Fallout is not only (easily) the best pure action movie of Summer 2018, it's also the perfect culmination of the Mission: Impossible films thus far.
Mission: Impossible is the rare Hollywood franchise that seems to get better with every passing installment, in no small part thanks to star Tom Cruise's relentless willingness to place himself in mortal danger in new and inventive ways. That upward trend continues with Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the sixth entry in the series overall and the second written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie after 2015's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Fallout doesn't aspire to re-invent the wheel so much as it takes every trick in the Mission: Impossible playbook and combines them in a manner that feels creative and fresh. The results are a near-runaway success that delivers everything one expects from the Mission: Impossible brand, yet breaks its mold at the same time. Fallout is not only (easily) the best pure action movie of Summer 2018, it's also the perfect culmination of the Mission: Impossible films thus far.
Fallout picks up two years after the events of Rogue Nation. Former MI6 agent-turned criminal mastermind Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is still imprisoned since being captured by Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team, yet The Syndicate - the global crime network that Lane founded - remains active and a radical faction of its members have rebranded themselves The Apostles. The group has set a terrible plan in motion that involves them acquiring three missing spheres of plutonium and using them to create nuclear bombs, in order to usher in a "great suffering". Thus, the IMF sends Ethan and his associates to buy the plutonium from a black market arms dealer, before The Apostles can get their hands on it.
However, when the mission goes sideways, Ethan is forced to make a hard choice and loses the plutonium in the process. IMF secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) then sends Ethan and his crew to collect the plutonium from a more infamous dealer - known as The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) - but not before CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) intervenes and insists that her top assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) join Hunt's team on their operation. If that wasn't enough, Ethan must also contend with his former ally Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who's caught up in all this for her own mysterious reasons. With the clock ticking, it's up to Hunt and those whom he can trust to prevent The Apostles from carrying out their horrifying plans.
With Rogue Nation and several non-Mission: Impossible films starring Cruise under his belt, Fallout suggests McQuarrie now has a firm grip on how to blend crackling dialogue and labyrinth plots with high-octane thrills to create great action movie storytelling. At the same time, Fallout doesn't merely rehash Rogue Nation's approach from a screenwriting perspective and, because of that, ends up being the least episodic Mission: Impossible adventure yet (though it still largely works as a standalone movie). Fallout, as its subtitle indicates, instead addresses the consequences of Hunt's actions during not only Rogue Nation, but also earlier installments in the series - most notably, his decision to marry Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) and briefly retire from the IMF in Mission: Impossible III. As such, Fallout has some proper thematic substance to go with the zig-zagging storyline and crazy action sequences that audiences have come to expect from the Mission: Impossible film series.
Speaking of which: Fallout does indeed have some of the most genuinely exhilarating set pieces and terrifying action scenes featured in a modern studio release, including several white-knuckle moments where viewers may find themselves genuinely worried that Cruise is going to die onscreen. Because the actor performs most of his own stunts, this makes it easier for cinematographer Rob Hardy (Annihilation) and editor Eddie Hamilton (back from Rogue Nation) to shoot and construct the film's spectacle in a cohesive fashion that isn't hamstrung by jagged camerawork and hyperkinetic editing meant to disguise when it's an actor handling the action and when it's a stunt performer. No two sequences are shot the same way either; which, in combination with the beautifully photographed backdrops from around the world (the UK, Paris, Norway, United Arab Emirates) and an exciting score by Lorne Balfe (Pacific Rim Uprising), further allows Fallout to deliver the goods simply as a globe-hopping thrill ride.
It helps that Fallout makes nice use of its ensemble and gives most everyone in the cast something worthwhile to do, as far as the story is concerned. Cruise and Monaghan are both afforded some welcome dramatic moments here, as are Baldwin, Harris, and (in a pleasant surprise) even Ving Rhames, back again as Ethan's tech guru, Luther Stickwell. Fallout is similarly effective in the way its uses Simon Pegg's Benji Dunn as both comedic relief and capable IMF field agent - giving him room to further evolve in his fourth movie appearance - and provides Ferguson as Ilsa with a real arc, allowing her to both kick butt and develop as a character. Likewise, Bassett and Kirby are equally charismatic in their smaller roles here as two very different, yet ruthless and smart people who know how to play their cloak-and-dagger games well. And last, but not least, Cavill's Agent Walker is a strong foil to Cruise's Ethan Hunt that lets the actor (and, yes, his mustache) riff on his image as Superman in the DC Films franchise.
Interestingly enough, Fallout is also the first Mission: Impossible movie that really has something to say about the state of things in the world today. The film quietly, yet firmly, rejects the cynicism and nihilism that Lane and The Apostles subscribe to, and instead champions Hunt and his team for valuing every individual life and having faith in others, no matter how terrible the world gets around them. Admittedly, this does make some of the movie's bigger twists easier to predict, yet Fallout actually uses that to its advantage (rather than trying to present the twists as being major rug pulls). This, in turn, gives the film some real heart and a sense of purpose, and makes it more than just an excuse for Cruise to jump out of planes, fly helicopters, or whatever else strikes his fancy.
The short of it? Mission: Impossible - Fallout lives up to the early hype of being the best action movie of this summer and may yet become many fans' favorite Mission: Impossible film overall. It further delivers as a blockbuster experience - one that should definitely be enjoyed in IMAX if possible - for casual fans of the series and offers some fun payoffs for those who have closely followed the franchise over the past 22 years (see also: the subtle connection between a certain supporting character featured here and the villain in the first Mission: Impossible film). Be this your sixth Mission or maybe even your first, you should definitely accept it.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 147 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.
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- Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) release date: Jul 27, 2018