This is what happens when the people who work on a franchise respect the franchise. Each film stands alone, yet each new release still inspires fans to rewatch previous installments. The past is respected, but the agenda is always to move forward. And the films themselves... they never count on selling tickets by brand-name, but are hard and winning pieces of filmmaking; carefully crafted and assembled by talented people who push the envelope beyond the realm of the possible. In a world overflowing with franchises, Mission: Impossible stands alone.
|How does it do it? Well, you could say it's in the job description.|
I could spend all day talking about this franchise as a whole. How it's a trendsetter, how casting choices always give dramatic boosts to the actors' future careers as they cycle through, or how the films are contradictory; of an extremely high quality, but also mainstream action films made to entertain. Entertainment can get lost in the fray of making films into high art or a message to change the world, but entertainment has always been the goal of Tom Cruise, and he always seems to trust the continued creation of this, his baby, to artists who share his vision.
Christopher McQuarrie is the first M:I writer/director to stay on for two films, and as he's taken the series to a whole new level, the second one feels like an extra-deserved bonus round. From my perspective, Fallout is similar in construction pattern to Rogue Nation, but makes everything new again in the way a fresh director usually does. Under his direction, the creative action beats are even more relentless, thrilling, and involving. I'm not usually vocal during movies at the theater, but I was exclaiming things like, "Oh no!" or "Look out!" all over the place. Once I even pointed at the screen and told Ethan, "He's over there!"
|It's either a death-wish or a contagious and daring desire to entertain.|
McQuarrie crafted this movie intentionally that way, because what's the point of all those practical effects and stunts if it doesn't all engage with the viewers and keep them thrilled, amazed and eager for more? This isn't a character film, but the story is personal enough for the characters to let us care about the result, down to each small goal. This whole film feels like a series of impossible tasks that, when each is amazingly accomplished is a mere stepping stone to the next. Even the extended sequences are constructed that way, keeping boredom far, far away.
Tom Cruise is amazing. He does his own stunts, his own driving, motorcycle riding, helicopter-flying, and fist-fighting. He executes difficult skydiving maneuvers, and even breaks his foot and keeps going until the take is over. Still my favorite is always the running. There are few things that can be captured on film as thrilling as a tracking shot of Tom Cruise in a full sprint. At some point he even has some genuine acting to do, and at that point he's just showing off. And I hope Simon Pegg stays as long as Cruise does, because Benji is basically the heart and soul of these movies. He handles the comedy, and always gets something awesome to do too.
|Tom always comes out at the center, but he's not afraid of sharing screen time or being overshadowed.|
Rebecca Ferguson is back, still brimming with grace and power, and feels so settled into the team it would be sad if she left now. Ving Rhames is always a great addition, and this film uses him better than ever. Sean Harris was the one return I was hesitant about, but seeing how he was utilized, it all make sense now. Then we have newbie lady Vanessa Kirby. She's this movie's personification of one of the main reasons I adore this franchise as more than films, but as boosts for actors. She's a good actress in need of a step up and is given a spotlight to take advantage of. She does. She stuns with a joyfully sultry character.
And, Henry Cavill. He's more well-known already by mainstream audiences, because mainstream audiences always know who's playing Superman. But his M:I role still gives him the same kind of opportunity as it does Kirby -- even more so since his character is more prominent -- a chance to impress, and to show himself to be capable of more than he's known for. He knocks it out of the park, and I've never enjoyed him more. He was so perfectly irritating and pompous. I hope this can rocket him out to find new roles that are more fun and/or meaty than the dull, handsome hunk of meat.
|I sense good things in this guy's future.|
Some of the set pieces blew my mind, and I spent a lot of time full-on giggling at how awesome everything gets. With a very basic understanding of how the production works, the stunts and camerawork are awe-inspiring. Sometimes you might realize how hard that would've been to pull off, like the skydiving shot, and sometimes I was simply left agape, wondering how the heck they did that, like the first hurdle of the helicopter sequence. It feels real because, well, it kind of is. But the movie does have moments for you to catch your breath with small and intimate character scenes, too.
I barely noticed with how completely mind-boggled I was over the relentless action, but there were a few one-on-one talking scenes that were full of subtext and motivations and themes to explore -- just like any other movie that doesn't feel like non-stop running, fighting, and crazy death-defying stunts. And those scenes are every bit as alive and electric as the action, not functional plot-ties only, but engaging on a different level. There's not much emphasis on character, and the plot isn't overly-complex; but even in the backseat, the same wonderful, commendable devotion is applied all around.
|What the heck.|
There's no shortage of films that are carefully crafted to have artistic merit, and, there are no shortage of films that are meant to be entertaining. Mission: Impossible is the place where those two sides unexpectedly intersect. Fallout is an immaculate and artistic creation; three years in the making; worth nearly two-hundred million dollars; of massive scale and aggressive ambition; and it was built to do one thing, and one thing only -- knock your freaking socks off.