Why Mission Impossible: Fallout Succeeds yet Disappoints

Mission Impossible: Fallout is the year’s most beautifully made film.

Christopher McQuarrie’s direction is air tight, the score by Lorne Balfe is John Williams level good, Tom Cruise is flawless and as commendable as ever, and Rob Hardy’s cinematography is Oscar worthy.

That being said, it’s unfortunately one of the most painfully obvious spy thrillers in recent memory.  For context, I found the plot in MacGruber (one of the most underrated comedies of the past decade) to be more memorable and surprising.

The hand to hand combat is handled exceptionally well, especially the bathroom fight, which is the best choreographed fight scene of the franchise.

Franchise newcomer Vanessa Kirby gets in a few jabs as well, and she’s also my favorite addition in Fallout.  Her role isn’t as intriguing as Rebecca Ferguson’s from Rogue Nation, but she manages to come off like she’s a bigger threat than the missing plutonium that Tom Cruise has to find.

If only the script, which I discovered was only 30 pages when shooting began, had as much thrills and polish as the technical aspects and as impressive as it’s cast.

mission impossible vanessa kirby

The story is fairly simple and I don’t want to give too much away because maybe it won’t be as predictable for others, but essentially Tom Cruise and his crew botch a mission (no one gets killed though) and now Henry Cavill, who is 20 years younger than Tom Cruise, has to babysit this crew on their next mission.

Although the script is pedestrian, McQuarrie does direct the film like it’s the best thing ever written.

There’s a dangerous and dream-like atmosphere that captures our attention, it almost feels like an art house Steven Spielberg film.  I was hooked for the first hour and even though I was guessing almost every beat, it didn’t bother me.  It was nice to just enjoy a director working on the top of his game.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

Left to right: Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT, from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.

But once the film descends into action overload, including one of the most overlong car chase scenes ever, and even more predictable story beats, the mystifying atmosphere fades and we’re left bored while the film chugs along at almost two and a half hours (almost three hours with previews).


The most unforgivable crime though is Henry Cavill’s character, who is the worst character in the franchise. Yes even more so than Dougary Scott’s bland villain from
Mission Impossible II.

Cavill isn’t known for being the best actor around, but he’s charming enough in films like Man from Uncle, and on TV with his memorable turn in The Tudors.

If his role was only physicality then it would be suffice to say he excels in the role, but the script and his dialogue is so bad that it almost felt like he was in the world’s most well made spy parody.

mission-crop-no-wm

Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa continues to be my favorite character in the franchise, sorry Ethan Hunt, but that’s because McQuarrie still manages to make her character mysterious yet vulnerable.

Ferguson ends up stealing every scene she’s in with steely eyed intensity and repressed but emotionally resonant delivery.

Everyone else from the previous entries do a good job with the material, but I think Simon Pegg’s character stopped being funny this time around because there’s only so many times you can put him in a dangerous situation and he complains about it like it’s the first time he’s been put in danger.

One surprising thing about the script was how Ving Rhames was finally able to put in emotional situations and he delivered an expository but lovely monologue about why Tom Cruise returned to duty after getting married.

I know the Mission Impossible franchise is far from an unpredictable series, but they haven’t been made with this much bravado and Oscar worthy technical achievements before.

I’m invested in this world and these characters, and Fallout is a lovely showcase for all these things.

I just wish the writing wasn’t on the wall and I could’ve been more surprised where the story took me, instead of feeling like I was already familiar with almost every destination it landed.  It was like going to a restaurant I really enjoy and it got a professional make over, but the food didn’t get any better.

★★★  A beautifully made spy thriller that lacks a truly great script.

images via Paramount Pictures and Skydance

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