missions Force — the organization under which the central agents operated — would receive a message relaying a potential assignment; the leader of the IMF would find out who would assist him in the undertaking; a final conclave would be scheduled; and then, after all the exposition, the caper would begin.
This blueprint stayed in place for nine seasons, and has more or less also been kept intact in the cinematization, which has now transmogrified into a decades-spanning, multibillion-dollar franchise. Part of the fun of both the television series and the movie saga was, and has been, finding out how its creators would, once again, revivify a set-in-stone template.
The television serial, which was much less reliant on action-entertainment histrionics than its cinematic counterparts, eventually grew tired in its attempts at maintaining freshness. But the theatrical rigmarole, like its plucky leading man, has, for years, looked at all-important reinvigoration as a challenge to be mastered.
The first three pictures in the franchise struggled with this. But chapters four through six, which have been characterized by generally kept-in-place ensembles and intensifyingly ambitious action set pieces, have more confidently invoked the bigger-is-better sequel mentality, resulting in increasingly awe-inspiring products.
The franchise’s newest entry, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, capitalizes on the long-standing tradition of one-upmanship with astonishing aplomb. It is not quite as dazzling as its punchier 2015 predecessor, Rogue Nation, though: that film, which memorably climaxed with a striking underwater action sequence, was among the great action films of the decade.
Still, Fallout, which, like Rogue Nation, was directed by Christopher McQuarrie, packs a wallop. In it, Cruise returns as IMF lead Ethan Hunt, who, along with Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson — all returning as his right-hand people — is tasked with recovering a triad of plutonium cores after a seemingly simplistic mission takes a turn.
As it has gone for all the Mission: Impossible movies, the storyline is a great deal more convoluted than that. This reality is furthered by the additions of new characters, like CIA grandees portrayed by the stodgy Henry Cavill and the scene-stealing Angela Bassett, and an effete, glamorous side criminal played by Vanessa Kirby.
But a tightly drawn plot, key as it is, has never been the primary appeal of the Mission: Impossible movies: emboldened action sequences are the main attraction. In Fallout, we get a plethora. There are, of course, the requisite car chases and sensationally choreographed descents into hand-to-hand combat. But the big kahunas of Fallout — none of which compare to Rogue Nation’s watery pulse-pounder — come in the forms of a kinetic, clever, mountainous helicopter melee, and a parkour-heavy foot chase that involves Cruise dauntlessly leaping to and fro stories-high windows and rooftops aplenty.
Fallout, which has thus far received the franchise’s most unanimous praises to date, has been compared to the epochal Mad Max: Fury Road (2015); some have gone as far as calling it one of the finest of all action movies. Indeed, the film is expertly crafted. It prioritizes practical effects over CGI; it makes good use of the cinematographer Rob Hardy, who captures even the most chaotic of sequences with remarkable tensility. And it accommodates action so breathtakingly mounted that, in an era where we’re certain that most of what we see in extortionately priced genre movies is probably constructed with the help of a computer, we are wont to wonder, with stock phrasing, how its makers and stars got away with it all. Adding to the amazement is the truth that Cruise, who is 56 but moves balletically, did all of his own stunts. This sort of excellence is rarely seen in the genre.
But Fallout, for all its splendor, is too long at 147 minutes, and is unnecessarily tangled in its storytelling. It is also slow to uncover its essence, and dedicates much of the first act to exposition. (Perhaps these qualms are escalated because Rogue Nation and its antecedent, Ghost Protocol, set such unfathomably high standards, though.) Still, Fallout is an exceptionally high-quality product. And if Cruise and his acolytes want to continue churning out sequels, I say let them. B+
he spy-centric television show Mission: Impossible ran from 1966 to 1973 and comprised 171 50-minute episodes. The series would be revamped twice: first, in 1988, in the name of a CBS-produced reboot; again, in 1996, for a film adaptation. Only the former refurbishing, which starred the indomitable Tom Cruise, would last, though: By 1989, audiences were