I’ve often made what I now consider the mistake of lumping the Mission: Impossible movies in with franchises like Fast & Furious and Transformers — what I might call “guilty pleasures,” though the last couple Transformers haven’t even been pleasures — but that’s not a fair evaluation. I don’t feel guilty at all about loving Mission: Impossible — Fallout. It’s more John Wick than Skyscraper, which is to say it combines its breathtaking action sequences with, let’s say, consistently acceptable and somewhat believable storylines. Yes, MI6 has some issues, but an outstanding cast, iconic score and solid directing from Christopher McQuarrie turn what would have been a just a good stunt movie into a truly gripping action thriller. Fallout is absolutely worth seeing, if only to try and catch a glimpse of Tom Cruise’s humanity in that shot where he broke his ankle. Spoiler alert: it’s not there; he’s evolved past pain; Scientology is the answer. I’ve teamed up with fellow Sun-ie Zach Lee to answer a couple questions about Tom Cruise’s newest action romp. — Nick Smith
1. Favorite Part
Smith: The stunt sequences in this movie are head and shoulders above anything in recent memory, and they’re made all the more compelling because we know Cruise is crazy enough to actually do them. I know someday I’ll stumble across a somber Buzzfeed article about how jumping out of a collapsing building onto a motorcycle that’s on fire finally caught up with everyone’s favorite 50-year-old action hero, but until then I’m all in. In an age where most action movies are marred by subpar effects, MI6 stands out in the best possible way. Not only does Cruise’s IMF team carry out some of the most exciting sequences ever put to film, but the movie knows just when to let you breathe during the two hour and 20 minute thrill ride. If I’m picking just one, I’m going with the bathroom fight scene, which according to Henry Cavill took around a month to film. It’s surprisingly long, it’s not cut to death and it effectively showcases both the prowess of our fighters and ingenuitive use of a novel environment.
Lee: I agree; that bathroom fight sequence is worth the price of admission alone, despite the fact that many of its key moments were spoiled by the trailers. It admirable that rather than stick with doing just one impressive stunt sequence, McQuarrie and Cruise were able to string multiple seemingly superhuman feats together without making it feel like a highlights reel of American Ninja Warrior. Thematically, this is one of the first Mission: Impossible films that really digs into Ethan Hunt’s psyche. I like that McQuarrie is willing to slow the pace of the film down and look into Ethan Hunt as a man tormented yet convicted by his calling as an IMF agent. This is Cruise’s sixth portrayal of the character, and Ethan Hunt has become so iconic that it is easy to simply accept the actions that he does on screen without thinking critically about them. I loved how Cruise and McQuarrie added another layer of complexity to Ethan. They explored how in a world in which secret service agents are told to constantly trade one life for another and kill one to save millions, Hunt’s strength — what others perceive to be weakness — is that he cares for the one life.
2. Worst Part
Smith: There nits if you want to pick them; some dialogue’s expositional, some plot developments feel sudden and there are some small holes, but that’s more-or-less part of the deal. The simple fact is that you do need some plot to get Cruise from one helicopter to the next and this movie does it better than most. At the end of the day, there’s not much I’d change.
Lee: Perhaps to the film’s credit, I can only critique the film for what it does NOT have rather than what is in it. Considering how integral Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt was in the fourth and fifth films, an explanation for his absence would have been nice (yes, we all know that he was being
Ronin Hawkeye in Avengers 4 but still). Additionally, the whole Syndicate thread was not really continued much from the fifth film despite the inclusion of Sean Harris’s Solomon Lane. They could have done more with it, but considering all that McQuarrie was trying to tackle in this film, I don’t blame him for streamlining the narrative.
3. Most Surprising Aspect
Smith: There are two clear candidates here: Cruise’s still-functioning joints and Cavill’s mustache, and I think I’ve gotta go with the ‘stache. Sure, Cruise still looks like he could bust out an impressive 40 time, but I think Cavill’s role could become one that defines his career after a couple lackluster DCEU appearances (though I think he himself is a good Superman in some less-than-good movies). He’s about as perfect of a foil to Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as you could ask for — the “hammer” to Hunt’s “scalpel.” The dude’s got serious star power and I think the mustache was almost worth Justice League’s shoddy CGI-job… almost.
Lee: Henry Cavill! The man can act… sadly his wooden performance in Man of Steel does not do justice to the range that he has at his disposal here. He is not new to the spy film genre and while his turn in Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was humorous, I like how he chose to go for a more serious portrayal here even if it came at the risk of being campy (which it did in some parts). Additionally, Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow was delightfully enigmatic and facetious relative to the more serious portrayals of the other characters.
4. Ranking in the Mission Impossible Franchise
Smith: Second, just behind the original. I think Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby and the return of Michelle Monaghan and Sean Harris together are enough to edge out Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role in 3, and it tops Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation on action alone. 1996’s Mission: Impossible was a different movie, and the franchise just hasn’t gone that direction since Brian De Palma handed the reins to John Woo.
Lee: I’ll always have a soft spot for Ghost Protocol because it helped helped give the franchise a second life and Brad Bird’s execution of the Dubai sequence is pure cinematic mastery. But on every level, from character development to story to action, Fallout knocks my original second-placer, MI3, out of the park.
5. Ranking among Tom Cruise Movies
Smith: I’ve have no issue tossing Fallout in the latter half of his top 10 alongside stuff like (in no particular order) Rain Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Jerry Maguire and Minority Report, and I’d put it on a shelf above stuff like The Last Samurai, Jack Reacher and Top Gun, my unbridled love for shirtless, all-male beach volleyball aside. MI6 might not fully showcase his acting chops, but in terms of pure enjoyability it’s up there with the best of ‘em.
Lee: For this being a Tom Cruise movie, the film is graciously egalitarian to the other members of the supporting cast, despite the fact on every poster the only name you see is “Tom Cruise.” Considering all the mustache drama Henry Cavill went through, he at least deserves to be second-billed. I like this film for similar reasons that I liked Edge of Tomorrow; Cruise works well when the spotlight is on him, but when he is willing to share that space with co-stars who can bring different sides of his personality out, that’s when he really shines.
6. Ranking in the Overall Action Movie Genre
Smith: Thinking back over the last 10 or so years, I’m hard pressed to think of many films that’ve done action better. This is up there with the Equalizers, Logan and Mad Max. It’s truly a tour de force, and one I hope will rub off on others in the genre for years to come.
Lee: Yeah, apart from Mad Max: Fury Road, John Wick or any fight choreography done by the Russo Brothers, this is one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time. The commitment to real stunts and willingness to not cut the camera so quickly are giving me hope that the action film genre can move past the sloppily executed fight sequences of, say, season 1 of Iron Fist.