Sometimes I wonder if the Mission: Impossible franchise is nothing but a cry for help from Tom Cruise. Perhaps by executing these insane stunts, he’s trying to communicate that he truly does have a death wish. If that is the case, he’s never come closer to achieving his goal than he did with this one.
The Mission: Impossible franchise is a rare one in that installments 4, 5, and 6 are exponentially better than the first three. The beginning few movies in the franchise are fun enough, they’re basically just inoffensive action flicks that stand out among the dregs of their peers in 2000’s cinema. But starting with Ghost Protocol, it was clear we were on to something special. They brought in Brad Bird who established a new standard for these movies. They needed to be written better than most franchise films, but more importantly, since they were going to go out of their way to execute outlandish stunts in an era of aggressive CGI, it was paramount that they frame the action in such a way that you get a sense of the full magnitude of what you’re witnessing. This formula has created a trilogy of endlessly exciting movies, with Fallout rounding out the list as one of the best pure action films of the decade.
So what makes this movie so impressive? Realistically, it all can be attributed to Christopher McQuarrie’s direction. He understands perfectly how to frame the films many, many setpieces so that you just get swept up in the bombastic nature of it all. He knows exactly how long to let a scene last so that you never grow tired of any particular sequence, but you also get enough to make it feel worth it. Probably the film’s greatest strength is the way it absolutely masters escalation. There is a new status quo every twenty-minutes, each more astonishing than the last. And yet, with each outlandish wrinkle in the storyline, it never feels cheap or too absurd. You just can’t help yourself but revel in how perfectly insane it is. It’s positively operatic.
I have heard some criticism that the supporting characters don’t have much to do except serve as audience surrogates making it very clear that they, too, realize that Ethan Hunt is a madman. I suppose there is some validity to this sentiment, but I believe you’re kidding yourself if you thought this to be anything other than Tom Cruise’s movie. Sure, it’s always fun to see Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames hanging out, and Rebecca Ferguson does pretty well, but we all know what we bought a ticket for. We bought a ticket to see the craziest man in Hollywood push the very limits of what an insurance company will let you do, all the while making certain he looks as good as possible in every possible scene. Cruise delivers on every front, his arc is nice but unobtrusive, and he knows when to take the backseat and let someone else have the spotlight. But not for too long, of course.
Look man, at the end of the day, Mission: Impossible-Fallout gives you everything you could want and then some. From Henry Cavill destroying a bathroom in real time, to an exhilarating motorcycle chase through Paris, not to mention the most breathtaking halo jump of all time, all shot on IMAX, it is just a carnival of terrible decisions. You will not be able to leave without a smile on your face, and the biggest adrenaline rush of the year. Guaranteed.