Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Bruce Steele: I’m not the best audience for Mission: Impossible movies because I find them all so shallow that I can’t recall much of anything about them afterwards. Some are fun-shallow, though. Was Mission: Impossible - Fallout fun for you?
Edwin Arnaudin: For the most part, yes, though the story drags on so long that I became acutely aware of just how preposterous much of the action is. In the previous installments, I’ve largely been able to suspend disbelief and go with it, but that wasn’t the case here, especially at the end. Did you have similar issues?
Bruce: I had issues from the get-go, because I thought the plot was not only preposterous but transparent, and the action sequences over-extended and unsurprising, which basically sinks this kind of movie. Most tellingly, except for a glaringly obvious ploy early on and one good trick late in the game, Fallout loses touch with the franchise’s signature gimmick: The elaborate con games the IMF team conceives to trick the bad guys into giving themselves away. This one was just chase after chase after chase.
Edwin: The premise of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team globetrotting to recover stolen plutonium didn’t have to play out with nonstop action. But that’s what writer/director Christopher McQuarrie decides to do, so blame him as well as star/producer Cruise for keeping him around for consecutive chapters, abandoning the series’ previous fresh voice approach with each new film.
Bruce: Yes, I think Cruise’s well-publicized obsession with performing his own stunts played into the script writing here, for the worse. There aren’t even any new IMF team members, which seemed an especially unwise choice. At this point I have to warn you and our readers: I can’t continue to talk about this movie without some major spoilers. So-called spoilers, anyway, since the movie’s main “twist” was clear from one co-star’s first appearance.
Edwin: That’s fair. From the film’s trailers, I figured CIA Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) was going to be the villain, but when he started working alongside Ethan — despite a dangerous rebel attitude, initially on display in a skydiving stunt that I did quite like — I thought perhaps it was a clever marketing ploy on the studio’s part. But no.
Bruce: When there’s a star on board in a supposedly supporting role, and the main villain is an alias without a face, it’s hard to pretend for long, but this movie drags out the reveal for more than an hour. And I have to say, Cavill makes a terrible sociopath; he speaks the words but never seems the least villainous.
Edwin: It’s an odd bit of casting that might have worked better if Superman had a convincing second acting gear.
Bruce: Then there’s the opposite ploy with Isla (Rebecca Ferguson), Ethan’s love interest from Rogue Nation, who’s introduced as an assassin who appears to be trying to kill Ethan but somehow keeps missing her shots. Gee, do we think she’ll turn out to be an ally?
Edwin: Her inevitable immersion into the IMF team in the final act is sloppily handled, and the whole subplot about Ethan potentially being that “alias without a face” all along is a screwy bit of writing that needs a ton more doubt cast on his character to be remotely plausible. And all this from the guy who gave us The Usual Suspects!
Bruce: Yes, the screenwriting is quite a comedown for McQuarrie. I found this movie aggressively insulting, but maybe other viewers will feel clever to always be several steps ahead of the plot. Either way, I can’t imagine the attempt to spin an emotional life for cold-fish Ethan really adds much for anybody. Were you moved?
Edwin: I bought it in J.J. Abrams’ M:I-iii, still my favorite of the series, because it was well-established from the opening scenes. But it’s ineffective here and truly is secondary to the montage of action that’s overtaken these films under McQuarrie’s watch. That’s not to say I wasn’t frequently entertained, though the lack of intrigue involved leads to less memorable sequences. Plus, the effects work employed in parts of the Paris motorcycle chase and elsewhere give many of the stunts a cartoonish feel. Are any of these set pieces going to stick with you?
Bruce: The low-tech foot chase through London amused me more than any of the big FX sequences. There’s a helicopter chase that just gets completely ridiculous when it’s supposed to be suspenseful. At least the fist fights are mostly well done — at least until the silliness at the end, which I won’t spoil.
Edwin: Walker’s bruising style of fighting — so different from Ethan’s precision ways — is Cavill’s gift to the series and lends itself to multiple laughs simply for its extreme macho nature. But yes, it's the helicopter insanity that invites a level of scrutiny that should never occur for extended periods in a reality-rooted adventure. It solidified my feeling that while McQuarrie is capable of crafting great scenes, he’s kind of a bullshit director.
Bruce: That may be. I liked Rogue Nation OK, but don’t ask me to tell you anything about it three years later. This one I may remember longer just because so much of it was screamingly awful. I was entertained now and again, and it’s hard not to like Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, so I’ll be generous and give this one a D-plus.
Edwin: I’m glad Rhames keeps getting work thanks to these films, though he looks a bit like Tracy Morgan’s clone here. The expansion of Pegg’s Benji has been a pleasant constant over the past four M:Is and Alec Baldwin as IMF Sect. Hunley is a welcome touch. I clearly had more fun than you did with Fallout, but wouldn’t be sad if the series came to a halt...unless a more interested director wants a crack at it. C-plus for me.
Grade: C. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photos: Paramount Pictures)