Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review – Does 20 Years Work In Action Franchises?

There isn’t exactly a shortage these days of action movie stars who are approaching, or are actually over, 50, but the Mission: Impossible series sets itself up as a thrill ride among thrill rides. Much has already been made about Tom Cruise’s efforts at performing stunts, many of them a challenge at any age. Still, the real question is whether or not a franchise holds up after twenty years of sequels, whatever the age of the stars.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, as the name implies, revolves around dealing with the aftermath of the teams previous exploits, but also the fallout of a certain decision our man Hunt makes in the process of… well, dealing with that first fallout.

We’re familiar with the players, and Hunt’s mission of the moment is getting nuclear material out of the hands of bad guys, but there are a lot of steps in that process. You can’t just walk up to the terrorists who want to end the world as we know it. You have to cozy up to sultry bad women, monkey with their plans to break other bad guys out of jail, make trades for bad guys after you kidnap them, and all while your previous allies are trying to off bad guys, whether you want them to or not. If there weren’t a lot of steps, there wouldn’t be a lot of chase scenes.

The trouble with a franchise that’s gone on this long is that it loses touch with its own sense of self, and gets bored with its own gimmick. As much as Fallout lives up to everything you might hope for from a pulse-pounding action movie, there’s little about it that connects it to the franchise, and what there is seems almost begrudgingly included and is largely irrelevant.

When Tom Cruise is on the run, or marvelously struggling through a fight, the movie is as engaging as anything the franchise has managed, but when it comes to the plot, the “team,” and the effort to solve the problem, it falls flat.

In Fallout, Hunt’s initial play is to buy the missing nuclear material directly, but the deal goes sideways when the clandestine group Hunt actually wants to keep it from shows up and ultimately makes off with it. Getting it back is going to be tricky enough, but with the MI team in the dog house, Hunt has to bring another agent, August Walker (Henry Cavill), along for the ride.

Things are already going wrong for the film, because it puts forward a story, as usual, filled with feints within feints, but everything it does that actually moves the plot is awkward and obvious. There’s little in the MI toolbox beyond putting on masks, and the film already tips its hand to the fact that its irritated at having to work new versions of the utterly hokey “mask pull off.” 

The more the film goes on, the further it gets from caring about its franchise. In the end, there’s no plan, or way to make one, and we’ve come up with a cutesy disarming problem, that doesn’t actually make sense, apparently because we already bought the helicopters and need an excuse to include them.

That said, when the crew is on, it’s hard not to love whatever happens. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are unfortunately relegated to appearances that are a short step from cameos, but they deliver when they are around. The hype around Cruise’s stunts is well-deserved, because some of them are unbelievable, even if others make for lackluster moves in the action. Climbing the helicopter rope for the second time, for example, was a yawn-inducing effort to add another meaningless minute to the film.

The plot may struggle, and it isn’t around much anyway, but the film at least makes good on the action side of things. The MI team only surfaces in any consequential way to get us through one choreographed chase, and to use the mask to get information everyone already knew, but a film that serves up this much fun should probably only lose so much because it doesn’t spend enough time on plot.

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Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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