“Mission Impossible – Fallout (2018)” Review

My mission, if I chose to undertake it, was to watch all 5 previous MI films so I could watch this one with @joenicholls, thank to my compulsive completism which wouldn’t let me just go to see this out of order. I almost chose not to undertake it and let him go on his own. Then, after I’d watched the first couple of MI films, I thought maybe I’d made a mistake, and I should’ve just gone to see Fallout and never mind my completism. Not just because those first films were so awful, but also because they were completely stand-alone. Not only was there no continuity, there wasn’t even any consistency of character, Ethan Hunt being reinvented for each film, making it rather pointless watching in order.

Fast forward to the opening of Fallout and I’m extremely glad I undertook my mission, because this is anything but stand-alone. It’s a continuity-fest from the opening scene which feature major returning characters from the third and fifth films. I’d dragged along a another friend who’s seen none of the other films and I gave her only the sketchiest of briefings believing even that would be unnecessary, but I was glad I did. Trying to whisper an info dump of that magnitude while the film was playing would not have been easy. Spoilers ahead not just for this film but for all of them…

There are more returning characters in this one that ever before. We get the same team back, minus Jeremy Renner who seems to have gone the way of Paula Patton (never mention, presumably erased from space/time). Not only that, we get the same adversary back in the form of Solomon Lane and his ‘syndicate’ (now evolved into ‘the apostles’). Plus Alec Baldwin is the first secretary to survive into a second film (although he’s now gone the way of Tom Wilkinson). Surprisingly, one character is also linked into the plot of the first film. And we even get the same director returning – no-one but Christopher McQuarrie has directed two Mission Impossible films. But none of those really matter of course, since things only really pootle along until Ilsa Faust reappears, saving Hunt (again) in her natty brown pinstripe.

From then on it’s a very enjoyable film, albeit too long (running half an hour beyond any of the others) and it would have a reasonable claim to second place (Mission Impossible III is still the best) being more carefully plotted and having better dialogue than Rogue Nation. We also fall back to the double-agent/bad apple plot that was a staple of MI films, albeit using the CIA as a convenient way of making IMF look a little less like a colander compared to earlier films. The masks feature too, of course, and quite effectively – with Benjy’s long-held aspiration finally being realised…

But where it fails is not having enough Ilsa Faust – or, more importantly, not making good use of her. Where Rogue Nation is, essentially, built around her character; here we just get a re-hash of the MI6-servitude plot. That at least gives some enjoyable antagonism between her and our heroes – although I’d have been more interested in what she did next (go into business for herself, or as freelance, with maybe an opposing – or more virtuous – goal than IMF). But then that just dissolves as she hooks up with the team. It’s not just that it’s not enough Rebecca Ferguson, it’s that Faust becomes so peripheral that you could almost cut her scenes out without influencing the plot at all… So Fallout falls short of Rogue Nation.

Although I worried about Hunt forgetting he was married when he disappeared for 6 months in the last film, he remembers straight away here. The film sets out to resolve Julia’s storyline from the third and fourth films and, although I’m disappointed that it appears Hunt has forsaken the love of his life, I do like the way they have written the relationship in this – in particular how Julia completely refuses to accept that her life has been defined by her uninformed consenting to marry Hunt. Part of the motivation seems to be to clear the decks for the developing Faust as the love interest, which would be a waste, I think – and I am glad that McQuarrie apparently cut a Hunt/Faust kiss. The relationship is the more interesting for remaining chaste (as with Mulder/Scully, Steed/Gale, etc.) Best of all is the relationship between Ilsa and Julia (“I like her” says Ilsa, when she hears Julia’s cool responses to Luther as they rap and disarm a nuclear bomb). Not to mention “The Whisper”….

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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