Though there were some problems with it, I can say with certainty that “Fallout” is the best installment of the “Mission Impossible” series. It is very much in keeping with the things we have enjoyed about its five predecessors, but I enjoyed aspects of it that I didn’t expect it to be strong in. Christopher McQuarrie is the first person to direct more than one “Mission Impossible” movie, and I think the series may have finally been placed in the right hands.
The first three quarters of the film have a plot that is somewhat complex, but not so much that I lost track of anything. It is also finally a plot that is worth paying attention to, where Hunt and the team of agents he works with actually have some kind of concrete connection to their antagonists. Walker (Henry Cavill) contrasts Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in some interesting ways that even the best of Bond villains don’t. Double-crossings are certainly not new to the series, but the betrayals we saw here had an emotional weight that was lacking in the other Missions.
Granted, one or two subplots get sort of dropped to the wayside in an unsatisfying way and the climax is one that we’ve seen many times before, but to be fair it is a very good version of that sort of climax.
The biggest surprise for me was that there was a solidly developed theme. Throughout the movie, Ethan is faced with choices that will either jeopardize his global-stakes mission or require him to put one of his team members in danger. In some ways, this calls out how things generally work out well in “Mission Impossible” movies and action-adventure movies as a genre, but I’ve definitely seen several movies and even some books do much worse.
I very much enjoyed the action itself, but again in ways that I did not expect. The best scene of every “Mission” movie prior to “Fallout” is invariably the stunt that Tom Cruise does in the middle of the film: see the air duct drop, climbing the Burj Khalifa, and the underwater key card switch. In “Fallout,” I think the filmmakers were intending the skydiving sequence to be the big stunt. I didn’t think it was a fabulous scene, but I didn’t mind that much. The rest of the movie is chock full of very well-constructed action and chase scenes that create some excellent tension, have some great character-based twists, and, oddly, feel grounded in reality.
One could argue that there is a degree of “invincibility mode” in the action sequences, but certainly not as much as in the second and third “Mission” films or other action series like “The Fast and the Furious” or James Bond. Writing is typically not something one considers when thinking about action sequences, but I must give Christopher McQuarrie credit for writing some excellent scenes here without leaving the story to the wayside.
If you like action movies, definitely see this. You should probably watch “Rogue Nation” first to get a little more context on some of the characters. Fallout is not entirely devoid of action cliches, but it avoids them for the most part and disguises them pretty well. If you liked the other “Mission” movies but don’t like keeping track of the plot, I would encourage you to try to follow along here. Most of the time, it’s not worth it to puzzle out the intricacies of the plot in a spy movie, but this is a rare case where you will enjoy the movie a lot more if you pay attention during the dialogue-heavy scenes. It may not be the best action movie of all time, but it could very well be the best one of the year.