Mission: Impossible – Fallout movie director: Christopher McQuarrie
Mission: Impossible – Fallout movie cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Sean Harris
Mission: Impossible – Fallout movie rating: 4 stars
There are few things in life more pleasurable than watching Tom Cruise do things. Even if he has been doing the same for 22 years. Really, it has been that long. When Ethan Hunt started out on the big screen (once there was a TV version), Bill Clinton occupied the White House and Boris Yeltsin the Kremlin. The latter two have been done and dusted, but Cruise is still saving the world clad in a leather jacket — without breaking a sweat, but often now showing a grey stubble. And this Mission: Impossible, his sixth, may be his best yet, offering not just action that sizzles but action we can largely follow, happening to people we grow to care about.
Leading that list of Fallout’s charismatic cast is, of course, Cruise himself, as the IMF’s (International Missions Force) Agent No. 1 who, as the film emphasises, puts “individuals” above “missions”. Or, as the film puts it, is the kind who “cares as much about saving one man as saving millions”. In a world of faceless targets and brute force, that makes him somewhat special, his boss Secretary Hunley (Alec Baldwin) tells him. It’s a smart move by writer-director McQuarrie, the first person to get to direct a second Mission: Impossible (there have been four other directors over the years), to underline this aspect of Hunt’s long career as an agent. At a time of discredited governments, unclear enemies and blurred loyalties, Hunt is a man who acts by his own principles.
Governments, in fact, are dragged through quite a lot of mud here. The villain, who goes by the name John Lark, believes these have to be brought down for a new world order to be rewritten. “There must be great suffering before great peace”, and so on and so forth.
But first there must be a bit of plutonium to go around. Here, there are three spheres of it, which fall into the wrong hands because Hunt chooses to save friend Luther (Rhames) than the radioactive element. A lot of grief he gets for it too, because those plutonium spheres are quickly on their way to Lark, who is making nuclear bombs out of them. The IMF’s only chance to stop Lark is for Hunt to intercept him while he meets an arms agent called ‘The White Widow’ in Paris. The Widow is played by a delicious Kirby (you may remember her as Princess Margaret from The Crown Netflix show). And as she matches Cruise wit for wit, chutzpah for chutzpah, the hint that The Widow isn’t a stop-gap arrangement is a relief.
Since the CIA doesn’t trust the IMF enough, it ensures that its own agent, Walker (Cavill), is with Hunt at all times through this mission. Soon, Ilsa (Ferguson), an agent not on best of terms with her own government, and who made an appearance in the previous Mission: Impossible, joins them. The episode where Hunt, Walker and later Ilsa together fight a man inside a Paris toilet, to get to The Widow, is one of the highlights of the film’s many, many well-choreographed action scenes.
In a summer season now full of a guaranteed superhero film, at the very least, getting that right is not a mean achievement. Hunt does everything here — shootouts in tunnels, car chases, bike runs, building jumps, helicopter parachuting, copter clashes, cliff climbs, the ever-present mask tricks, and even his famous, famous running streaks across landscapes. Nothing, nothing, seems stale. On the contrary, you may have to take care of your pounding heart a bit through a finale that McQuarrie ratchets up and up, and still concludes satisfyingly.
That finale has a surprise setting, Nubra Valley in Ladakh, where some good foreigner sorts are tinkering around in tents and white coats to save the populace, whom we never see, of smallpox, a disease India has eradicated, while the Indian Army sleeps, in one of the world’s most militarised regions. Well, you can’t have everything, can you?