Staffer Review: Fallout

Ben Bowler, Opinions Editor

The long-running “Mission: Impossible” series, known for its memorable stunts and likable characters, has only gotten better since it began 22 years ago (let’s pretend “Mission: Impossible 2” didn’t happen.)

Thankfully, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” continues this trend to the nth degree. Not only is it the series’s best, but it also one of the best movies of the year, and one of the best action movies of all time.

Perhaps one of “Fallout”’s craziest feats is that it manages to be all of this despite, at least on a surface level, not being terribly different from what has come before. Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) latest mission once again has him tracking deadly weapons to stop dangerous criminal organizations. As one can guess, there’s a strong chance this leads to double-crosses and Tom Cruise running.

Think it sounds like tired clichés? Not entirely. More than any previous “Mission: Impossible” movie, “Fallout” best defines Ethan Hunt as a character. Instead of opening with a bombastic, out-of-context action sequence, “Fallout” is more interested in laying the groundwork for the man we’re about to spend the next 140 minutes with. The films shows that Hunt isn’t just a top-level spy, but he’s also a human being that has strengths, vulnerabilities, and a core set of beliefs. Seeing the impact a spy like Hunt has on the world drives the plot forward in a way none of “Fallout”’s predecessors could.

This also enhances the great character interactions between Hunt and his team. Series veterans such as Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames return to reprise their roles, as well as “Rogue Nation”’s Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin. This helps “Fallout” act as a true sequel, containing clever callbacks and providing emotional closure to previous movies in the series. However, newcomer Henry Cavill steals the show as August Walker, an assassin hired by the CIA to accompany Hunt on his mission. Cavill is a brute presence in his action sequences and his character acts as a great counter-balance to Hunt’s methods, creating a tense dynamic between the two.

Oh, and those action sequences I mentioned? They are insane. They are absolutely, positively, delightfully insane. “Fallout” puts other action movies to shame in terms of choreographing and filming action. I genuinely lost track at the amount of times I thought “How on earth did they get shot?!” or “How did nobody get killed making this?” The iconic theme song is present, but Lorne Balfe’s tense, percussion-heavy score also adds to the tension throughout every action scene as well. Each action sequence is dazzling in its own unique way, and just when I got time to breathe, “Fallout” delivered a stunt that miraculously topped the one before it. Simply put, it’s some of the best action ever put to screen.

Of course, these stunts are performed by none other than Tom Cruise. I don’t know what to say about Tom Cruise that hasn’t already been said, but all the praise bears repeating. If it’s somehow not evident in watching an interview with him, it’s evident while he’s hanging off a helicopter that he loves his fans and he’s willing to commit himself to impossibly dangerous risks for his movies. No other movie star does it all like Tom Cruise does, and there is no doubt about it.

By going to such lengths, Cruise allows returning director Christopher McQuarrie to shoot well-edited action with clarity, eliminating the need for quick and jarring cuts to hide a stunt double. When Tom Cruise isn’t wearing a helmet while speeding on a motorcycle through Paris, the audience knows that Tom Cruise really did this, and it adds all the adrenaline and tension in the world to the scene. The same could be said of all of his stunts in the movie, which are even more impressive upon realizing he’s in his fifties (are we sure he’s not a vampire?) and he broke his ankle during filming.

The wonderful technical elements and thrilling action don’t change the fact that there is awkward dialogue and predictable twists, but the characters were enough to keep me emotionally invested in the story. When I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, minor flaws in the story didn’t ruin my experience.

McQuarrie is the first director in the “Mission: Impossible” series to ever return for a sequel, and it’s clear that him, the cast, and the crew brought their A-games in hopes of delivering an action movie that would be talked about for years to come. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is not only a filmmaking showcase, but a $12 adrenaline rush, and it has to be seen on the biggest theater possible, as quickly as possible, and by as many people as possible.