Mission: Impossible – Fallout (McQuarrie, 2018)

Fallout brings little that is new to the Mission: Impossible franchise. It also brings everything that is new. It’s not a contradiction as you would assume. To the first point, it follows similar currents that the other films established, such as death-defying missions with death-defying stunts, villains wanting to overturn the current world order, the reliable sidekicks (Pegg, Rhames), the beautiful love interests (Ferguson, Monaghan), and all sorts of psych-outs and last-minute reversals that will make you giddy like Lucille Bluth whenever she’s fooled by Gene Parmesan. Oh, you bet I threw that Arrested Development reference in there on purpose. Don’t knock me for it.

As to the second point, well, I think we can all agree Tom Cruise has never flirted with death so closely before. This film makes all his prior stunts look like cakewalks. The HALO jump is, of course, a spectacular set piece in itself, but I was probably more nervous watching him zig and zag through Parisian traffic on that motorcycle. And then scaling that cliffside while nuclear bombs were seconds away from detonating. You know everything will turn out fine, as it always does, but that Ethan Hunt cuts it too close. Combined with Cruise’s unfulfilled death wish, and you’ve got excitement piled on excitement. How did audiences stay in their seats during this? Did they? I could barely stay in mine.

While I really do like this (and I really do), the script’s bulk can be felt at certain times. The extended helicopter chase didn’t need to be extended, for instance. It’s the only set piece that I felt dragged on longer than it should have. I also wish they gave Vanessa Kirby’s character a better arc. She seems to be included here as more of a plot device, and considering how good she is whenever she’s onscreen, it’s a shame she’s dropped as soon as her impact is made. It would’ve been neat, for instance, had she taken over Ilsa Faust’s role and was the black-clad assassin on the motorcycle instead of Ferguson. As it is, I hope Kirby is allowed to return for the next one (assuming there will be a next one).

Ultimately, my favourite thing about this entry is its heart. The performances from people like Rhames, Ferguson and Monaghan have a purity to them that makes you care about this high-octane extravaganza—and its death-cheating action hero. The thematic preoccupation with a single life being just as important as the lives of millions is also a nice bit of humanism. A touching attribute of Hunt’s that centers why we continually root for him. It’s easy to write it all off as Tom Cruise playing himself, but it’s not that simple. In many ways, Cruise is playing a version of himself that he would like to be. A version that can walk the tightrope of mortality and help those in the most danger. It’s a version that will never translate to the real world, but heck, who cares? Let the man escape death if he wants to. We’ll be watching for as long as he does.