The popularity of the “Mission Impossible” franchise has always eluded me in the past. While “Mission Impossible 3” certainly added a more dramatic weight to the cost of secret agent Ethan Hunt’s job, and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” leaned into a team dynamic which helped to more memorably carry the film as an ensemble than a one man show, coming up in an age of global blockbuster dominance with Tom Cruise sitting on a throne as successful action box office royalty, I’ve always found the whole series to be fairly hollow outside of the admittedly glorious attention to detail put into practical stunt work.
They certainly aren’t bad as the dumb, fun, popcorn action movies they’re intended to be — they just aren’t my flavor of dumb fun. With that in mind, I’ve been finding it hard to vocalize my shock at just how superior its fifth sequel manages to be.
After two decades of serving as a mediocre Tom Cruise vehicle, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” has elevated its series by raising the bar for action movies with one of the best entries in the spy genre of recent history. Cruise reprises his role as Hunt, reuniting his colleagues within the Impossible Mission Force, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to reclaim three plutonium pods lost in a field mission to remnants of the anarchist terrorist sect, The Syndicate.
The team is shadowed by CIA agent Walker (Henry Cavill), overseeing the agency to ensure that it’s worth the government investment at a time when its trust and approval is at an all time low as they work together to stop the terrorists from kicking off nuclear war. In typical “Mission Impossible” fashion, what ensues is a series of action set pieces leading from locale to locale in order to stop the bad guys from wiping out millions of innocent lives in the crossfire. Unlike most of the other movies however, the spotlight isn’t planted squarely on Ethan Hunt.
“Fallout” combines the best elements of its predecessors to create a stupendous rollercoaster of masterfully directed action sequences that are strung together by a plot as ridiculous as any campy spy thriller ever made but this time narratively grounded by a crew of characters that not only contribute to the action almost equally but actually get to stretch their acting chops with some decent dialogue to make this cast feel more human than ever before.
Simon Pegg’s shtick as the smart guy that shouldn’t be a field agent has been developed out of existence by his experience, making him a legitimate contributor to field action despite also being knowledgeable as their tech expert, while Henry Cavill finally gets a break from his role as a plywood board in the last few “Superman” movies to stretch his legs with an odd toxic rivalry with Hunt calls on him to sell genuine smugness and ferocity with an actor he shares chemistry with so well it serves as a solid reminder of the power of worthwhile direction.
Rebecca Ferguson reprises her femme fatale role from “Rogue Nation” to play part in one of the best chase sequences I’ve seen in years and even Ving Rhames does far more than his usual glorified cameos in the franchise’s last few installments, playing on his camaraderie with hunt in several of the best scenes of the movie that are far more emotional than a “Mission Impossible” film has any right to be.
Without leaning on the spectacle of the set pieces as a crutch the way even most action movies beyond this series do, “Fallout” manages to utilized the improved writing and talented cast to make the ensuing chaos feel as though it involves actual characters, raising the stakes of the exception stunt choreography by making the film feel like it’s actually telling a story and the action is easily the best of the entire franchise.
From cleverly choreographed road chases through the streets of Paris, to Cruise’s infamous running on foot, right down to close quarters fist fights and the ludicrousness of the advertised helicopter chase sequences, the film is an action blockbuster work of art, enhanced by deftly executed spy genre storytelling that keeps its fairly lengthy runtime from overstaying its welcome. While I’m curious to see if Cruise’s age will begin catching up to him regarding any efforts to keep this series going, him and director Christopher McQuarrie’s achievements with this one have far exceeded my expectations.
“Mission Impossible: Fallout” is undoubtedly the best movie of its franchise, one of the most entertaining blockbusters of the summer, and perhaps even one of the best spy films of the decade, held from perfection by a need for slightly more developed antagonists and a 10 minute trim to its overall length.
4.5 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.