Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)

The mission, which I have chosen to accept is to review the Mission: Impossible franchise. A sixth installment, Mission: Impossible- Fallout opens at the end of this month. With that in mind, I’ll examine this franchise that has spanned 22 years and six Missions.  The latest of which is the newly released, Mission: Impossible- Fallout. So, let’s open the IMF file to see how Fallout pans out and plays into the rest of the series!

If you’ve been keeping up with this column over the last couple of weeks; you know it’s all been leading up to this. The sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible- Fallout. A film that represents the quickest turnaround in this series; being released a mere three years after its predecessor. In fact, the film in review would’ve been released last year had not been for leading man, Tom Cruise (American Made) breaking his ankle while performing a stunt for Fallout. As a result, the production put on hold for six months. This entry also represents the first time a writer/director has returned to the franchise. Christopher McQuarrie is once again, penning and helming this Mission. Together, McQuarrie, Cruise, and company bring us the following:

This movie picks up two years after the events of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) with the IMF still suffering from the fallout of it all. The villainous group, The Syndicate, has now splintered-off; following the capture of their leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). In Lane’s absence, remaining Syndicate members have formed a terrorist group called The Apostles. To avoid anarchy, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are tasked with posing as plutonium purchasers; so as The Apostles can not procure the radioactive material. Alas, they are unsuccessful in this mission. Now, the team must track down said plutonium. Although, the boys won’t be completing this mission alone. They’ll have help from disgraced British intelligence agent, Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Alas, they’ll also have interference from the CIA, who is having special agent, August Walker (Henry Cavill) tag along on the mission.
As you probably surmised from the plot summary above; another way in which Fallout breaks new ground for this franchise is that it’s entirely a direct sequel to its predecessor. The only other time this has happened in the Impossible franchise is Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation serving as a tenuous follow-up to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). Beyond that, the movie is also the first one that I feel genuinely connects to the original Mission: Impossible (1996). As with his previous outing, McQuarrie pulls in the rest of the Mission mythos. Once again, this is a welcome and fitting choice considering the emotional core of this sixth installment. That being that Ethan Hunt is forced to examine how the fallout of the previous Missions and his decisions within those have brought him and his current team to the events in this movie. Therefore the film has an emotional core to complement its action.

While this narrative does have an emotional core, the plot here is unnecessarily convoluted. As a result, Fallout falls into the set of M:i movies which rely on a pure McGuffin to get us from one action set-piece to the next. Thankfully, this plot being designed in such a way doesn’t hurt it too much as it’s franchise tradition to a certain degree. While this film leaves a bit to be desired on the screenwriting level, it makes up for that in every other respect.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a beautifully made picture. Having great respect for this franchise, Christopher McQuarrie is acutely aware that he’s the first director to return to it. As a result, he made an effort to stay in keeping when the franchise’s history of changing creative times. Therefore, McQuarrie did just that in that he is working with a whole new crew here. Among this new crew is cinematographer Rob Hardy (Annihilation) who delivers what is possibly the best-looking Mission thus far.

In addition to the crew, the cast is also at the top of there game. Cruise in particular is excellent and well-aware that M:i is his series to carry. Although, all of the returning cast do expand on their roles in fun and interesting ways. Moreover, we get new characters in August Walker (Henry Cavill) and White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Now, I’m admittedly not the world’s biggest fan of Henry Cavill (Justice League). Granted, I haven’t seen much of his a work outside of the DCEU. And, in those flicks, I feel the actor underserved with bad screenplays and even worse characterizations. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when Cavill turned in a good performance in this film. Not to mention, his mustache-game is on point!

I mentioned Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, the upcoming Hobbs and Shaw) above and I want to take a moment to write about her. Kirby turns-in a fun performance in this movie. Not only does her character provide ties to the original film; she also has a wonderful screen presence! I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not seen too much of this actresses work, but I look forward to seeing more of it in the future! Furthermore, I hope she will reprise her role as White Widow if there are any further Missions.

The film craft of Fallout is top-notch all-around. However, the best aspect of the movie in review is no doubt its action. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best action film of this Summer. More to the point, it is the best action film of the year; maybe even the past several years. There’s nothing wrong with well-done, albeit, abundant CG-driven action, but I do get tired of it. Fallout is on the other end of the spectrum though. In this picture, CG is used to enhance the action sequences, not to achieve them. As is his way, Tom Cruise performs all his stunts. It’s not often you see a billionaire movie-star put his life on the line to do stunts given to us in this film. I appreciate and respect that; plus it makes for an intense viewing experience.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout isn’t quite a perfect film. However, it is damn close to being perfect for being the espionage-action movie it is. It takes everything further, including the ever-important team dynamic. To me, Mission: Impossible – Fallout not only feels like a bit of a greatest-hits of the entire franchise. It is a film that takes everything that works about its brand and pushes Impossible to the furthest degree possible.
In doing so, I feel that Mission: Impossible- Fallout is not only a Franchise Expansion; it’s also the apex of this franchise. Granted, I don’t think it’s the best film in the franchise. For me, that still belongs to the original movie from ‘96. Even so, I feel that the Mission: Impossible franchise is the strongest one I have yet to review in this column. In the end, Fallout would be a fitting ending to this series; however,I would love to see a seventh Mission.

In the meantime Mission: Impossible- Fallout is NOW PLAYING!

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