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Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Premise: The sixth film in the series. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team pursue three plutonium cores that an anarchist group intends to weaponize.

What Works: Until now, most of the films in the Mission: Impossible series have been standalone features. A few recurring characters aside, each installment was a self-contained story and frequently recycled a lot of the same ideas and scenarios. Mission: Impossible – Fallout breaks from the series in both respects. This film is a direct sequel to Rogue Nation. After foiling the Syndicate and apprehending terrorist leader Solomon Lane in the previous film, Fallout is about the terrorist organization regrouping and striking back. That creates new complications and pushes the story into new places, making Fallout a distinctly different Mission: Impossible film. It has all of the familiar features like face masks, double crosses, and motorcycle chases but the story breaks out of the Mission: Impossible formula. This may be the only film in the series in which Hunt and his team are not disavowed and Fallout avoids the heist scenarios seen in several other Mission: Impossible entries. It also digs more deeply into Ethan Hunt’s character. Despite leading six films, Hunt has been rather one-dimensional and throughout this series he’s rarely faced moral choices. Fallout focuses on Hunt’s commitment to the members of his team; he’s unwilling to callously sacrifice others for the sake of the mission. That quality defines his character and makes him heroic. And it sets him up against villain Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris. Lane’s defining feature is destroying innocent civilians to achieve an ideological goal and Lane is a terrific villain, probably the best heavy of this series. Of course, the main attraction of any Mission: Impossible film is the action set pieces and they are especially good in Fallout. The action sequences come at a regular clip and they are executed with energy and kineticism. The action appears to be done practically; any digital manipulations are not obvious and the stunts have a gritty credibility. That practical restraint makes the action all the more thrilling.

What Doesn’t: The story of Mission: Impossible – Fallout is flimsy. It jerks the characters around the globe for reasons that aren’t always clear and the plot relies on several coincidences with characters showing up in places for no reason other than narrative convenience. Some of the coincidences are retroactive; when the identities and agendas of certain characters are revealed it creates some credibility problems for the rest of the movie. Fallout also has one key weakness in its underlying politics. The Syndicate and its mastermind Solomon Lane have a nihilistic ideology; they see civilization on the road to collapse as a result of overpopulation, ecological catastrophe, and corporate corruption. In their view the establishment has to be destroyed to save humanity from itself and their terrorism is a roundabout way of accomplishing that. Ethan Hunt and his team work to foil the Syndicate but the underlying global problems remain. The movie entertains these broader issues but it doesn’t address them in a meaningful way or suggest an alternative to terrorism.

Bottom Line: Mission: Impossible – Fallout is arguably the best installment of this series. It provides everything a viewer would want from a Mission: Impossible movie while also breaking away from some of the conventions of this franchise. The result is a spectacular piece of entertainment.

Episode: #710 (August 5, 2018)