If I were going to get into the movie-making business, I would be a writer. No doubt in my mind, because I am a sucker for storytelling, an admirer of dialogue, and a self-admitted addict of worldbuilding. These are the things that invigorate me with excitement; these are also the things that make action films so hard for me to watch. They’re bonafide products of Hollywood, with grand sequences of physicality and thrilling sequences of conflict, these are the kind of films that usually throw screenwriting to the wayside and let the camera do the talking. If that gets your gears going, then Christopher McQuarrie’s “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” is for you.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the fanatical moments of chaos that you can only get from action films, but it's when they can blend story with those spotlighted productions of anarchy that I begin to feel that rush of adrenaline everyone else does. Movies like “Mad Max: Fury Road” which blends stunts with the story, a lesson picked up by Christopher McQuarrie, though not as skillfully executed as George Miller.
Screenwriting lessons seem to have gone directly over his head though, fabricating the first direct sequel in the franchise and being the first returning director in the franchise, Christopher McQuarrie begins “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” where “Rogue Nation” left off. Hunt (Tom Cruise) finds himself battling against a group called the apostles, a maniacal and ideological group of individuals who believe that the systematic control of governments has brought the world to its knees. In response, they plan to devastate the world economies and sanctity of the world by nuclearly attacking sovereign nations like Kazakhstan and holy cities such as Jerusalem.
In response, he's tasked with the mission, if he should choose to accept it, of apprehending the nuclear weaponry. He comes close at the beginning of the film but inevitably loses it due to a tough set of circumstances. In response, he's forced to work alongside CIA Agent Walker (Henry Cavill), who alongside the regular team of the MIF crew, are trusted in saving the world once again.
So its all about keeping nuclear weapons out of ideological fanatic hands, sound familiar? Good, because the story becomes a recycled version of every “Mission: Impossible” film throughout the rest of this two hour, and near thirty-minute runtime, with plenty of twists and turns, face reveals, spy mumbo jumbo, and predictable last-second hero moments to make the most die-hard of "Mission Impossible" fans satisfied.
There are sprinkles of emotional engagement, constructed through character, like an “Indiana Jones” movie. Hunt (Tom Cruise) being the core of those scenes in which we get a glimpse of a story that focuses on what happens when the good guys lose and another in which we discuss if one life is worth millions. Both of these share the films best moments, narratively speaking, but they both get outshouted by audience favorability it seems as if we can’t have entertainment and artistic quality co-existing with one another, which is where Christopher McQuarrie tends to pull on the reigns of this runaway horse.
He sees the forest through the trees, but would rather stay nested in the woods that see the remarkable thing that is waiting on the other side. It’s where “Mission Impossible - Fallout” goes awry for myself. Never attempting to do anything nuanced on the page, rather allowing the camera to do all the talking, which is where “Mission Impossible - Fallout” has earned its prestigious reputation from critics.
Directionally speaking, Christopher McQuarrie can do no wrong in this movie. Providing masterfully constructed sequences that feel as if they last for five to fifteen minutes, but in all actuality, they’re much longer than that. He engulfs you in these moments by leaving just enough breadcrumbs to follow from the screenplay; you become enthralled by these breathtaking moments of mayhem.
There is not one or two moments worth raving about; there are five. All of them are quite remarkable, and all of them are shot in-camera with practicality being the guiding hand behind the scenes. This is where Tom Cruise makes his money, providing riveting sequences of his aggressive parkour freerunning, which as the fastest man ever caught on camera, Tom Cruise excels in those moments. He drives against the traffic on the Arc de Triomphe on a motorcycle, without a helmet. He learned how to fly a helicopter, and he learned how to do a HALO (High altitude; Low oxygen) jump from a plane going one hundred and sixty-five miles per hour. And all of this was done for real.
Least to say, Tom Cruise is either someone you look at as a crazy man trying to win our hearts with an evil Kenevil mindset or as someone who's willing to sacrifice everything for art. Whichever light you wish to paint him in, one thing we can agree on is that Tom Cruise deserves some respect for his outings in both this movie and his entire display of ferocity throughout his career.
My favorite of these moments involved a rope climb on a flying helicopter. Yes, you heard that correctly. The stunt was to have Tom climb up a rope attached to the undercarriage of a helicopter, and in the midst of making the climb he would fall but catch himself before he hit the payload. Tom, being Tom, actually lost his footing, fell upside down, and was able to catch himself near the bottom of the cargo attached to this thin rope, making for a fantastic hero shot, and a sequence that was legitimately death-defying.
Those moments are what makes “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” a qualifier for action movie of the decade for most people it seems. Excusing recycled storytelling tropes for in your face action. I can’t do the same, but I can give these guys a lot of credit. Especially Tom Cruise, he provides a performance that is both intense and sincere, if given some more depth or bite to his character, he could have become the one emotionally reverberating aspect of the film.
The usual gang of Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Michelle Monaghan are tremendous and provide that familiar taste that reminds you that this is a “Mission: Impossible” movie. Henry Cavill along with the mustache that killed “Justice League” provides a solid outing, and Sean Harris isn’t too far behind with his memorable monologues that are delivered with the coldness of a good villain. Baldwin and Angela Basset are fine, but nothing worth mentioning.
“Mission: Impossible - Fallout” is by far the best entree of the franchise thus far, but the rehashed storytelling of a James Bond-like character with a conscious, and the recycling efforts of the franchises tropes and cliches keep this movie from becoming the ensembling blockbuster it tries to be. Though fellow critics seemingly sacrificed masterful directorial efforts for mediocre screenwriting endeavors, I cannot do the same. “Mission Impossible - Fallout” is an action movie through and through, one worth seeing on the big screen.
Just don’t let the action fool you into thinking that the page is not as strong as camera, both of these things are needed for a masterpiece, something Christopher McQuarrie falls short of due to his inability to make the interluding moments of storytelling as thrilling as Tom Cruise’s ridiculous stunts, a harder feat to accomplish than it sounds, I imagine.