‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ Review: An Antidote to Superhero Fatigue

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movie Reviews Movies
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Review Essentials
  • Ambitious and mind-blowing stunt upgrade
  • A superhero movie without powers
  • An enthralling final battle
  • Cavill and Cruise is a match made in heaven
  • A handful of jarring, outdated moments

What is Mission: Impossible – Fallout?

The sixth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Fallout brings back villain Solomon Lane from Rogue Nation and teams him up with mysterious newcomer John Lark. The duo are intent on fulfilling their own sides of their bargain, with Lane out for vengeance and Lark with less immediately obvious plans. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise’s Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt must deal with bad dreams and a mission gone wrong as well as former allies — all while the finger of suspicion points at him — as he attempts to save the skins of his colleagues, a face from the past, and the world.

The Thrills Build

The thing that’s universally loved about the Mission: Impossible films is the action. And we’re not just talking standard action here. We’re talking real, actual, physical stunts. The kind of set pieces that involve a real Tom Cruise clinging on to the side of a real plane, or stunt-flying a genuine airborne helicopter. While filming Fallout, Cruise famously broke his ankle during a stunt that saw him slam into a wall, halting production for two months. But it’s precisely his, and the entire team’s, dedication to capturing real stunts on camera that keeps audiences coming back for more. And if the films didn’t constitute much more than decent action fare in the early days of the franchise, in an age when green screen is the order of the day, the Mission: Impossible movies are really starting to stand out.

The film’s running time may seem prohibitively long at two and a half hours, but in Fallout the stunts grow progressively thrilling rather than become tiresome — a feat in itself. Just when you think the next action sequence can’t top the last one, the film goes and pulls off the impossible. But then impossible missions are the Mission: Impossible thing. There’s a bathroom scene teased in the trailer that pits Hunt and Henry Cavill’s CIA operative August Walker against a bad guy that’s everything you want from a fight scene, complete with post-tussle blood pool on the floor that they pass off as a nosebleed. And then there’s that wincing finale – more on which later.

Mission Impossible
Tom Cruise in action as Ethan Hunt.

Camp Cavill

Henry Cavill as a morally questionable assassin (is there any other kind?) is on marvellously camp form. He even has the dastardly moustache to twirl – you know, the one that he was notoriously contractually obliged to keep during Justice League re-shoots. Cavill makes a charismatic foil to Cruise’s veteran Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt, a screen pairing that you’d like to see more of. Cavill’s August Walker is straight out of the pages of a comic book. Which is interesting since Cavill also plays that most heroic of comic book characters on screen, Superman.

For film fans who like their baddies full-on, unsettlingly, unpredictably evil, Sean Harris is back and straitjacketed up as Syndicate chief, Solomon Lane. Remember The Syndicate from Rogue Nation? An organisation the chilling Lane hijacked and turned into a terrorist cell. Well, the cell was disbanded after the last film — but if anything Lane is even more of a threat here. Harris is certainly on terrifying form.

Story Takes a Backseat

The story won’t win any awards for originality – there are plutonium cores, a couple of nuclear warheads and a race against time to foil a plot to deploy said weapons. But Mission: Impossible isn’t about the story so much as it is about depicting the cross and the double cross, the feints that always get you, the humour and banter, and Ethan Hunt always figuring it out in the most complicated/dangerous/implausible way possible after declaring with a shrug: “I’ll figure it out”. Not to mention the sheer sense of fun.

And while all M:I films exist and work as standalone movies, Fallout takes just enough inspiration from contemporary blockbusters – specifically Marvel’s successes — by pulling in some strands from previous films. In the process, tying loose strings and further unravelling others. It’s not the only trick it borrows from Marvel, and DC come to that.

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Action is crucial to Mission: Impossible -- and Fallout gets it right at almost every turn.

Superhero Inspiration

The film mainlines adrenaline. And while there’s something nostalgic to plug into about its good, old-fashioned, practical stunts — it’s what the franchise is known for — there’s also something pretty contemporary about it. Cavill isn’t cast for nothing. There are more parallels with what’s going on in the world of comic-book movies here than you can shake a stick at.

So much of the action is completely, breathtakingly implausible. When Hunt crash lands via parachute on the Grand Palais in Paris; when he’s following directions from Simon Pegg’s Benji, running and jumping through office blocks and rooftops in London; when he’s carrying out a daring helicopter escapade — all of it is worthy of superhero antics. And yet Hunt is just a man. So is Batman, of course.

That ending, too — which we won’t spoil here — is a supervillain origin story if ever you saw one. Oh, and the whole evil mastermind-style plot is one straight out of the Thanos, or even Darkseid, copybook. The message is clear: why turn to superhero fare for world-ending stakes when you’ve got evil, fallible humans who’ll do it both better, and worse?

And because Mission: Impossible — Fallout favours the real over the virtual, there’s something about it that feels refreshing. Despite a small handful of odd instances that remind you this thriller was born in the ’90s with outdated cheesy moments and borderline-offensive women characters and their place in the plot. Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow is a two-dimensional bad girl who uses her sexuality to manipulate men; Michelle Monaghan’s Julia has a speech all about how she’s only the woman she’s become because of a man (Hunt); a fleetingly present policewoman is gunned down and then suffers an awkward interaction with Hunt that’s kinda “me, male protector; you weak, pretty thing”; and then there’s Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa who is clearly pining for Hunt and diminished as a person as a result. But that’s a whole other article in itself. Ultimately, Fallout is both an antidote to superhero fatigue and a shot in the arm for the contemporary action movie.

Is Mission: Impossible – Fallout Good?

With an ambitious and mind-blowing upgrade to the franchise’s stunts, Mission: Impossible –- Fallout could be the most thrilling and fun instalment in the franchise yet. Adding Henry Cavill to the cast for this sixth outing alongside Sean Harris’s returning bad guy Solomon Lane was a masterstroke, and he makes a great match for Tom Cruise’s IMF agent. While the franchise is great at constructing an action movie for the times with each new instalment –- here, it borrows elements from comic-book movies –- it buckles under the weight of having one foot in the ’90s when it comes to the women characters. Let’s call that work in progress and keep our hopes high for Mission: Impossible 7.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout hits screens in the UK on July 25, the US on July 27 and Australia on August 2.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.