Mission: Impossible – Fallout

5 out of 5

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

And lo it was spoken that no two Mission: Impossible films shall share the same director, the same villain, and shall have a rotating member on the team.

M:I II might’ve been inevitable, but not necessarily.  It wasn’t a ‘franchise’ at that point, and so it made sense to go after another big name director (John Woo vs. De Palma) and, when it was notably quite different from the preceding film, proclaim that, should the series continue – which obviously it did – each new entry will follow that trend of being rather standalone, and have a unique vision.  This was rather a smart failsafe to prevent Transformers Bay-ness, in which each and every entry can be criticized beforehand for being similar to what came before, and indeed, M:I III differed from 1 and 2, as it differed from 4, as it differed from 5.

But then, y’know, if it ain’t broke… and no one seemed to consider Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (#5) broken in any way.  Tom Cruise had worked with writer / director McQuarrie on several other projects; the production of J.J. Abrams had proven to be a solid partnership; and it was clear that the camaraderie of in-film IMF buddies Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg was now part of the series’ DNA, which had absolutely become a franchise by this point.  Rogue Nation was great, but McQuarrie also had an idea of making it somewhat of a ‘greatest hits’ of M:I films, and that, combined with an undercurrent of momentum that seemed geared, at points, solely toward establishing the flick as a primo action movie, made it feel a little forced at points.  Tons of fun, intelligent, great characters and set pieces, but a little forced.

And so we broke the rules, and the whole team came back for Fallout, which is all too fittingly named as a direct sequel to Rogue Nation, in which the IMF team must deal with the, ahem, fallout of their capture of terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), as well as the threat of nuclear fallout from some bombs a group of acolytes Lane has expired are planning on setting off.  Rather than feeling like a retread, though, M:I 6 takes its established crew, behind and in front of the camera, and forges ahead with renewed confidence.  Rogue Nation kicked things off with its best stunt; Fallout has a halo jump close at the beginning, sure, but I kept marveling – during its massively entertaining, couldn’t-turn-away 2.5 hours – how tamped down it kept its action, not aiming for the outlandish movie-defining showcase of all the previous movies.  Until I realized that the entire film is a showcase because of that restraint, and that McQuarrie and crew were no longer greatest-hits-ing things, but revamping and improving on them, calling back to moments from all the movies and essentially showing: this is what we’ve learned since then.  It’s damned thrilling, still stuffed with all the double- and triple- crosses we want, but able to flesh out the characters moreso than ever before because it’s a true sequel and not another fresh-faced entry.  That is, perhaps, the best use of a sequel, in which it actually seems like a justified addition to a story.

Mind you, things do get properly unrestrained and insane with all the stunts: the last half hour is a masterpiece of tension, and I do not think I’ve had more fun watching such choreographed madness in quite some time.

If it ain’t broke… and so McQuarrie has signed on for at least two more M:I movies.  But at this point, instead of rolling my eyes at a yearly checkbox of a Marvel entry or whatnot, I cannot wait to see what make-or-break variation the series lands on next.