There is a point in Mission: Impossible – Fallout where a character brings up a question that audience members have been asking themselves for over two decades, “How many times has Hunt’s government betrayed him, disavowed him, cast him aside? How long before a man like that has had enough?” Clearly, if it took this long for that question to be asked, Ethan Hunt has a high tolerance for betrayal.
Director Christopher McQuarrie returns for this sixth installment in the franchise – a film that is a direct sequel to his last entry Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – where we now find the Impossible Mission Force trying to recover some black market plutonium before the villains get a hold of it, and the world is thrown into chaos. Unfortunately, this mission goes badly – forced to choose between saving teammate Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) or recovering three plutonium orbs, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) chooses his friend – and so the IMF team is then tasked by Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) to recover the orbs before they fall into the hands of The Apostles – a rogue group of mercenaries who worked for the villainous Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), before he was captured by Ethan Hunt in the previous film. To recover the orbs, Ethan must meet up with a femme fatale known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), who is an arms dealer acting as a broker for this dangerous plutonium deal.
There are tons of characters and plot points in Mission: Impossible – Fallout that the filmmakers kind of hope you remember from the previous entries (Who out there even remembers that Ethan Hunt was briefly married?), but as this film is all about how many stunt spectaculars you can cram into a two and a half hour running time, it really doesn’t matter how good your recall is.
Of course, fighting off hordes of evil mercenaries is not enough of a challenge for our Ethan Hunt – that kind of stuff he can take care of between cleaning the gutters and his bowling night – so to throw a wrench into the works, CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) forces one of her agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), to accompany him to France, and shadow him during the meeting with the White Widow. And why exactly does she want Walker on this mission? Well, she explains to Hunley that, “This is the CIA’s mission. You use a scalpel, I prefer a hammer.” Is she implying that Ethan Hunt is a scalpel, because that is rather laughable. Does she know how many buildings have exploded shortly after being visited by Hunt?
The key to the Mission: Impossible franchise is to keep things racing along, throwing as many action scenes at us as possible, so that we don’t have time to ponder the ridiculousness of it all. How can one expect a person to question the feasibility of a plot when Ethan is in a helicopter duel, when he doesn’t even know how to fly a helicopter, over the mountains of Kashmir? Audiences have paid their ten dollars to watch Tom Cruise race his motorcycle through the streets of Paris, to sprint like a madman across the rooftops of London, and to get into brutal knock-down, drag-out fights with various villains and their henchmen. Mission: Impossible – Fallout provides all that and more.
Now it’s not all racing and fisticuffs — the audience has to have some time to catch their breath — and so we get to have fun moments with fellow teammate Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) – which allows for a nice bit with the whole IMF mask insanity, a thing that has basically become a running joke at this point – and we also get some great tension with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who is back working with MI6, and their agenda clashes with that of Hunt’s. This movie is filled with oodles of twists and turns, double reversals, and with so many betrayals you almost need a score card to keep track of who is actually working for whom.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an incredibly fun film that never takes itself too seriously – not to say there aren’t some nice bits of drama, because there are actually a couple very sweet moments – but the one big take away from watching this sixth entry is, “Holy shit, Tom Cruise is fifty-six years old!” I’m fifty-two and I get winded running for the bus. The Mission: Impossible movies are perfect entries in the genre of big popcorn summer blockbusters – and Tom Cruise practically kills himself to bring these movies to life – so if you can’t have fun watching these films, you should probably see a doctor. I don’t know how many more films this series can churn out, but if they keep up this level of quality, I’ll be showing up for as long as they can.