Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rated PG-13
Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley
Austin Family Critical Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars
If it seems like I proclaim each new entry into the Mission: Impossible franchise as “the best one yet,” that’s because this is the rare series in which every new movie tops the last. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie have raised the bar even higher. This film is just a flat-out action masterpiece, outclassing every other summer blockbuster by miles and giving us one exhilarating set piece after another. It’s the ultimate summer movie, with exceptional filmmaking and storytelling on every level.
Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force, or IMF. The film opens as Ethan and his trusted team members Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) lose a shipment of plutonium to a group of terrorists. The failed mission calls into question whether Ethan is more concerned with the fate of the world or the safety of his team, thus beginning a new chapter in which the film really addresses the toll these missions have taken on Ethan.
Cruise and McQuarrie make some bold choices here: there are quiet sequences in Ethan’s mind, where he considers the consequences of his actions and what he’s become in the process. They’re almost eerie, particularly a sequence near the mid-point of the film, where we see how their next mission could go and what it could lead Ethan to do.
As Ethan and his team attempt to relocate and obtain the plutonium, CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) assigns a new agent, Walker (Henry Cavill), to follow them and complete the mission on his own. After skydiving into Paris (one of the many incredible and tense set pieces), they cross paths with Ethan’s fellow spy and romantic interest, Isla (the great Rebecca Ferguson), who is on an opposing mission of her own.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is brilliant in the way it brings all of the elements introduced throughout the entire franchise together seamlessly, with significant characters from Ethan’s past (his wife Julia, as played by Michelle Monaghan) and present (IMF secretary Alan Hunley, as played by the always welcome Alec Baldwin) not just making appearances, but advancing the central ideas of the narrative forward. Each character gets his or her own arc, as well. No actor is wasted in this ensemble.
One of the central reasons the film is so enjoyable is the tone. The proceedings are serious and have dramatic weight, but this is definitely a movie, with star performances and humor. Most summer blockbusters nowadays revel in so-called gritty realism, but Mission: Impossible – Fallout is quite aware of its primary mission: to give the audience a really great time. And it does that in aces. The action is so well directed, and every scene is imaginatively shot. (There were several instances where I marveled at McQuarrie’s use of the frame.) Every scene has vitality to it, with endless momentum and stakes ratcheted up all the way.
Even relatively low-key scenes, such as a foot chase in which Isla follows Ethan through the streets of Paris and they eventually meet face-to-face in a field, have a dance-like quality to them. The movie has both the elegance of a classic spy thriller and the slam-bang set pieces of a Die Hard movie.
As for Cruise, what can I say? He’s the movie star to end all movie stars. None of these great scenes would work if we weren’t drawn to him as a character and as an actor. (As a side note, Cruise hasn’t looked this cool walking through a dance club since Collateral.) His stunts add so much to the movie because they have a truly human quality. Because Cruise is really doing these things (jumping out of an airplane, flying a helicopter wildly, driving a motorcycle at a ridiculous speed through Paris), the movie really makes our palms sweat. I don’t care how entertaining some of this summer’s blockbusters may have been, there wasn’t one where I felt something was actually happening to a character. You don’t have to have crazy stunts to achieve this kind of thing (good filmmaking and less reliance on CGI helps), but Cruise wants to entertain us above and beyond the call of duty. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he not only succeeds, he’s given us one of the most entertaining and well-made action films in a long, long time.
This film is rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, including one that results in a good amount of blood. The violence is not extreme otherwise, but this a film that might be safest for children ages 10 or older.
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.