Fallout… a title that can’t deliver.
I have a soft spot for the Mission: Impossible franchise. They’re ridiculous, overblown excuses for Tom Cruise to do extreme stunts, sure, but they’re always a lot of fun. I love the fact that each film has a director with a radically different style, leading to action films that feel very distinct from each other, even with the same characters and plot. Tom Cruise is always game for more and more insanely dangerous stunts, which means that even if the plot can be a little uninteresting at times, we can always look forward to some breath-taking action. All in all, while I wouldn’t call these films my all-time favourites, I enjoy each movie that comes out quite a bit. With that said, this is probably the least I’ve enjoyed a Mission Impossible film in a long time.
Let me explain. I did like this movie, in fact I’d say I had an above average amount of fun with it, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at the end of it. While it has a lot of creative action scenes, it has several major flaws which I couldn’t quite ignore. Firstly, the film has a desire to become an emotional, dramatic experience. There are many scenes dedicated to the guilt Ethan Hunt feels for how he has changed his ex-wife’s life and how he affects the people around him. His ex-wife returns at the climax of the film to lend the final scenes extra stakes, and she and Luther have an emotional moment whilst defusing an actual nuclear bomb. There are so many tense scenes in which Hunt’s close friends are threatened with death. Ving Rhames’ character is held at gunpoint, Simon Pegg’s Benji is almost hanged. But what makes these attempts fail to land for me is that they don’t matter. The film loves half measures. Ethan Hunt is framed as a rogue agent, but then almost immediately exonerated. Benji and Luther are both saved at the last second, and the only character to die is Alec Baldwin’s. Baldwin is a good actor, but he had so little to do in the last movie that his development in this film feels as though it only exists to make his death impactful, and so for me it just failed to feel sad at all.
Christopher McQuarrie directs this film as though he wants it to be two things at once, and so it doesn’t quite fit either. It is trying to be both a serious dramatic thriller, and a ridiculous action experience in which Ethan Hunt learns how to fly a helicopter in seconds, and survives three separate vehicle crashes. On the one hand he fills it with scenes in which Hunt struggles with his guilt, yet refuses to properly resolve this. His ex-wife is brought back, but unlike in Mission: Impossible 3 where there were consequences for him involving her in his life, she survives and nothing bad happens to her at all. I am not saying that this film needed to kill anyone off, or have any of the characters suffer, far from it. I loved Mission: Impossible 4 and that film is quite light hearted. But the tone of Mission: Impossible Fallout doesn’t fit the content. Even the title, Fallout implies some deep and serious ramifications for Ethan Hunts actions. But there is no fallout, just a little smoke. Hunt saves the world just in time and everything is fine yet again. That would work if this film was aiming for a more tongue in cheek tone, but unfortunate it ends up feeling like a cop out. I also could have used a lot more of Simon Pegg, who feels criminally underused. There aren’t many good lines or moments for Pegg to exercise his comedy chops, and that is what his character is for. Without them he feels a little pointless. Most of the other cast feel as though they are trying, but owing to the lack of real stakes, it all feels as though they really want you to take everything seriously, even though the plot is ridiculous, and none of the characters are in any real danger. The title writes a cheque that the movie can’t cash.
Like I said at the start, none of this makes the film bad. It is entertaining, fast paced and a full of fun action. I admire Tom Cruise for insisting on doing so many of his own stunts, and the visuals are great fun. Henry Caville, while not particularly nuanced has at least mastered the evil glare, and he’s a relatively fun villain. What isn’t so fun is the amount of time the film spends pretending he isn’t bad. Hollywood, it isn’t a twist if we all see it coming, the guy with the moustache and the thousand yard stare, as well as a fondness for killing is probably not a good guy. Who would’ve guessed? Apart from this, I can honestly say I enjoyed this far less than I thought I would. I wasn’t looking for things to dislike, or trying to find flaws, in fact I was in a forgiving mood, but I can’t look past the amount of flaws dragging this film down. It could’ve been a much better, more cohesive movie, with a steady tone, but instead it straddles a weird line between serious spy thriller and overblown action flick, without once fully committing to either. Oh and a minor point before I finish, this film needs to chill with it’s soundtrack. I swear every scene was drowning in heavy music, trying to spell out how we should be feeling, making all subtlety fly away quickly.
All in all, this a mixed bag of a film. It has plenty of fun moments, but as an overall product, it is a bit of a mess. It has solid acting, but nothing special. I would say that this is a fine film to watch on TV, or pick up in a shop for a couple of quid, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother. If you really enjoy Mission: Impossible as a franchise, this probably won’t be your favourite, but I doubt you’ll hate it either. I just hope that the next director Tom Cruise gets for the seventh film will breath new life into this series, because it needs it.