Photos via Paramount Pictures
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Actor Tom Cruise’s ankle injury back in August 2017, while performing a building-jumping stunt for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” sent production into a seven-week halt, causing the franchise’s fans, critics and distributor Paramount Pictures to wonder if the 56-year-old thespian should stop working in death-teasing action films anymore.
But, while his ankle healed, so did people’s doubts, as when the movie finally hit theaters on July 27, its mission was set on delivering heart-stopping action sequences, a moving musical score — thanks to composer Lorne Balfe — and (mostly) brilliantly-realized characters.
The sixth entry in the 22-year-old “Mission: Impossible” series, “Fallout” sees veteran IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) dealing with a nefarious nuclear threat, a reformed terrorist group called the Apostles, anarchist frontman Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), and shockingly, Hunt’s own ex-wife, Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan).
The Apostles want to “cleanse” the world by wreaking havoc, wishing to attack religious areas like the Vatican, Jerusalem and Mecca. It’s later revealed Lane wants to compromise the water supply at Kashmir, thereby affecting one-third of Earth’s population there, in neighboring India, Pakistan and China. Also, Hunt and his team have to obtain three deadly plutonium cores which could only happen after extracting Lane from an armored convoy in Paris, France.
This blur in heroism and sacrifice helps raise Hunt and his team’s stakes dangerously high, while pushing them to become more conflicted individuals who have to make many life-changing decisions.
While old faces return, the film is populated with new ones too, starting with Superman himself, Henry Cavill, starring as the infamously-moustached CIA assassin August Walker. Angela Bassett plays Walker’s boss and CIA Director Erica Sloane, whose onscreen presence alone emits superiority. Vanessa Kirby, who played the regal Princess Margaret on Netflix’s “The Crown,” appears as the mysterious White Widow, an elegant black market arms dealer who literally is not afraid to raise a knife, should danger arrive.
Hunt’s team comprises of fan-favorite and technical field agent Benjamin “Benji” Dunn (Simon Pegg), hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), and IMF Secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin).
Perhaps “Fallout” took notes from recent acclaimed blockbuster films of other long-running franchises like 2012’s “Skyfall,” 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
First, like those franchises, the “Mission: Impossible” series celebrates how far it has come since its first film in 1996, by having many familiar faces come back, which thanks to great writing, mixes well with newcomers who add new depth into the series. Second, it does not shy away from the cast’s, particularly its main actor’s, age, as Cruise’s wrinkles, for example, are gradually more pronounced here in “Fallout.” Conversely, Cruise looks quite young while sporting a navy blue bomber jacket both on the film’s poster and in several scenes, too.
Just like Cruise’s impressive physique, the film’s action ages like wine and almost feels like a roller-coaster adventure, with the audience sometimes assuming the first-person perspective and gaining a front-row seat to the characters’ perils.
Unlike 2011’s “Ghost Protocol” where it explored extreme heights by featuring Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, “Fallout” somewhat feels more grounded, with racing scenes through Parisian streetlife, a trek across London’s skyline, and a helicopter chase in Kashmir. “Fallout” operates on a harsher, grittier level, unlike many other action films that rely on emotionless, CGI-reliant effects.
Cruise did many of the film’s life-threatening stunts, like famously jumping across buildings, hanging on for dear life to an airborne helicopter, and cruising full-speed along Paris’ narrow roads. Hearing his real grunts and cursing on-screen whenever he missed a mark was genuinely felt by the audience, who was rooting for him to get to his target, or eliminate an enemy.
Herein comes the next magical ingredient: its riveting music score. Composer Lorne Balfe maintained a strong balance between heart-thumping background music, and slower, moody tunes. The rapid changes in tempo to accommodate action and dialogue scenes alike were impressive, owing to how even during non-action scenes, there was always some sense of underlying urgency throughout.
One highlight was when a speeding Hunt, accompanied by an incapacitated Lane in the passenger seat, has to flee from the White Widow’s forces (whom he betrayed), the French police and Faust (whose mission at the time was to kill Lane for MI6), while maneuvering through the Parisian streets. Ironically, there was zero music in this scene, and the audience could clearly hear it all: the gear shift changes, the revving engines, screeching tires, the harsh braking, car crashes, the police’s blaring sirens from afar and Faust’s plentiful gunshots.
This unsettling yet impactful sequence was the moment when the “Mission: Impossible” series proves to viewers that the franchise can still powerfully deliver qualitative content, despite its age, competition from other well-established action flicks, and sometimes convoluted storylines.
At its center, Tom Cruise is the de facto commander, expertly handling motorcycles, city skylines, helicopters, cliffs, swanky nightclubs, snowy mountains and even romantic pursuits, all across different countries.
Parallelism is a theme in “Fallout” as Hunt’s past, in the form of his ex-wife, catches up with his ever-treacherous present. The sheer chase scenes also display Hunt either catching up to or fleeing from enemies, regardless of on foot, motorcycle, car or helicopter. Walker, sent to accompany Hunt on his mission despite Hunt’s disapproval, is another example of two forces acting collectively, while on the same pace.
In fact, when Hunt and Faust slowed to privately speak in Paris, they literally walked in parallel, while standing afar, to find a secluded spot. Furthermore, two plutonium cores were activated to detonate simultaneously during the film’s climactic Kashmir battle. This sense of knowing that something or someone was always right there beside Hunt’s team to cause danger, all added to the film’s high thrills and stakes.
While there’s no confirmed news of another “Mission: Impossible” film yet, Cruise remains a member of Hollywood’s older male action-hungry elite, alongside Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington and Daniel Craig. He will also star in 2019’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to 1986’s classic “Top Gun.”