I confess — and please forgive me for mentioning it — I am a newcomer to the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.
What started in 1996 as a film adaptation of a late 1960s TV series gradually turned into one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time. As one who tends to avoid the violence and glamour of action spy films, I chose to sit out the M:I series for most of my life.
I didn’t expect too much upon seeing Mission: Impossible – Fallout. To an extent, I got what I asked for. There’s explosions, gunshots, and literal cliffhangers, but with solid characters and a good story, the film left me constantly guessing where the plot would go next.
Tom Cruise returns in the sixth installment of the “M:I” series as Ethan Hunt, an agent with the “Impossible Missions Force” who’s tasked with saving the world from nuclear-armed terrorists. Like Jason Bourne or Jack Ryan, he’s another American answer to James Bond. At the same time, Hunt is clearly weathered from years of the same old mission. Where he once tried to settle down and have a normal life, we learn that his absence from the world scene has made it a more dangerous place.
His latest mission involves the recovery of three plutonium cores which have fallen into the hands of the international terror group, known as the “Syndicate.” Once his mission becomes compromised, he is forced to make a decision between rescuing his colleague, Luther Stickell (played by the ever-wonderful Ving Rhames) and accomplishing the mission. He chooses the former, rescuing his friend, and winds up losing the plutonium cores. While his colleague lives to see another day, Hunt’s decision results in the plutonium falling further and further into the wrong hands. As he begins his quest to find the plutonium, old friends and foes emerge from Hunt’s past, forcing him to decide which is more important – the fate of his loved ones or the fate of the world.
The story almost has a Goldeneye feel to it. The protagonist is a borderline rogue agent willing to bend the rules in order to accomplish the mission. Unlike Bond, though, Hunt has more humanity in that he’s willing to put the lives of others before the success of a mission. Cruise gives a solid performance as the personally compromised Ethan Hunt. I never once lost interest in him and was able to bond with the character from the start.
The remaining ensemble give stellar performances as well. Usually, apart from the protagonist, we have plenty of throw-away characters replete with one-liners and slapstick gags in vain attempts to provide comic relief, often failing. We don’t get that with this one. They pop up every now and then, but only when necessary. Every actor does his or her part with their given character, who have their own strengths and weaknesses in the story. Plus, the film also stars Angela Bassett – always one to give your film an extra IQ point.
Granted, M:I – Fallout does have its weaknesses, the run-time (2 hours and 28 minutes) serving up the biggest one. While we have a compelling plot with thrilling moments, it does tend to drag towards the end. We’re all on the edge of our seats, which is fine, but when the climax keeps going and going, the suspense tends to dull the senses. But hey, at least the movie kept me in my seat until the credits (unlike, say, Valerian), and I don’t mind being stuck on a rollercoaster, so long as I know the cars are moving closer to the edge.
Is this the best action film in the world? No. Is it the best in the M:I series? Probably, probably not. I’ll let the fans decide on that one. For me, it gets a passing grade. It could have been chopped down by 20-minutes, but even then, it never loses its audience – and that’s what you must shoot for when telling a story.