“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the action movie of the year

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: go watch “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

Seldom does a movie series get increasingly better with each subsequent installment; to be able to maintain a level of consistent improvement over the span of many movies is relatively rare. However, Mission: Impossible has proven to be one of the series that has accomplished such a feat. With the sole exception of “Mission: Impossible 2,” each Mission: Impossible film built on their prior films and delivered progressively more enthusing, action-packed spectacles. With this summer’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” the series has continued such a trend, creating a new ceiling for the inevitable next installment in the franchise to top.

From left to right: Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) make up Hunt’s IMF crew. Picture courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The story takes place two years after “Rogue Nation” and follows Ethan Hunt and his IMF crew in Paris as they attempt to take down the Apostles, a terrorist organization that descended from the defeated Syndicate, a group of former MI6 officials that aspired to wreak havoc around the world and build a new order over the chaos of the old one. The crew find themselves in a race against time as they work to stop the Apostles from selling world-ending nuclear weaponry to John Lark, a hidden revolutionary who seeks to fulfill the Syndicate’s plan.

As a whole, the film manages to stand on its own well, despite the fact that it is following five other films. While it is once again helmed by Christopher McQuarrie, the director of the fifth movie, “Fallout” feels very different in substance than the foregoing film and establishes itself as a completely unique entry in the ongoing franchise. Unlike most several-part series, the story doesn’t depend on the viewer having much knowledge of the previous films, but rather allows any action fan to watch it and enjoy as it is without having seen the previous films.

The diversity of action sequences and stunts, and their smooth incorporation into the story, make for some of the best action in film during the past century.”

The action and stunts are primary reasons the movie shines as much as it does. As I watched some of the previous movies in anticipation for “Fallout,” I thought that the action was not as great as it could have been. Take “Mission: Impossible III. Unnecessarily shaky camera operation didn’t serve any purpose and made the movie feel cheap in some scenes; in addition, a portion of the action felt very choppy and undeveloped. I felt the fourth and fifth installments had sufficiently improved action sequences when compared to before, but even those feel amateur when compared to the action of “Fallout. Every action sequence, whether it is a motorcycle chase, a helicopter sequence or a hand-to-hand fight is smoothly shot, well-edited and engaging enough to leave you at the edge of your seat. The diversity of action sequences and stunts that the movie holds, and their smooth incorporation into the story, make for some of the best action in film during the past century, comparable to movies such as “The Dark Knight” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.

Ethan Hunt grapples onto a helicopter. Picture courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Something to mention about the action is that it is all real. Many big-budget movies nowadays depend on green screen and visual effects for their action, and the scenes don’t end up feeling genuine a good deal of the time. However, in “Fallout,” every action scene is practical. For example, in a scene early on in the movie, two characters do a HALO jump out of an airplane. One would expect such a scene to be filmed in a studio in front of a green screen, but the scene in question was filmed on an actual plane on location, and took over 100 takes to be pieced together as it is. The movie production crew clearly put loads of dedication into making sure all the action felt authentic, which pays off greatly in the end.

The film’s multitude of characters also elevates the film’s quality. Ethan Hunt, played yet again by Tom Cruise, is as charismatic and compelling as ever. The MI6 agent Ilsa Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson, once more steals all of her scenes. Unlike most female leads in films, she shines on her own without having to depend on the male protagonist. Her character has actual depth and her motives are clear; she is forced to grapple with many tough choices throughout the film. Henry Cavill’s August Walker, a mysterious CIA assassin sent to watch over Hunt, is one of the new additions to the cast. In the form of Walker, Cavill is able to create a genuinely intimidating, surreptitious character who is a fine addition to the growing Mission: Impossible dramatis personae.

August Walker (Henry Cavill) stands with Hunt and Faust. Picture courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

I mentioned earlier how the film was able to stand out and be its own unique entry in the franchise, and the score is one primary reason as to how it does that. Composed by Lorne Balfe, a former protégé of Hans Zimmer, the music is reminiscent of films such as the Dark Knight trilogy, “Inception, and “Dunkirk.” Like the aforementioned films, the score is fast-paced and intense. It puts a dark twist on the classic Mission: Impossible themes and motifs, and in the context of the film it all works out very well.

A minor gripe I had with “Fallout” is some of the plot. If you look into it, you’ll realize some points of the storyline have been reused from past movies. For example, the villain sets off a bomb and the characters have to try and defuse it before a countdown goes off: almost every action movie has done this. Ethan Hunt is on the run and being hunted down by people he thought were allies: that’s been done previously (in practically every “Mission: Impossible” film, actually.)  On the surface, I thought the plot was rather well thought out and intricate, but some of the specific plot points and devices were generic and have been done countless times in past action films.

All in all, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the action movie of the year. Top-notch action, stunts and visuals make the film captivating and will, without a doubt, put you on the edge of your seat. Other areas, such as the character work and the musical score, elevate the film to a high mark. If you are an existing “Mission: Impossible” fan, you will definitely relish the film. If you aren’t, you will still get a lot of enjoyment out of the newest film and be able to appreciate it as the action spectacle that it is. Grade: A