I walked out of Mission: Impossible—Fallout (2018) still trying to catch my breath from the 147 minutes of near-relentless action. After an afternoon of thought, I had a review outlined in my head, ready to write up the next day. And then, while I slept the sleep of the just, Brian Tallerico went ahead and published a review that says most of what I wanted to say, but much, much better. In sum, this film is elevated action. Believe the hype—all of it.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie doesn’t mess around; we come to action films for action, and McQuarrie doesn’t subordinate the other filmic elements to the action, he carefully molds the action to incorporate other elements into a flowing, organic whole: character, theme, location (that shot of the Arc de Triomphe!). The fight scenes are shot and edited to achieve complete viewer-identification with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), especially one scene that comes off as a quieter, more coherent, and more exciting version of the casino fight scene in Black Panther (2018). There’re also a couple of callbacks to the Henry Cavill of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) during the Paris chase sequence.
Speaking of the Paris chase sequence, did you know that the Cruise of every shot in the foot chase had an ankle that had yet to fully heal? You can read about that, the 106 HALO jumps, and a truckload of other insanity in this piece about the stunts.
Having said all that, I was surprised to find good acting (see this penetrating piece by David Ehrlich) and a ludicrously complex but logical and thematically resonant plot. The film is about Hunt trying to make up for a failed mission and having to choose the lesser of two evils at every turn. He tries to make good choices, but everything just keeps biting him in the ass. The refrain of the film, “We’re working on it [a plan],” alludes to Hunt’s greatest strength and weakness: relying on skill and resources over forethought. The film portrays itself as a conflict between saving the many (Angela Bassett’s CIA Director Erica Sloane) and saving the near (Alec Baldwin’s IMF Secretary Alan Hunley), but the more accurate conflict is between chess and D&D. In the end, the film (barely) agrees with Helmuth von Moltke: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”