There’s no franchise generating more raw entertainment value than “Mission: Impossible.” For two decades Tom Cruise has delivered a wide variety of action-heavy espionage, featuring insane stunts and impressive set pieces. The movies work because the iconic star does whatever it takes to entertain an audience with real-world, practical stunts becoming less frequent in our computer-generated, green-screen-laden landscape of blockbuster cinema. Cruise continues to push the boundaries in each “Mission: Impossible” installment and finds ways to thrill fans.
The series is currently basking in the warm glow of success from fans and critics—deservedly so. There are few franchises that have maintained such a high level of quality and creative consistency six movies in. Normally, it is the time studios are looking for ways to reinvigorate or reboot a series because people have completely lost interest, like in the “Transformers” or “Faces of Death” movies. While I had a good time with “Fallout,” the latest adventure featuring superspy Ethan Hunt feels like we may be at or just past the plateau of what the films offer.
Once again we are introduced to espionage agent extraordinaire Ethan Hunt (Cruise), who has a mission involving stolen plutonium and a plot to build nuclear devices that can blow up a few cities. Because that’s what bad guys are interested in: buying, selling and deploying nuclear bombs. Do you know how I know this? Because almost every single spy movie revolves around stolen nuclear weapons as the plot. It’s a tired trope that Austin Powers perfectly lampooned 20 years ago with the line, “Let’s do what we always do: hijack nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage.”
There was a sense of familiarity as the sixth installment started. Ethan and his team of rapidly aging agents are trying to recover some plutonium from the remnants of a mysterious evil organization he destroyed previously. He has a choice between saving his team or preventing a potential plutonium-fueled paroxysm. Of course, he chooses friendship. Because millions of people dying by fiery nuclear Armageddon is horrible, but nothing’s as bad as losing your best buds.
There’s a strange thread woven throughout the movie, where our hero is praised for always trying to save the day and keeping the people he values the most safe. It’s admirable—but, ultimately, it feels forced in this installment. It seems every time the world is at risk, Hunt has to find an impossible solution where he can get the bad guy and save the day without the good guys suffering major consequences. Two installments back, he hands over nuclear codes to a warhead and almost has San Francisco blown to smithereens. Two installments back from there, he almost lets a biological weapon loose because he’s got the hot feels for Thandie Newton (understandable, but short-sighted). It is still a great franchise, but it’s beginning to show some wear and tear from repetition.
Like the whole concept of Hunt having to go rogue: It’s been a staple in almost every installment. At some point, he has to break the rules to win the day. At some point, his handlers just need to be like, “Well, he’s Ethan Hunt, let’s let him do his thing”—or the writers need to find a plot which allows him to actually work within the system to accomplish his mission. After 20 years, it feels like no one who works with the IMF team has learned any lessons.
In spite of a little franchise fatigue, there’s still a lot to love about “Fallout.” The action scenes are breathtaking. There’s a motorcycle chase through Paris, a rooftop run through London, and a helicopter fight through the mountains of Kashmir—all are just amazing to behold on the big screen. Even if the story feels reheated, the on-screen spectacle is smoking hot—damn-near perfect action sequences. It’s still more than enough to justify the purchase of a ticket, but I’m starting to wonder if Hollywood’s most energetic and entertaining franchise has any new moves left. For now, “Mission: Impossible—Fallout” is still firing on enough cylinders to be this summer’s most entertaining ride.