‘Mission: Impossible Fallout’ or — Paying Money to Watch Tom Cruise Being Paid Money to Run Around and Do Stuff.
Remember those old Magic Eye posters? They looked like an incomprehensible mess until, after a while, a shape appears and you go — “Oh.”, then “Is that it then?” ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ (2018) is a moving version of one of those and starring Tom Cruise.
Where to begin with this one?
The first half of this film is a deliberate mess where needlessly exuberant complexity bounds care-free through fields of narrative without a worry in the world, or seemingly a purpose, whilst spreading its seeds of unnecessary intricacy with abandon. For example — nearly everything or everyone is a double-cross or a triple-cross or, at least, suggested as potentially one. Why? Because it’s espionage and espionage means duplicity and obfuscation. Except here it feels totally gratuitous and there simply for show as though the plot is lying out on a bed and showing you all its bits all at once so you have no idea what the order is. If there was a cubist version of a spy narrative then this would be it. But hey, at least I relaxed half-way through the film knowing that they hadn’t went for the most blindingly obvious double-cross that has been starring us in the face. Nice bit of restrain…
… and then they go and do it. Yep, all this sleight of hand and “Where is this film possibly going?!” ends up going EXACTLY where you think it is. All this apparent complexity has been needless indeed.
So pretty much the rest of the film plays out as expected, possibly because they have the big action set-pieces to focus on now so need all that annoying plot stuff out the way and clear the sand-pit for the toys. This means it never felt there was an actual story going on here with the narrative and action functioning purely through bursts of impossible hyperbole.
It’s also a movie that, every chance it can, teases shit out to the extreme. Oh, is that object going to roll towards the edge of a building or cliff? Yes, yes it is and it is going to keep doing that until we are practically breaking the laws of physics. How many times have we seen these tropes?!
Elsewhere, in terms of the performances everyone is likeable although Tom Cruise looks so swollen and puffy that every time he falls or is hit he seems less in danger of breaking a bone and more in danger of bursting like a grape.
Then there is the walking charisma vacuum that is Henry Cavill. It’s not that Henry Cavill can’t act or doesn’t have charisma; he’s just giving them to us in almost homeopathic doses. For a man practically vibrating with physical presence it’s amazing how inert the man is personality wise.
Benji is still a pain and fulfilling his IMF role of pulling people out of the movie every time he speaks by constantly commenting on Tom Cruise doing stuff so we know what is about to happen is very dangerous and it’s exasperating as hell. Oh, Tom Cruise climbing onto a helicopter is crazy and perilous? Yes, it fucking is because we can see that! Fortunately he gets hit in the face quite a bit in this one so there’s that at least.
Yet despite all that ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ does do a good number of things right, nearly always in the action and cinematography department. What is most refreshing about the action stuff here is that, unlike films like ‘Skyfall’ or some more recent actioners, this movie is not pretentious in the slightest (oh, what a breath of fresh air!). The action scenes are clear and shot for realism meaning there’s very little of the Deakins-esque slatherings of pompous shadows and colours that can ruin (for me) a lot of recent action work (are they shooting a fight scene or a perfume advert?). ‘Fallout’ let’s everything look natural and crisp. The cinematography of the mountains during a helicopter fight is genuinely magisterial. It lets the images speak for themselves without needing to tweak or artsy it up. After a decade or so of heavy-handed colour grading it was nice to see some of this “new reality” as a style choice (there is no such thing as the “new reality”. I just made it up).
Then there is the sequence in Paris which is, to put it politely, fucking awesome! It’s kinda worth seeing the film for this alone. It starts with a touch of ‘Ronin’, leaps into ‘Dark Knight’ territory before pulling a coda out of its ass involving a motorcycle that’s like having a whisky chaser after several glasses of Champagne.
Sure, there are effects and green-screen work going on here (quite a bit actually) but it is kneaded into the dough of reality to give it just a little rise. And it works and works well. The action might not have the laser focus of Greengrass at his best but it is invigorating, exciting and, with its European locations, has just a touch of the Frankenheimers (which is always a good thing).
All in all ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ is possibly the most satisfying entry since De Palma kicked the whole thing off over twenty years ago in spectacular style. It delivers an action film that isn’t as high-minded as the Bourne films or as achingly pretentious as the latter Bond films have become. If you go and see this movie I can guarantee you this — you WILL have fun.
But I would be lying if at the end of the film I wasn’t, yet again, left completely unmoved and didn’t care about anything or anyone in this movie.