Man oh man, what a ride. If there’s a way to have more pure, exhilarating fun in a movie theater, I am not aware of it. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the type of movie where you leave the theater with so much adrenaline pumping through your veins that you just don’t know what to do with yourself after.
Okay, deep breath…
Who is Ethan Hunt anyway? As we head into this sixth chapter of the Mission: Impossible franchise (it’s so weird to think the first film came out 22 years ago and was directed by Brian De Palma), we still know so little about Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. In the third film, Ethan is all of a sudden engaged to Michelle Monaghan’s Julia and telling party stories about how traffic works. I suppose this was a way to give Ethan a personal story, but it still came off as a bit phony. Like it was just another one of Ethan’s schemes because that guy is always up to something! But, in the end, we still didn’t learn much about Ethan himself.
Before watching Fallout, I rewatched the first Mission: Impossible, which I still love for being unapologetically confusing. It doesn’t have the Big Tom Cruise Stunt like these later movies have, but the scene of Cruise hanging inches above the floor at CIA headquarters still tops all that would come later on the “iconic” scale. But it’s funny, now, how synonymous Cruise is with Mission: Impossible and to remember, then, that this first movie was controversial because of the way it treated Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight in the film, Peter Graves played him in the television series) – anyway, no one talks about Jim Phelps anymore.
Over the course of the first five movies, one installment had little to do with the next one, to the point that when something is referenced from a prior movie it was almost shocking. The only constant over these films has been Cruise and, to varying degrees, Ving Rhames (thankfully the most recent installments use Rhames quite a bit). And up until now each installment had a different director, which ends with Fallout as Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie returns, making Fallout the first true direct sequel in this series so far.
Fallout is the only installment where you do kind of have to watch the previous film to know what’s going on here. Sean Harris even returns as the villain, Solomon Lane. It’s kind of a (welcome) shock to the system how much this ties in with Rogue Nation. And we finally learn a lot more about Ethan Hunt and what his relationships are with both Julia and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust. We learn more about Ethan in this movie than we did the previous five movies combined. This is the Skyfall of Mission: Impossible movies.
Ethan Hunt is having nightmares about his ex-wife, Julia, because she is now living in hiding because of her prior relationship with Ethan. He’s also having nightmares about Solomon Lane blowing up the world. As Fallout opens, Ethan Hunt and his team botch a purchase of rogue plutonium, meaning it’s now out there on the open market. After this failure, a bigwig at the CIA, Erica Stone (Angela Bassett), forces one of her agents onto the IMF team, Henry Cavill’s infamously mustachioed August Walker. With Walker at his side for every move, Ethan now has to pose as an international terrorist in an effort to try to buy the plutonium back before the worst happens. The people who have the plutonium don’t want money, they want the return of Solomon Lane. So now Ethan’s job is to bust Solomon Lane out of prison. And there’s another catch — Ilsa Faust is also after Solomon Lane, but she wants to kill him, which would really mess up Ethan’s plan to get the plutonium back.
Needless to say, there are twists along the way and people wear masks and get fooled.
But the draw of these latest Mission: Impossible movies are the Tom Cruise stunts. Cruise has become the Evel Knievel of movie actors. Our human brains are a strange thing: they can watch something like Skyscraper and shout, “Fake, fake, fake!” but we try to ignore them because we want to have a good time. Conversely, our brains watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout and they give us a huge adrenaline rush because they know what we are watching is real. It looks amazing. Yes, that’s Tom Cruise actually doing a HALO jump! Yes, that’s Tom Cruise actually hanging onto a rope under a helicopter! Yes, that’s actually Tom Cruise flying a helicopter by himself! (Cruise reportedly went on a crash course helicopter flying training program so he could get his license and be the only one in the helicopter.) It’s impossible not to be swept away by how real and intense everything looks and feels. (I should note that the screening I attended was at an IMAX theater and I can’t recommend seeing it that way enough.)