Gasp-worthy stunts make for cool new Mission: Impossible
Film review by Katie Walsh
Is it even summer without a Mission: Impossible movie? Hardly. Thankfully, another installment of the Tom Cruise-starring action franchise, Mission: Impossible Fallout, drops this weekend, as sturdy and reliable as ever. Under the swift and efficient supervision of writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, this is the kind of action filmmaking that proves to be an effective antidote for superhero fatigue, with a sense of realism baked into every shot. Theres no messy digital CGI here as our heroes try to stop explosions from happening with their fists and bodies. But there comes a point where we must ask: What does it all mean?
Of all the Mission: Impossible installments, Fallout may be the sparest and most efficient not counting the truly wild and gasp-worthy stunts. Its taut and unadorned; theres very little flash or distraction in the form of eye-popping costumes or exotic locations or gadgetry. There is no cinematic sleight of hand performed as a digression. Its pure action wrapped around a twisty tale of terrorism, covert ops and the one man who stands between the world and nuclear destruction, Ethan Hunt (Cruise). The films have become less about espionage and intrigue, and more about Cruise and his death-defying acts of cinematic physicality, so McQuarrie strips away everything that might stand between Cruise and his stunt. He shoots in long shots with minimal cuts, and he keeps Cruise in and out of close-up to prove to the audience that its him.
Its an action movie that embodies the ethos of pics or it didnt happen. Theres no quick editing, stunt doubles or face-swapping. Thats Cruise, glancing over his shoulder on a motorcycle before he T-bones a car in Paris traffic. Thats Cruise, dashing across a rooftop and taking a flying leap, scrabbling to cling to the edge of a London office building. And yes, thats most definitely Cruise, wrestling himself onto the undercarriage of a helicopter over the snowy Kashmir mountains in a sequence that will leave audiences laughing, gasping and cheering in disbelief.
The films theme is choice, drawing from the well-known instruction: Your mission, should you choose to accept it. That choice has never been drawn out before, but the question is posed as Hunt and his team secure Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a former British intelligence agent-turned-terrorist. Has Ethan ever not chosen a mission? For whom is he choosing to act? But the question is always how? rather than why? Fallout quickly drops the existential crisis for the fun and thrills of action, twists and identity swaps, for the added excitement of lethal CIA agent Henry Cavill and his biceps and mustache. But for a film ostensibly about politically motivated violence, its strangely apolitical, and it doesnt have much to say on that topic at all. Ethan is motivated to extreme acts of adrenaline-pumping bodily peril simply because he loves his loved ones and wants to save them. But frankly, the lack of any sort of social or cultural relevancy is obvious. At a certain point you yearn for the film to say something anything.
Nevertheless, heres hoping they never stop making Mission: Impossible movies. For as long as Cruise can defy death, age and the normal laws of physics, they should keep making them. For as long as McQuarrie or Brad Bird is available to direct his insane stunts, they should keep making them. Tom Cruise is a heck of a movie star who never stops pushing his own limits, and that is always worth the watch.
Walsh writes for Tribune News Service.