August 01, 2018

Skyfallout –“Mission: Impossible -Fallout”

By Tim Hruszkewycz *

It is amazing how film trends start. In preparation for the new film “Mission: Impossible -Fallout,” I binged all of the previous films.

While watching the almost unwatchable “Mission: Impossible II,” I noticed how many films around the same time as “M:I:II” kind of look like “M:I:II.” Director John Woo made his “Mission: Impossible” entry look and feel like “The Matrix,” “Equilibrium,” and “Dark City.”
 
“Mission: Impossible -Fallout” does something similar.

“Fallout” structurally mirrors the Daniel Craig entries in the James Bond franchise closer than the filmmakers probably care to admit. That’s not the biggest crime a film could commit. After all, many of the Daniel Craig entries in the Bond franchise are not-subtle copies of the Jason Bourne films, at least in terms of action. And those Jason Bourne films borrow heavily from “Mission: Impossible” and the Bond films.

I have friends who are fans of individual “Mission: Impossible” movies. Most people like the individual entries at the time, but I don’t know many people who invest themselves in the franchise of “Mission: Impossible” as someone would the James Bond series or the Bourne series. “Mission: Impossible -Fallout” aims to change that attitude.

I feel a little bad for the people who aren’t caught up on the franchise and try to go see this movie. I don’t feel too bad. I just published a cheat sheet for the entire franchise on Catholic News Agency. I highly recommend perusing it before seeing the new movie.

But “Mission: Impossible -Fallout” might have set the most impossible mission to date. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to care about the emotional fragility of superspy Ethan Hunt.

For those not familiar with the Daniel Craig Bond films, they are all connected as a sort of origin story for James Bond. Starting with “Casino Royale,” Bond discovers a shadow organization that seems to be the masterminds behind the masterminds in the individual films. This all culminates in the most recent entry, “Spectre”, where he meets the man who has orchestrated all of the world’s crises from his remote hideaways. Bond questions his effectiveness as an agent while coping with the emotional sacrifices he has made along the way.

“Mission: Impossible -Fallout” does a very similar thing. Starting with the fourth entry in the franchise, “Ghost Protocol,” Ethan Hunt discovers the existence of a dark version of his organization, the IMF named “The Syndicate.” In the follow-up, “Rogue Nation,” Hunt meets the shadowy figure organizing the Syndicate, Solomon Lane, and captures him by the end of the film. “Fallout” follows Solomon Lane’s revenge upon Ethan Hunt and on the world. It intricately ties back elements from all of the films starting at “Mission: Impossible III.” It should be noted that “Mission: Impossible III” is also the first film in the series to be produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Skydance Productions.

“Fallout” is aimed at rewarding fans of the franchise. Perhaps Tom Cruise and company want to take Ethan Hunt to the next level in terms of cultural impact because the personal stakes for Ethan Hunt are in the foreground of this film. Cast members Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Rebecca Ferguson return as their characters from earlier entries. I always considered Ethan’s team, shy of Luther and Benji, interchangeable, but “Fallout” wants me to bond with the characters from the previous films. What is also odd is the return of writer / director Christopher McQuarrie. One thing that I’ve always liked about the “Mission: Impossible” movies is that the directors had always changed for every entry. For better or worse, this gave each film its own unique tonal feeling. But it seemed like Christopher McQuarrie was doing his best Brad Bird impression when he directed “Rogue Nation” and then he returned for “Fallout”. It seems like the people behind this movie have a plan.

As a “Mission: Impossible” movie, franchise plans aside, the movie really does work. The best element of these movies is determining the allegiances of many of the cast members. While avoiding spoilers, I think that McQuarrie understands, because of the revelations in the first “Mission: Impossible” film, that audiences are ready to accept major changes to the series. It seems like nothing is too taboo in terms of fan service and that makes the movie extremely compelling at times. There were moments where McQuarrie implements some pretty intense fake outs, which often feel a bit cheap. These are the spy-fi equivalents of a cat jumping during a suspenseful scene. It gets you, but it also feels empty and vapid. There are more than a few of these turns. But ultimately, McQuarrie’s film hits a lot of the right notes.

Similarly, the action has gotten to a completely insane place. It mostly works. I don’t know why the knowledge that Tom Cruise is doing many of his own stunts makes the action sequences work, but it really does. McQuarrie does have one fault that I only noticed in his movies when it comes to the action sequences. Ethan Hunt becomes somewhat unkillable. I know that this is true for most other action movies, but some movies take it to the next level. I’m thinking currently about the “Charlie’s Angels” movies and “The Fast and the Furious” movies. These are movies that place the protagonists in situations that should have killed them. But because these characters are the heroes of the film, they can just shrug off stunts that should have pulped them with only a few scratches. McQuarrie treats vehicular accidents that cause the vehicle to flip many times as things that people just walk away from. It kind of takes away the threat of death, but that doesn’t make the scenes less engaging.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed the film. Since I binged the movies in the week leading up to this movie, I got a lot more out of it than most audience members probably did. But it is a good movie. I don’t know if I can agree with the reviews that claim it is the best movie of the summer, but it hits a lot of the beats that make the “Mission: Impossible” movies worth watching. The suspense is great. The character beats mostly work. There is some wrapping up that the series does, which is to be expected when so many characters return.

And to make up for the previous two entries, which had no Catholic moments that I could find, there were two big Catholic moments: There was a news report about an attack on the Vatican. And the bad guys were known as the Apostles.

On second thought, that might not be a good thing.
 

Tim Hruszkewycz is a high school English and film teacher at Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, KY. He also co-hosts the Literally Anything podcast at literallyanything.net and blogs about film

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.