A Perfect Action Film (Mission: Impossible-Fallout review)

The Mission: Impossible franchise is one of the few in Hollywood that continues to grow in quality. From a steady start, to a shaky second instalment, the franchise has then jumped from strength to strength and has only gotten better with each film (you can read my reviews of the franchise here). For me, Rogue Nation, the fifth film, was a perfect spy film, an absolute masterclass in filmmaking, and one I never thought would be outdone. My mind is blown to report that Mission: Impossible – Fallout not only meets the high bar set by Rogue Nation, it actually exceeds it and is potentially one of the greatest action films ever made.

Christopher McQuarrie returns to write and direct, making him the only director to return to the franchise for a second film. What a thrill that he did choose to return, for he has created an utterly phenomenal film that delivers every twist, every stunt, every emotion that you could possible want from a Mission: Impossible film. The film is darker than previous instalments, and there are incredibly bleak and intense undertones, but this does not mean the script isn’t light when it needs to be, and it is very successful in these tonal shifts.

The returning cast are all still on top form, with Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris and Michelle Monaghan all reprising their roles. Henry Cavill is a new addition to the cast as August Walker, a CIA agent who joins Ethan to monitor the mission. However, as with every Mission film, there can be only one standout actor, and of course that is Tom Cruise. Cruise is a massively underrated actor whose personal affairs are judged far too often as a reason to not enjoy his films. It cannot be denied that he possesses an undeniable talent at creating stunning blockbusters and ‘Fallout’ is no different. His stunt work in this film is utterly mind blowing; you really can see that at 56 years of age, he shows absolutely no hint that he is slowing down. The franchise at this point has made Ethan Hunt more of a myth than a man, and several musical cues during the various scenes of him have almost biblical undertones. Sure, the film really plays up to “look at how cool Tom Cruise is”, but honestly, he is and it is his driving force that has sailed the franchise from strength to strength.

There’s no point in going any further without mentioning the action set pieces in this film, and they are phenomenal. As has been made very clear in the trailers, Tom Cruise (among other things) has car and motorbike chases through Paris, runs along the London skyline, pilots a helicopter through New Zealand (posing as Kashmir), hangs off rocks in Norway (also posing as Kashmir) and becomes the first actor to be filmed doing a Halo jump from a plane at 25,000 feet. The set pieces are totally breathtaking, your heart is racing throughout and by the end of the film your palms are sweaty and you feel genuinely exhausted. The fact you know Cruise is doing all these things for real is truly awe-inspiring, and it means that the action always hits exactly as it needs to.

So, what makes it even better than Rogue Nation? One word. Emotion. While Rogue Nation was a phenomenal film, it had little emotional depth. By comparison, Fallout has regained that emotion. By establishing a darker tone, the film is able to pull off more emotional notes in the story, and I’m not ashamed to say that this is also the first Mission: Impossible film to make me cry… Four times. Admittedly, the first time I cried was by own fault. I have been building up this film for so long in my head, getting so overwhelmingly excited for it, that when the opening titles started and Lalo Schifrin’s music first kicked it, I just started crying out of pure joy and excitement at what was to come. However, my other three tears shed were all due to truly emotional performance’s and narrative choices, and all of them hit perfectly.

To continue praising the technical aspects of the film, Rob Hardy’s cinematography beautifully plays with the various settings, using reflections, contrasting light and silhouettes to create a very visually pleasing film. Shooting partly on film has given a gritty but classic look to the film that echoes actions films of the past. Returning editor Eddie Hamilton delivers fast cuts in fantastically paced action scenes, but also holds a shot when it’s needed. It’s clear from the trailers that certain scenes were cut from the final film, with several major action set pieces being lost , and it is valiant that Hamilton and McQuarrie favour the story over the action, and never let the latter overhaul the former. Hans Zimmer alumni Lorne Balfe is on scoring duties, and my god has he created a great score. The ferocious intensity of the music is perfectly matched to the action; soaring, sawing string sections (I mean the musicians literally sawing at their instruments), fast bongos and several electronic touches all create a stunning blockbuster soundtrack that hits all the right notes. (pun very much intended)

I could continue flowing off about this film for days, but all I can say is go and see it, preferably in IMAX like I did, for it deserves as big a screen as possible. Mission: Impossible-Fallout is ridiculously entertaining, but also hits many emotional notes. Honestly, it is a perfect action film, that amazingly balanced excitement, emotion and story. GO SEE NOW!

10 Stars

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