9/10 I came into Mission: Impossible — Fallout wondering, if these movies are so good, why can I barely remember any of them?
I won’t be forgetting Fallout any time soon.
In the film’s opening, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team loses enough plutonium to fuel three nuclear weapons. They are sent to retrieve them, but only under the supervision of CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill and his glorious $3 million mustache), who is authorized to kill him for any false move. Hunt continues his mission trying to save the world from impending nuclear annihilation, but tensions mount between him and Walker.
The Mission: Impossible series is all about stunts, and Fallout has got stunts. This movie is wall-to-wall bone-crunching, pulse-pounding, seat-clenching action jammed down your eye-holes at breakneck pace. Early on it was called the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road, which is actually a great comparison — it’s just as action dense and similarly tells its story as a ballet of death-tempting feats.
Almost every individual scene is a highlight. The skydiving scene is probably my favorite, certainly the very early moment when I realized this movie was something special, but there’s also the bathroom scene, and then there’s the motorcycle chase scene, and then there’s a car chase scene right after that, and then the amazing double- no wait, triple- no wait, quadruple- no wait, quintuple cross scene right after that, and then there’s a foot chase scene right after that, and then the completely bananas helicopter chase scene — it’s absolutely non-stop. For 147 minutes, which feel a lot closer to 90, Fallout barely ever slows down.
The relentless forward momentum is used to excite not only through stunts, but through extremely well disguised plot twists — Fallout had me completely fooled at multiple points in the runtime because of its refusal to slow down.
In another similarity to Fury Road, Fallout weaves a deceptively evocative story into all this crazy action. We just mentioned flat character arcs, and this is another one done very well on close inspection — though, you kind of have to inspect closely to see a plot at all. Hunt is established as unwilling to trade lives in the very first scene. He’s set against the Apostles, an international terrorist network that wants to nuke holy sites, and contrasted with Walker, who kills with reckless abandon on the job. The Apostles seem to believe that mass murder will lead to a lengthy period of world peace, and that on the balance they’ll be saving more lives than they’re taking, and if you really believe that, there are some lines of thinking that would say bombing Jerusalem is your moral obligation.
Looking past the speculation and utter insanity of that belief, through his actions, Hunt disagrees with even the notion of this line of thought. The math doesn’t matter to him at all — at one point, he kills four people to save one. His refusal to even participate in this sort of trolley problem drives the film emotionally. He’s not just opposed to the Apostles taking innocent lives, he’s opposed philosophically to the reason they’re doing it.
In a movie this good, it’s worth pointing out imperfections — while most of Fallout is serious and trim, almost to the point of being somber, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) starts making technical mistakes as eye-rolling jokes in the foot chase scene. The exposition is also fairly heavy in the first couple of scenes in spots where it really doesn’t need to be — we don’t need to know the details of exactly how you’re verifying the plutonium, it’s very obvious that’s what you’re doing.
There aren’t any systemic nitpicks, though, they’re limited to those individual scenes, and there are many more positive nitpicks in the better scenes. The slow build up in the bathroom and bike scenes, the dialogue — writer/director Christopher McQuarrie uses numerous pairs of repeated lines, a technique that should feel tacky, to absolutely spectacular effect. Repetition is used as character establishment, it’s used as a reveal a couple of different times, and then there are other clever lines like, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it” — every line is so perfect and perfectly placed, it feels like there’s three lines’ worth of meaning in every one. It’s put together almost as gracefully as the action itself.
Even the music is exceptional — Lorne Balfe’s haunting “Should you choose to accept” magnifies several key moments when Hunt realizes life is catching up with him. This piece what gives Fallout its grim feel, what makes me think they might actually let the nukes go off.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.