More noise than signal

Mission: Impossible: Fallout

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

If you’d told me back in 1996 that the then just-released Mission: Impossible would spawn an intermittent franchise running strong twenty-two years later, I, well, I probably wouldn’t have had much of a basis for judging as I didn’t see it until a few years after its release. But, to be honest, once you’d told me that a third film would be made after John Woo’s honking second outing, all bets are off.

So, then, Fallout comes hot on the heels of Rogue Nation, for certain three year definitions of the term, with Thomas Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his team on the lookout for stolen plutonium, with the returning cast of Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg in support. Said plutonium is said to be passing through the shadowy network of the Apostles, a shadowy successor organisation to the shadowy Syndicate of Rogue Nation, and they’re going to sell it to the shadowy John Lark, an a shadowy extremist lurking in extreme shadow.

Hunt’s team is being antagonistically babysat by Henry Cavil’s CIA thug August Walker, who immediately goes full-on moustache-twirling to the point that I assumed there must be some sort of double-bluff going on as to whether he turned out to be a bad guy, but it was in fact a triple-bluff, which is functionally identical to a single-bluff. So begins a series of action scenes, chases and punching and kicking from point to point with the thinnest possible layer of connective ligaments.

Look, I’m generally a staunch defender of action movies concentrating on action over intricate plotting, particularly when this film, in common with all other spy capers, is high concept nonsense. Same with most character work. Great to have, but don’t let it get in the way of the high adrenalin onslaught. MIF, as I suppose I’ll abbreviate it, just goes a little too extreme in this regard, and it feels like a video game where you’re frantically hammering the x button through the cutscenes to skid to the next action segment. There’s fast paced, and then there’s too fast paced.

Maybe it’s just because I saw this while still jet-lagged, but I didn’t get much of a sense of character motivation from the bad guys, and the inter-action scene exposition was either rushed or forgettable, inasmuch as I can’t remember why half of what happened happened. And the correct amount of returning Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane in this film is zero Solomon Lane, so this is well over the RDA.

It’s been frequently called the best action film of the year, and for what it’s worth I think it probably is, at least of the slender subset I’ve been able to see. It’s a good old fashioned high octane thrill ride, benefitting from Cruise’s Jackie Chan-esque passion for murdering himself through stuntwork that’s commendable in an absolutely insane way, although for legal reasons I must point out that no employee of Fuds On Film Incorporated has makes any assertions, positive or negative, on the state the mental health or Mr. Thomas Fotheringham Cruise Esq., or his stupid religion.

However it’s occasionally followed up by claims that it’s the best action film ever, which makes me think that I have either started to take or ran out of crystal meth. It’s got some great action setpieces, sure, but not much else, and the final act is a bit of a drag, and as good as the fight choreography in the lauded toilet fight scene is, neither Cruise nor Cavil can magically turn into Bruce Lee and Tony Jaa, so let’s have some perspective on this, please.

Not, I suppose, that “best action film of the year” is a title to be ashamed of – I suppose I prefer Ant-man and the Wasp, if you’re counting that as an action film, but it’s more than worth considering if action cinema is your bag, or bag-adjacent.