Fallout HALO Jump

Non-Stop Action

Once Lane is sprung, Fallout really begins to motor, and any and all quibbles drop away. Except one: the use of Ilsa Faust. Ferguson was phenomenal in Rogue Nation, and when I heard she was coming back – another first for the franchise – I was thrilled. Yet Fallout has trouble balancing her with the bulk of the movie. Her reasoning for getting back into the spy game makes sense, but it seems a bit too tidy. And there’s so much going on here that Ilsa was bound to have a smaller part than last time. But I wanted more. Paramount: get cracking on that Ilsa Faust spin-off movie. Hell, bring back all the other female team-members from the previous films – Paula Patton, Maggie Q – and have them assemble their own team with Ilsa as the leader.

After trying (and failing) to catch Walker in the Tom Cruise Running Scene to end all Tom Cruise Running Scenes, Fallout rockets to its anxiety-inducing climax. Everyone ends up in Kashmir, where, wouldn’t you know it, Ethan’s ex-wife Julia is working as a nurse, with her new husband, the suspiciously nice Patrick, played by Wes Bentley. (Side-note: Patrick is so polite and understanding, played by Bentley with a perpetual grin, that I was convinced there was going to be a last-minute twist where it turns out he’s been secretly working for Lane the whole time. But no, Patrick is just a really nice guy, I guess.)

This is all part of Lane’s plan. He’s going to set off his nukes, kill Julia and also contaminate the water supply to India, Pakistan, and China – an event that will ultimately starve a third of the world’s population. How’s Ethan going to stop this one?! He’ll think of something.

That “something” is the most exhilarating sequence in Mission history. Not just one action scene, but several, all intercut – thunderous applause needs to be directed at editor Eddie Hamilton, who, along with McQuarrie, manages to make what could’ve easily been a confusing, muddled mess into a crystal clear sequence in which we know where everyone is, at every single second:

  • Ethan chases after Walker (and the detonator) by first dangling from, and then commandeering a helicopter, giving way to a helicopter chase/fight.
  • Ilsa and Benji locate Lane, who is hiding in a shack. This results in a brutal battle in which Lane gets the drop on both of them, and comes very close to killing them both.
  • Luther teams up with Julia, as they both try to disarm one of the bombs.

This is a lot of balls to keep up in the air, and it could’ve backfired. If just one of these events lagged, or failed to entertain, the result could be a lopsided sequence in which we’re cutting from a thrilling moment to a less-than-thrilling one. But McQuarrie keeps it all equally engaging, and tense, and funny. There’s something inherently hilarious about watching Tom Cruise fly a helicopter, clearly unsure about what the hell he’s doing.

It culminates in a crash sequence, and then a fist-fight, and then a moment where Hunt and Walker are both dangling over the side of a cliff. I have to pause here to highlight how brilliantly McQuarrie plays the audience here. The important item in this scene is the detonator, and it keeps getting kicked around, dangerously close to the edge. The audience I saw the film with collectively lost their minds during this sequence, groaning in fear and delight at what was going on. They were hooked, wholly committed to what they were witnessing. It made the scene even better.

Fallout team

Character Work

This is a spoiler review, but you know how this all ends, even if you haven’t seen the film. Ethan and his team triumph. Walker dies. Lane inexplicably survives (What’s that about? There’s no way he’s coming back a third time, is he?). The bomb is very close to going off, and Ethan stops it with only seconds to spare. “How close were we?” his team asks later. “The usual,” he says, exhausted.

There’s an unexpected catharsis in the conclusion of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. McQuarrie can stage an action set-piece – and then some – but he also understands that he has to focus on character as well. Those action scenes wouldn’t work nearly as well if we didn’t give a shit about the people taking part in them.

Ving Rhames is always a welcome presence – other than Cruise, he’s the only actor to stick with the entire franchise – but his Luther Stickell has been a bit sidelined for a good portion of the franchise. He shows up, he cracks a few jokes, he looks at computer screens. Rhames is a pro, so he makes all of that work, but Fallout gives him more. First, he gets a surprisingly emotional moment with Ilsa in which he begs her to walk away, because he knows Ethan cares about her more than he wants to admit. Rhames’ acting here – he remains almost inhumanly still, and brings his extremely deep voice down to a whisper – is hypnotic. We hang on his every word. Later, Luther gets to share a moment with Julia as they work together to disarm the bomb. It was a blast seeing Luther doing stuff – not just sitting in a van watching a monitor.

And speaking of Julia, how nice it was to have her – and Michelle Monaghan – back. Ethan’s marriage to Julia in Mission: Impossible III was never going to work. You can’t have Ethan Hunt as a happily married man while he’s running around doing dangerous stuff. The franchise could’ve simply forgotten Julia – killed her off, or never mentioned her again. But McQuarrie’s script brings her back, and gives her something to do. She’s not a damsel in distress; she’s not a victim. She’s right there, in the trenches, trying like hell to stop that bomb. The moment is slightly spoiled by a big emotional speech she gives Ethan at the end where she essentially says, “I’m the woman I am today because of you, Ethan Hunt, most wonderful man on the planet!” It again seems like producer Cruise is patting himself on the back a bit too much.

Monaghan is one of those inherently likable, utterly charming actors, so much so that I still remain shocked she’s not a superstar. She’s not a complete unknown, of course, but it seems like her career should be bigger for how gifted she is. Nonetheless, she takes a very small part and turns it into something special here.

If any team member is short-changed here, it’s Pegg’s Benji. He remains an indispensable member of the team, and always brings a bit of nervous-yet-funny relief to tense moments. But Benji doesn’t have a whole lot to do here – although he does finally get to wear a mask – something he badly wanted to do in Rogue Nation – and he also takes part in a shockingly brutal fight sequence with Solomon Lane. 

In my extremely wordy retrospective on the franchise as a whole (read it here!), I commented that outside of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s spectacularly scary baddie in M:I III, the Impossible franchise hasn’t really had memorable villains. Lane came closest in Rogue Nation, and here he surpasses that. Sean Harris’ work here isn’t quite as good as Hoffman’s (let’s face – very few actors are as good as Hoffman was) – but the actor really sinks his teeth into the role this time. Lane was a bit aloof in Rogue Nation –  a guy with glasses and a permanent scowl. Here, he’s terrifying, boiling with rage at Ethan and his team. The climactic sequence that pits Lane against Ilsa and Benji is so jarringly nasty that it caught me off-guard – we can feel Lane’s brutality in the moment, and we so badly want Ilsa to kick his ass and put a stop to all of this.

All’s well that ends well, though. Ethan saves the day, he and his team share a laugh, Lane is handed over to MI6. All is right. Oh, except for Hunley. He died. It’ll be a shame to lose Baldwin – he felt like he was just getting started with the series – but it’ll be interesting to see who takes his place. Which brings me to one final question.

Continue Reading Mission: Impossible Spoiler Review >>

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net