Film Review: Mission Impossible
Mission: Impossible Fallout is the next installment in the action, adrenaline-infused, spy franchise that was originally adapted from the small screen with the original film in 1996. You could almost call this franchise the American take on James Bond at this point. The entire series of films is certainly an impressive achievement of filmmaking on multiple levels. When it comes to stunts, this franchise continues to raise the bar with how many insanely dangerous and complicated practical gags they try to pull off. However, what’s even more impressive is how the franchise has maintained a good balance of substance and spectacle with each installment. This is especially impressive when you consider how much money, time, and effort is put towards the spectacle side of things.
At its sixth installment, it is safe to say that the Mission: Impossible franchise still manages to keep a healthy balance of substance and spectacle while also raising the bar to unbelievably high levels in terms of action. And considering the age of the franchise and its star, this film is an incredible achievement, even when taking into account the nearly $200 million production budget. Unfortunately, despite the films notable achievements, it does fall into some dated spy thriller tropes. Thankfully, the small failures in the screenwriting don’t overshadow the successes of it. And overall, the storytelling in Fallout is very solid.
My main worry with Fallout was how it was going to compare to Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol — the franchise high, in my opinion. Ghost Protocol was almost everything you could ask for from a Mission: Impossible film. There was groundbreaking stunt work, outstanding storytelling, and a truly authentic vision from director Brad Bird. For me, that film is the gold standard and remains unchallenged by any Mission: Impossible film to date. But the marketing for Fallout gave me some hope that this next installment might match the quality of Ghost Protocol. So, Brad Bird’s film will be my benchmark for this review on whether Fallout lives up to the hype.
First and foremost, the stunts certainly lived up to the hype. They were particularly eventful because of the prevalence of CGI and green screen effects used in most films today to avoid the trouble of practical stunts. But practical stunts are the gold standard in every way and prove to be just as breathtaking with the work done in Fallout. There is something incredibly magical about the tangibility and practicality of showing the lead actor actually performing a stunt in-camera, whether it be Tom Cruise jumping out of an airplane at 25,000 feet, jumping between two towering buildings, or performing his own elaborate car stunts in a chase. This film added layer of authenticity that’s missing from many mainstream films of the 21st century. With this said, the HALO jump sequence that involved Cruise skydiving from a high altitude and opening his chute at a dangerously low altitude felt a bit underwhelming for one reason. There is obvious visual effects work within the scene to give the appearance of a thunderstorm. It completely undermined the value of the dangerous stunt that the production paid a lot of money for and used for headline marketing material. But the other stunt work that lacked noticeable visual effects work does really shine.
The story itself somewhat lives up to the hype for me, but it does manage to work in several key areas. And on several occasions it breathed some new life into the franchise by taking some very unique risks and interesting turns. I was continually surprised by several elements of the plot and, for the most part, it does a commendable job of subverting expectations. However, it disappointingly falls into some of the franchise’s old tropes such as Ethan Hunt and his team having to go rogue from their IMF and CIA leadership in order to pursue the mission on their own terms. There are also a few predictable twists with the villain. As a matter of fact, the last act of the film feels a bit too familiar; but I’ll avoid specifics so as not to spoil anything.
One unique thing about Fallout as a film, is that it shares the same director, Christopher McQuarrie, as the last Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation. And I have to say that the direction inFallout felt stronger than the previous effort. While some directors would rather not be noticed,
think realizing noteworthy direction is a compliment to the vision of the filmmaker. One of my favorite aspects of Ghost Protocol was the direction from Brad Bird. The way Bird presented the characters, action, and story in that film was genuinely authentic. It had its own voice. The lack of strong direction makes a film feel generic. And I have to say, the direction in Fallout and Rogue Nation don’t feel quite as fresh as Ghost Protocol, but definitely avoid feeling generic.
Another area where I feel Ghost Protocol also overcomes Fallout is with the approach to IMAX. In Ghost Protocol, the filmmakers used 70mm IMAX cameras to capture roughly 30 minutes
of the final film. To me, this is still the gold standard when it comes to film acquisition and presentation. Not only is the color rendition, clarity, and immersion second to none, but you also gain about 40% more image. For the acquisition of Fallout, the filmmakers decided to use 35mm and digital IMAX. First and foremost, there is a noticeable difference between the 35mm and digital footage. The 35mm scenes have the grain, contrast, and skin tones we’ve all come to expect from celluloid. However, the filmmakers decided not to try and replicate this look for the digital footage, meaning it lacks the grain and overall look of the rest of the film. This noticeable inconsistency between the IMAX scenes and the rest of the film feels unnecessary. Why not film entirely on digital or entirely on 35mm, or better yet, shoot 35mm and 70mm for select scenes. The other gripe I have with digital IMAX is that it is nowhere close to the experience of 70mm. The digital acquisition only gets you about 20% more frame and lacks the clarity and color rendition of the celluloid. This leaves digital IMAX feeling like a cheaper knock-off version of the real 70mm IMAX experience, which leaves me feeling like the filmmaker’s lowered the bar in this area.
In general, Mission: Impossible Fallout is a strong entry in the franchise that lives up to the groundbreaking stunt work while still providing a unique story with substance. Fallout, yet again, proves that practical stunts are still something to marvel at, even in the age of CGI. Despite the fact that the screenplay suffers from some common clichés used in earlier installments, it still proves to be clever and surprising. The direction also continues to feel authentic and exciting. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, Ghost Protocol still remains at the height of the franchise. However, Falloutproves that after six films, the series is still capable of upward momentum.
For future Mission: Impossible movies I’d like to see the screenwriting push the boundaries even more by subverting tropes and expectations; and I’m curious how the next director will continue raising the bar with stunt work. But currently, I’m really happy to say that Mission: Impossible is still going strong and is in good hands. Regardless of the shortcomings, I still feel like director Christopher McQuarrie has a strong grasp of what makes Mission: Impossible special.
Mission: Impossible Fallout was released on July 27, 2018 and remains in theaters. It runs 2hrs 27mins and currently holds a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.