The first Mission: Impossible movie, based on the TV series of the same name, was released in 1996, and featured Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise – but referred to as Ethan Hunt - as he and his IMF team hunted down Jon Voigt. It was directed by Brian De Palma, and featured the impressive stunt sequence of Tom hanging from the ceiling by a wire as well as doing a lot of running. MI2 followed in 2000, directed by John Woo, and featured some impressive rock climbing by Mr. Cruise, some running, and some trademark Woo double gun/dove work as he hunted down Dougray Scott. MI3 in 2006 was directed by J.J. Abrams, and featured Mr. Cruise running for an extended time through Shanghai and breaking into the Vatican as he chased down Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
In 2011, Brad Bird stepped in as director, and we received Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol (MI4). In this one, Mr. Cruise does some running, climbs the Burj Khalifa, as well as an extended underwater thieving sequence as he chases down Michael Nyqvist. In 2015, Christopher McQuarrie directed Mr. Cruise as he did some extended running versus Rebecca Ferguson, rode the outside of a plane, and chased down Sean Harris.
In this new version, we get the first repeat director as Christopher McQuarrie directs Mission: Impossible Fallout. Here, Cruise/Hunt reteams with Benji Dunn and Luther Stickell to try to find some plutonium that they had but lost. The CIA is more than a bit upset that they lost the plutonium in the first place and hard-as-nails CIA boss Erica Sloan attaches agent August Walker (no seriously, August Walker), to team up with the IMF team as they go to Paris to attempt to broker with the White Widow, an arms dealer and international broker of sorts. Her contact’s price for the plutonium is to break Solomon Lane out of prison. This proves awkward as Hunt is the one who captured him previously, but since he’s pretending to be ‘John Lark’, he can’t tell her that, so the team has to come up with a plan to break out Lane, but also prevent him from re-connecting to his disciples who just want to use the plutonium to create three bombs that they can set off at the same time in undisclosed locations, all while evading the real Lark who may or may not have other plans in place. This will involve a H.A.L.O. (high-altitude, low-opening) jump from a plane, a motorcycle chase through Paris, an incredible helicopter chase, and because it’s Mr. Cruise – some extending running through London.
I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. To be fair, I should not be surprised. They seem to just be getting better as they progress, and keeping the same director from the previous movie paid off in this case. McQuarrie now has the perfect sense of how to work with Cruise to craft a decent story around incredible action and fantastic stunts. The movie is too long, but there’s not much I would have recommended to cut. The stunts are phenomenal, as you would expect, and the cast has finally reached a point where they are not rotating in and out as much, allowing for some real ‘gelling’ between teammates.
- Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise as he jumps, rides, runs, and fights his way through the movie. Whatever your feelings on his personal life and craziness, he is a man who will give all he has to the audience. He continues to up the ante on the stunts. While they are set pieces, they do help to enhance the story, so I will keep watching these as long as he keeps making them.
- Ving Rhames continues his record as the only other actor to be in all six of the MF movies to date. Luther is Ethan’s rock, and is there to make sure Ethan stays on path. Luther actually gets some of the more heavy duty acting in this movie has he conveys to Julia how much Ethan blames himself for her situation.
- Simon Pegg plays Benji Dunn, and between he, Rhames, and Cruise – they have really started to form a tight-knit heart to these movies. Where Luther is Hunt’s grounding force, Benji is there to amp him up and push him forward.
- Rebecca Ferguson returns as MI6 agent Ilsa Faust. She’s still after Lane, having been directed by her bosses to take him out. Since Hunt needs him to get the plutonium, this puts them at odds. Ferguson is fantastic in these movies, stunt capable and action ready – I really hope she officially joins the team for the next one.
- Alec Baldwin is back as Alan Hunley, the new director of the IMF team. He does what he can to help the team even as suspicious things come to light about Hunt’s actions.
- Angela Bassett plays CIA boss Erica Sloan. She has no time for any IMF nonsense, and is there just to get the plutonium. Sending in Walker is her way to keep tabs on the situation. She’s fantastic, and is another one I hope returns in the next installment.
- Henry Cavill joins the fray as Walker, the CIA inserted assassin. If Man from U.N.C.L.E. suggested he should be Bond, this convinced me. It seems that Idris Elba is focused on his music career now, so lets shift Cavill into position. Cavill spends most of the movie blending into the background, allowing the other, more charismatic, actors to shine, until he gets his moments to go toe-to-toe with Cruise.
- Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane, and he’s equally as creepy, weird, and devious here as he was in the previous movie. He’s a worthy villain for the team to face.
- Vanessa Kirby steps in as the White Widow, who seems to be not all bad, and not all good – just there to facilitate whatever is needed.
- Michelle Monaghan returns as Julia, Ethan’s ex-wife. She’s currently working as an off-the-grid doctor, but not so off the grid that the bad guys can’t find her. Wes Bentley briefly shows up as her new husband.
Overall, the movie really blew me away. The stunts are just great – that helicopter sequence is amazing, even more so because we know Cruise learned to fly for it. The practical shooting locations make a huge difference in grounding this fantastical international spy flick in some aspect of reality. In particular, that motorcycle chase sequence in Paris had me out of breath. He rides the wrong way around the Arc de Triomphe – how is that even possible!?!
The H.A.L.O. jump was cool, but unnecessary – so if I had to cut anything, it would have been that sequence. Even with all those stunts, my favorite action sequence was the fight scene in the bathroom that you’ve seen in the trailers where Cavill reloads his ‘arm guns’. The sequence was so well choreographed, brutal, big and small at the same time, and really exciting.
9 out of 10 – Go see it. See it on the big screen, it’s absolutely worth it. Also, the best Wolf Blitzer cameo ever.