Thursday 19 November 2020

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

A thrill-a-minute action movie, Mission: Impossible - Fallout delivers expertly constructed and exhilitaring set-pieces with astounding stunt work, but tilts towards over-the-top extremes.

Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) accepts an assignment to retrieve missing plutonium before it falls into the hands of an anarchist terrorist group led by the mysterious John Lark, who filled the void created when Ethan apprehended mastermind Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

Working with his support members Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), Ethan finds but loses the plutonium in a botched transaction in Berlin. This failure prompts the CIA's Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett) to insist her agent Walker (Henry Cavill) accompany Ethan, over the objections of IMF's Secretary Hunley (Alec Baldwin). 

Using information extracted from a rogue Norwegian nuclear scientist, Ethan's team heads to Paris to disrupt a meeting between Lark and black market dealer White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). After reuniting with MI6's agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), Ethan is forced to improvise by adopting a terrorist persona, and learns that Lane's release is part of a maniacal revenge and mass murder plot, with Ethan's ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) in imminent danger.

The sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Fallout is stacked with exactly what the series promises: a succession of hair-raising chases, impossible yet possible stunts, and dazzling oh no! moments. Every plan is well thought-out but nothing ever goes according to plan, on-the-fly innovation is a core ingredient, and every twist is followed by a turn to throw doubt on everything and everyone. And in the hands of star/co-producer Tom Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, quality and confidence ooze from every scene.

But yet signs of flab creep in. At 147 minutes this is a really long haul. Many of the chases should have been more sharply edited, and one or two of the pursuits could have been dispensed with altogether. In a subversion of real-time tension, the final 15 minutes (featuring the de rigeur countdown to the small matter of multiple nuclear bomb explosions) seem to take twice as long to tick by. And the humour starts to creep towards Roger Moore-era Bond shenanigans, sharp wit replaced by eye-rolls.

As for the plot, this is classic MacGuffin territory. The plutonium balls are an excuse for agile hops to snazzy locations in Berlin, Paris and London, ending with a trip to a rustic medical camp in Kashmir. The neck-snapping double and triple-crosses between all the assembled agents border on incomprehensible, but McQuarrie takes care to always explain what is going on and why (whether it makes sense or not), and particularly excels in rational, non-nausea-inducing editing of the chase and hand-to-hand combat scenes.

And Cruise continues to astound by performing all his own stunts, and some are truly jaw-dropping. The breathless motorcycle, car, and foot chases are here augmented by extraordinary fun with helicopters (inside and out), and Cruise earns enormous respect by placing his body on the line for some of the most impressive stunts captured on film.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout succumbs to some excess, but still delivers a blast.

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