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Total Film - - Contents -

Tom Cruise de­liv­ers the im­pos­si­ble: a se­ries-best on the sixth in­stal­ment.

Your mis­sion, should you choose to ac­cept it…” That con­di­tional tense has al­ways been a bit of an in-joke to view­ers of the Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble films. Tom Cruise, the most en­thu­si­as­tic of movie stars, never shies away from the im­pos­si­ble, even down to sus­tain­ing a bro­ken an­kle in the pur­suit of ever more re­al­is­tic stunt work. Yet per­haps the most com­pelling el­e­ment of Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Fall­out (Cruise’s big­gest box-of­fice hit to date) is that this re­ally is a film about mak­ing choices.

So, from the taut open­ing se­quence in which Ethan Hunt toys with nu­clear Ar­maged­don – be­cause he can’t let his old pal Luther (Ving Rhames) die – this is a story about the con­se­quences of his ac­tions. The ‘fall­out’ of the ti­tle isn’t just re­fer­ring to global de­struc­tion, but also the emo­tional af­ter­shocks on friends and col­leagues.

Just as the Fast & Fu­ri­ous fran­chise has be­come an on­go­ing soap opera about fam­ily, so the sixth M:I film

picks up el­e­ments of its pre­de­ces­sors, be­ing a near-con­tin­u­a­tion of the last film, Rogue Na­tion, as well as a be­lated se­quel to 2006’s M:I-3.

In do­ing so, it pro­vides a the­mat­i­cally nu­anced, re­al­is­tic(-ish) look at a man like Ethan. There’s no way such a de­cent, moral guy would be the tool of a world power that has to take tough choices – and the film stresses that it’s this out­lier at­ti­tude that makes him a rogue agent. He­roes, like vil­lains, have to be dif­fer­ent, and this is an un­usual main­stream Amer­i­can film in that it’s an im­plicit re­buke to the usual ag­gres­sive tools of the in­tel­li­gence trade, as es­sayed by Hunt’s unasked-for part­ner, CIA agent Au­gust Walker (Henry Cav­ill).


So the film makes a choice: to be smarter and more sub­stan­tial than its pre­de­ces­sors. But that it­self is a con­se­quence of the big­gest choice of all – to stick with a re­turn­ing di­rec­tor, in a se­ries that has al­ways pre­ferred to twist. So, while Rogue Na­tion was fran­chise debu­tant Christo­pher McQuar­rie’s chance to com­pete with pre­vi­ous helmers De Palma, Woo, Abrams and Bird, there’s no need for him to play so self-con­sciously with style this time.

In­stead, there’s a ro­bust­ness to the film. If McQuar­rie was do­ing Hitch­cock be­fore, this time he’s do­ing McQuar­rie. There’s no elab­o­rate heist and even the mask se­quences fur­ther the story’s themes. Front and cen­tre are sus­tained, mus­cu­lar jug­ger­nauts of ac­tion, where the ten­sion comes from see­ing prac­ti­cal

stunts in all their sinew-snap­ping, metal-crunch­ing so­lid­ity.

The film is a con­spic­u­ous re­turn to clas­si­cal car­nage after the pell-mell edit­ing of the Ja­son Bourne films or the CGI an­tics of the Fast & Fu­ri­ous crew. In the mid­dle of it all is Cruise, driv­ing, fly­ing and run­ning up, down, left, right and (in the film’s best gag) in cir­cles. He’s in his mid-fifties and should prob­a­bly have started to slow down by now. But he hasn’t. He’s cho­sen to ac­cept, and that’s our gain.

The stunt work rightly takes pride of place on the ex­tras, with eight fea­turettes de­voted to break­ing down some of Fall­out’s key se­quences. It’s a mark of the film’s gob-smack­ing au­dac­ity that the scin­til­lat­ing, bonecrush­ing night­club toi­let scrap – which would be the high­light of any other ac­tion film – doesn’t even war­rant the be­hind-the-scenes treat­ment. That’s be­cause any movie star can throw a few punches. But un­der­tak­ing a Halo dive? Pi­lot­ing a he­li­copter? Fall­ing from a he­li­copter? There’s only one guy com­mit­ted – or love­ably crazy – enough to choose to do those.


There’s con­sid­er­able irony in lay­ing out the nuts and bolts of these se­quences, when the film it­self dis­plays such plea­sure in the WYSIWYG re­al­ity of Cruise per­form­ing the stunts him­self. In­stead, the fea­turettes be­come an in­creas­ingly un­be­liev­able litany of facts and fig­ures about the lengths the star/ pro­ducer and his crew went to achieve them.

Did you know that, for the Halo jump, Cruise prac­tised dozens of sky­dives to get the in­tri­cate tim­ing and block­ing just right, be­cause they had three min­utes per day to nail the shot, freefalling from 25,000 feet, be­fore the sun set? Or that Cruise spent two years learn­ing to pi­lot a he­li­copter un­til he could achieve the de­sired pro­fi­ciency to run a per­ilous corkscrew dive? As stunt co-or­di­na­tor( and Taika Waititi sound alike) Wade East­wood dead pans, “You re­ally have to be on your A-game” to do this.

There’s one fur­ther sur­prise: an en­tire fea­turette de­tail­ing the set-piece that takes Ethan and Walker from night­club roof to dance­floor. This in­volves the star swing­ing 120ft from the ceil­ing of Paris’ Grand Palais. Again, yes, Cruise re­ally did it, leav­ing his long-suf­fer­ing crew with yet more worry lines. An­other se­quence of stag­ger­ing nerve and craft, a fur­ther in­ductee in the M:I hall of fame of in­sane stunts – only this time they chose to cut it to main­tain the story’s flat-out mo­men­tum. When you can lose some­thing that good, you know you’ve raised the bar for the ac­tion movie. Si­mon Kin­n­ear

‘it’s a con­spic­u­ous re­turn to clas­si­cal car­nage’

SUM­MER SMaSH The lip-rugged Henry Cav­ill, as CIA man Au­gust Walker (be­low); Re­becca Fer­gu­son is back as Ilsa Faust (above left).

Cruise likes to treat his com­mute to set as a warm-up ex­er­cise.

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