Tom Cruise has been playing Ethan Hunt for 22 years now. And in that time, he has not only provided audiences with some of the most stunning stunts ever committed to screen, but he has also given us a character that stands toe to toe with the greatest ever to light up a movie house. This is not just because Ethan is one hell of a bad ass (which he undoubtedly is). No, the real reason that Ethan stands above the rest is that when he is given the impossible decision of saving one life or a million, he will do everything that he can to save them all. Which is the real core of this film. There may be a great big plot of twists and turns, but at the center is Ethan’s morality and it’s the heart of the whole thing.
Now, this particular adventure might take a minute to get off the ground, but when it starts to fly, it soars, and it absolutely doesn’t let up until you are gasping for air. Then, while you’re catching your breathe, the movie delivers an emotional kick to the gut or a piece of plotting so clever that your cheeks will light up like Christmas lights. The whole thing is really such a visceral experience that audiences are likely to be rocked to their very core by the intensity of everything that’s transpiring. They truly won’t know what hit them when it’s all over. Movies this expertly crafted don’t come along very often, and certainly not six movies into a major franchise, but the feeling of something special at play here is undeniable.
There are at least a half dozen scenes in this movie that are truly great enough to warrant inclusion alongside the greatest films of all time. There’s a sky diving sequence that makes all before it seem like child’s play. There is a helicopter chase that makes every other aerial pursuit in film history look like a slow ride to grandma’s house. There are several car chases that give ‘The French Connection’ a run for its money. And in between all this spectacle are moments of genuine heart that will completely catch you off guard. In fact, one of those great scenes is actually a complete surprise that comes right in between two unforgettable vehicle chase sequences and it exemplifies the heart of Ethan’s character in two breathtaking minutes of compassion.
That compassion leads over to a late sequence where Ving Rhames reveals a secret in Ethan’s past to Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 agent Faust. While it may have been a long time coming, this sequence gives Rhames the opportunity to provide Luther some true depth and Ethan a powerful back story. I shit you not, I was moved to tears in this film for the first time in the entire franchise.
The basic plot mechanics of the film involve some plutonium that’s going to be used to create 3 nuclear explosions and the CIA implanting an agent named Walker (Henry Cavill) into the IMF in order to recover the plutonium at all costs. There is a lot of discussion about the methods of the ancient IMF and how it is just a Halloween act, but the execution of the mission provides proof that an agency with empathy is needed in our troubling times. And that execution is really where ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’ excels above just about every other action film you have ever seen. It is not hyperbole to tell you that this film borrows quite a bit from the Christopher Nolan playbook and then raises the bar as high as it can. You will not know what hit you.
Lorne Balfe’s propulsive score, Rob Hardy’s death defying cinematography, Christopher McQuarrie’s writing, and his direction all raise the bar. However, it’s the actors that sell this drama, and it’s some pretty memorable drama that fills in the gaps of these action set pieces. Henry Cavill gives the best performance of his life as a CIA assassin. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames get to show a bit more emotion and physicality. Rebecca Ferguson delivers the action goods, but with real heart this time. And Tom Cruise lays bare everything he can for this role. No role could require more from an actor and he commits 110%. It’s that commitment from him, and everyone around him, that makes this film one of the best of 2018!