“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” brings impressive action without much substance

Ryan Bell

Tom Cruise reprised his role as Ethan Hunt this summer in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” three years after the release of the last film in the critically acclaimed “Mission Impossible” franchise. The series has long been known for its over-the-top action sequences accomplished with mostly practical effects, especially considering Tom Cruise has built his acting pedigree on doing his own stunt work.

Jumping across two buildings, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) executes a stunt which broke the actor's ankle.
Jumping across two buildings, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) executes a stunt which broke the actor’s ankle.

Fans of the franchise will be satisfied to hear that this hasn’t changed with “Fallout;” in fact, it seems like Cruise physically pushed himself further than he ever has before during this film’s production. For example, Cruise broke his ankle in three places while jumping between two buildings, halting production for seven weeks. The take in which Cruise receives the injury is the one used in the full film, in all its painful detail.

The action sequences only get more impressive as the film goes on, keeping the two and a half hour runtime enjoyable. One scene that stands out involves Cruise and co-star Henry Cavill performing a high altitude military parachuting (HALO)  jump from the back of a plane. Such a scene would commonly be filmed on a green screen, but in “Fallout” the jump is not only real (and rehearsed about 100 times, according to a behind the scenes clip), but the entire stunt is shown in one unbroken shot. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch and even more remarkable upon knowing the context in which it was shot. “Fallout” goes the extra mile for its action wherever possible, and the end product is significantly more entertaining than the average action film because of it.

The clean, steady cinematography is also a refreshing change of pace from the annoyingly shaky, “cut-every-second” style that other action films, notably the Jason Bourne series, rely on. It’s exciting to be able to actually see the fight choreography instead of vague, blurry aggression. Additionally, The score by Lorne Balfe (prodigé of legendary composer Hans Zimmer) stays fast-paced and engaging throughout the duration of the film and complements the action sequences.

Unfortunately, many of the other aspects of the film aren’t quite up to par with the beautifully choreographed action

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and August Walker (Henry Cavill) abandon their destroyed truck to continue on foot.
Abandoning their destroyed truck, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and August Walker (Henry Cavill) opt to continue on foot.

sequences. Although it has two twists which are well executed and surprising, the plot of the film is dull and predictable. There’s a huge reliance on the plot of the previous film, which makes some things difficult to understand for those who aren’t well-versed on the series. Most of the characters were introduced in previous movies, so the viewing of the first few films is required to avoid being left in the dark on character development. There was never a point in the film where it got too confusing as most elements are straightforward, but it’s easy to get stuck a few times trying to connect names being said to faces.

On top of that, the story is riddled with cheesy moments and clichés. While some might see them as an homage to the old Bond movies that it occasionally imitates, none of these moments appear to be tongue-in-cheek or ironic to me. For example, there’s a sequence in which two people need to cut the wires on a bomb in a specific way to stop it from going off, but it seems like it’s being played completely seriously. That’s spy movie 101 right there, and definitely shouldn’t be included in a 2018 action film without some hint of intentional comedy. Additionally, some of the dialogue scenes in the movie drag the pace down a little bit. An opening scene where Hunt receives a message, for example, functions as little more than an overlong backstory dispenser.

“Fallout” will no doubt keep fans of the franchise and action fans in general satisfied for its relatively long runtime. There’s a lot to appreciate in the practically-executed action, impressive cinematography and tone-setting score. Unfortunately, the film’s clichéd plot and long-winded exposition dumps hold back the latest excursion by Ethan Hunt from being the quintessential, compelling action film it has the potential to be.