MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
OUT 19 NOVEMBER Digital HD 3 DECEMBER DVD, BD, 4K EXTRAS Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted scenes, Storyboards (BD)
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.