Mission: Impossible – Fallout review: Franchise-best stunts let down by convoluted plot

Tom Cruise's latest stunt display is jaw-dropping, but the star is surrounded by a dreary set of supporting characters

Christopher Hooton
Friday 13 July 2018 13:12 BST
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"Why did you have to make it so fucking complicated?" Henry Cavill bellows somewhere around the two-hour mark of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, a sentiment I shared while watching the franchise's latest instalment, which is replete with truly outstanding action sequences but marred by the most convoluted M:I plot to date.

When an IMF mission goes seriously awry (and I mean seriously, Ethan probably should have retired on the spot given the apocalyptic repercussions) Hunt sets about cleaning up his mess, attempting to thwart a terrorist group while - as is M:I tradition - his bosses assume he's gone rogue.

Double-crossing and heists-within-heists are trademarks of the franchise and partly what make it so fun, but here characters outmanoeuvre each other so flippantly and incessantly that after a while you just stop caring. This, however, is the secret to getting the most out of Fallout, which is best enjoyed not as a narrative but a festoon of set-pieces. Tom Cruise's insistence on doing his own stunts is now such a big part of the series that I'm not sure it could carry on if he suddenly decides he no longer wants to risk dying in a ball of fire and helicopter propeller blades on a remote mountain. This real-world peril has become the central appeal of the films as we wonder just how far directors, insurers and on-set health and safety reps will let the Cruiser go before saying enough is enough.

Mission: Impossible Fallout - Official Trailer

Clearly, they're not at that point yet. Cruise outdoes himself with Fallout, parkour-ing over London rooftops, carving through traffic around the Arc de Triomphe on a motorbike and clinging from helicopters and cliff faces in Kashmir. A particularly sensational stunt revolves around a HALO (high altitude, low open) skydive, which during filming saw Cruise jump out of a plane many thousands of feet in the air and not open his parachute until he was close enough to the ground that larger canidae could be made out and various fauna identified. He emphasis the danger of the manoeuvre in the film, succinctly telling a fellow skydiver to be careful to deploy the chute in time or "the last thing that goes through your mind will be your knees."

Cruise is an iconic and eminently meme-able sprinter, and sprints like never before here across multiple continents. That Tom Cruise will one day be too old to sprint for our pleasure makes me profoundly sad.

Every ounce of credit I can summon goes to Cruise and his fellow stuntmen and coordinators and choreographers, then, who have undoubtedly managed the franchise's (and possible the genre's) most thrilling action sequences to date without relying on VFX. It's only a shame that other elements of the production let them down.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout Featurette - This Is A Halo Jump

The supporting cast of Fallout are dreadful. Henry Cavill is barely sentient as CIA agent August Walker, while Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust manages to be not only devoid of a discernible personality but completely superfluous to the plot. Simon Pegg continues to provide unnecessary and perfunctory comic relief as computer whizz Benji, while Ving Rhames is underused, as always, back in his role of fixer Luther Stickell. Then there's the villains, who are of vague and inscrutable evilness, beardy Brits with very thin and inexplicable plans for world destruction.

In fairness, Alec Baldwin's IMF Secretary invigorates the few scenes he is in, and Vanessa Kirby's broker character White Widow deserved a bigger piece of the action, but the general impression is of charisma machine Tom Cruise carrying everyone through this breathtaking and yet somehow wearying 147 minutes.

Fallout has an unexpectedly beautiful score, is pleasingly assembled - with washed-out pink/cream hue - and has a hulking overall tone to it that is a departure for the series and falls somewhere in-between Heat and Sicario. That's not a bad area to be in, but while its action chops outstrip both, in terms of narrative and character Fallout lags behind. The IMF team's historic predilection for rubber face masks, night-at-the-opera hijinks and a generally theatrical approach to sleuthing is mocked by the new guard at the CIA in the film as archaic and whimsical, but I for one miss it.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is in UK cinemas 25 July.

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