Every now and then, there are debates over who should replace whom in popular movie franchises. Who will be the next James Bond? Could anybody possibly replace Robert Downey Jr for the role of Tony Stark? Will there ever be another Joker as good as Heath Ledger?
Tom Cruise's immortal Ethan Hunt has not been spared either. The man has been the face of the 22-year-old franchise, ever since it spun into action in 1996. Back then, it would have been brave to predict that the same guy would be doing the same things 20 years later. The character has certainly evolved with the actor, and he stops at nothing.
So, here he is. Cruise is 56; Henry Cavill, his costar, is 35. Yet, when the two are on screen, it seems like Cruise is only just older to Cavill. They may be alpha males in their own right, but nobody brings action to the table like Tom Cruise does. It is a well-known fact that, even at this age, he chooses to do Ethan Hunt's outrageous stunts on his own. There is even a YouTube compilation titled "Movie scenes that nearly killed Tom Cruise" and it's all true. The man lives life on the edge, literally.
But, unlike many of Cruise's action outings, the Mission Impossible series isn't just another action junkie's paradise. It has consistently made the viewer think and be involved in the story. And, the latest instalment is clearly one of his best outings. It wastes no time standing on ceremony, or slowly building up to dramatic entrances or moments. It is cutthroat entertainment that feels more like a psychological thriller than mindless stunt sequences.
Looking at the bigger picture, the plot seems all too familiar—a rebranding of any other spy thriller, rather. The world is in danger, there is a threat of nuclear bombs falling in the wrong hands, and our hero has to defy the government and go on a mission with his band of sidekicks to stop the bad guys from detonating the bombs. Snore.
Yet, it is the details that makes this movie worth the ride. Like all MI movies before, you literally have to pay attention to every line, or you could lose the plot. Then again, the makers are aware that you may have gotten used to the frequent plot twists and surprises, so they don't waste time unfolding the twists.
This is one of the areas where director Christopher McQuarrie has succeeded. The first five movies had five different directors and each of them brought their own style of directing and storytelling that gave each outing a fresh perspective. Of course, there were recurring elements and themes threading the movies together. But, it is with good reason that the producers chose to stick with McQuarrie for the sixth film to extend the Rogue Nation story.
Fallout is a perfect blend, really, of the stunts, chases, fights, skydives and whatnot along with a well-crafted plot. McQuarrie said that it was after Cruise broke his ankle during one shoot (no surprise there) that he halted production completely for a couple of weeks. McQuarrie used the time to revisit the editing room and make necessary changes to the film to ensure that it was anything but a generic action movie.
Since it is a continuation of the Rogue Nation storyline, it would be advisable to stream the fifth before going for the sixth. But even if you don't, you aren't missing much. As Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) are on the run to recover stolen plutonium, under the watchful eyes of the CIA, McQuarrie guarantees you edge-of-the-seat stuff, with regard to the story as well as the non-stop thrills.
As expected, it is 148 minutes of pure action and the stunts are not only realistically choreographed but also beautifully shot. The stunning visuals are best seen in IMAX, and this is one of those movies that gives you your money's worth.
As important as Cruise's character is to the movie, it does not have an overbearing influence. He's fallible, he's slower than some of his opponents and he has his character flaws. Cavill is the younger, suave "hammer" to Cruise's "scalpel", as one line goes. Accompanying Hunt on his mission, Cavill plays a CIA assassin with more ferocity and style than he plays Superman/Clark Kent.
Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Michelle Monaghan reprise their long-standing roles, loyal to Hunt all the while, while Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris continue from Rogue Nation. Out of these, Pegg stands out not just as Hunt's comic sidekick, but also as a character crucial to the narrative.
Harris, meanwhile, makes his mark as one of the best villains in the series. It is not a very high bar for him, considering Philip Seymour Hoffman (MI:3) was the only villain worth noting. But, Harris's icy cold rendition of Solomon Lane is arguably the best piece of acting in the movie. It happens to be just another element that the makers get right, just like the minimal use of CGI.
It is for all these reasons that Cruise and the franchise are mutually dependent on each other. The daredevil actor might seem like an indispensable part of Mission Impossible, but it is the success of the movies to appeal to the discerning film-goer that has helped Cruise transcend the image of a pretty boy.
Also, for the Indian in you, Tom Cruise saves India. Well, sort of. The writers make amends for a previous setting of India, which had Anil Kapoor play a cringe-worthy billionaire in Ghost Protocol. A scene in Fallout is supposed to be set in a part of the Kashmir valley, but was shot in the mountains of New Zealand for obvious reasons. A nuclear weapon is supposed to go off there, so that it would affect three countries—India, Pakistan and China—effectively wiping out a third of the world population. But our man, who obviously has to wait till the last millisecond to pull off a miracle, manages to save Hindustan.
Nevertheless, it would be easy to assert that Fallout is one of the best of its kind, considering the hype around it, but for the very fact that it doesn't take its audience for granted, it probably deserves the plaudits that it will receive. The franchise has consistently outperformed other non-fantasy action franchises like the James Bond movies, Fast and Furious and even the Bourne movies.
The last time a pure action movie received this kind of credit was Mad Max: Fury Road, which is unarguably the best in the genre in the last few years. Fallout isn't as good, but it certainly makes the adrenaline rush worth it. Don't judge a movie by its genre.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris