Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The latest installment of the little movie series that could is good, though not as great as the last one. (Rogue Nation was something special.)

In this one, Ethan (Tom Cruise) has to stop someone from blowing up some nuclear bombs at a water source that impacts over a billion people. So, that’s pretty dramatic. He’s got Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) in his crew, and before too long, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up. The new, and unwelcome, addition to the team is August Walker (Henry Cavill), a CIA operative there to make sure things don’t go sideways. I kind of enjoyed Walker’s blase attitude toward violence, and his eye-rolling reactions to some of the IMF’s most treasured toys, like their impersonation masks.

There’s all the action you would expect, with car, motorcycle and helicopter chases. And, of course, Ethan running. You got to have some Ethan running scenes. The big stunt in this one was Ethan jumping out of a plane at 20,000 feet. Which Tom Cruise really did. It’s impressive in theory, but doesn’t carry the same visual impact of him hanging onto the side of a plane in flight. (Another reason Rogue Nation was special.)

Also, and this is a nitpick, the HALO drop was filmed at sunset, but the story has the characters making the jump at 11:30 pm to interrupt a midnight rendezvous. That bugged me.

So, this is a good film, but certainly not the best of the series.

I’m going to dip into spoilers for this next bit, so be warned.

The other thing I found interesting about Fallout was how it felt like a Greatest Hits compilation. Let’s run it down:

Mission: Impossible — Ethan impersonates someone to get a meeting with an arms dealer (who is played by an actress named Vanessa) and he has a weird May-December flirtation with her. (Fun fact. Tom Cruise is just as much older than Vanessa Kirby as he is younger than Vanessa Redgrave.)

Mission: Impossible II — The bad guy is an agent who Ethan dislikes because he’s more interested in killing than he is in spying.

Mission: Impossible III — Julia (Michelle Monaghan) is in danger in the third act. Also, one of the bad guys is impersonated by a good guy.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol — After Ethan claims he’s not the bad guy, the IMF Secretary believes him, and then is quickly killed. Also, the bad guy wants to set off nukes to bring about peace. Somehow.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation — The head of the CIA starts the film thinking that Ethan Hunt is a reckless fool, but is turned around by the end. Also, Ethan has a battle of wits with Ilsa because she won’t reveal her mission to him – until the second act, anyway.

Did I miss any?

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The World’s End

tweThe brilliant thing about the Cornetto Trilogy is that these films have compelling storylines with characters that we care about before the craziness begins. We care about Shaun before he starts battling the dead (Shaun of the Dead). We care about Nicholas before he uncovers a crime syndicate in a small town (Hot Fuzz).

In The World’s End, that aspect of the movie is handled even better. As a putative horror-sci-fi tale, it takes a good long time before you see anything like a speculative fiction element on screen. You meet Gary (Simon Pegg), a man-child living a sad life of longing, longing for the glory days of his youth, when he and his mates nearly completed the Golden Mile, a twelve-pub crawl through their little town. After an epiphany of sorts, Gary tries to get the band back together to attempt the Golden Mile once more. The rest of the crew reluctantly agrees. (Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan.) Each has life far more grounded and mature than Gary’s, though each also has some reasons for regret of their own.

(Side note: I could imagine a sequel to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off having this kind of structure, where Ferris never grew up, and Cameron has to do a maturity intervention, flipping the structure of the first film. Just a thought. Carrying on the with the review…)

This alone could have been the premise for an excellent film. Witty banter, dramatic reveals, even a long-lost love in the form of Rosamund Pike. Then, the robots happen.

See, the boys’ hometown is now infested with mechanical devices that look just like the residents of the town, some unaged since 1990. A running gag in the film involves the invaders’ distaste for the term “robot”, so our heroes decide to call them “blanks”. There’s a lot of running away from blanks, and fighting them in restrooms, and paranoid discussions of who is still human. But it’s all still infused with the themes of lost youth and regret, not to mention laced with hilarious one-liners. Like Shaun of the Dead (though far less so in Hot Fuzz) the film balances the dramatic, comedic, and genre aspects beautifully.

By the film’s conclusion, the dramatic and comedic elements begin to seriously drown out the genre elements. Not that there isn’t a big, science-fictiony conclusion to the conflict with the blanks, but it just doesn’t resonate as much as the rest of the story. It feels almost like a throwaway.

All in all, The World’s End is a good film. It just doesn’t have the “timeless classic” feel of Shaun of the Dead.

(Another side note: It’s too bad they didn’t have George Lazenby as a bad guy in Shaun of the Dead. You know, for symmetry.)