Film review: Mission: Impossible—Fallout

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, July 27th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the latest Mission Impossible film. Mission Impossible — Fallout.

EICHER: Alright! I enjoyed jabbering with you about Mamma Mia last week with all the toe-tapping music. Lots of fun.

But I’m primed for a new Mission Impossible!

BASHAM: You should be! As I said yesterday, this is your kind of thriller.

And, hey, when you go, see if you don’t notice this. It’s a  moment early on in the film. It seems intentionally to present a winking contrast to that other famed international man of intrigue.

EICHER: Hm. Who could it be?

The movie is PG-13 for language and action violence, but doesn’t include any of those Bond-style seductions.

AUDIO: I know what you’re thinking, maybe they’re not here for you…I think I’d like to go home now.

Our protagonist eliminates bad guy after bad guy trying to ambush him in a swank setting.

In the midst of planning a hijacking mission, an exotic blonde femme fatale plants an aggressive kiss on Ethan Hunt’s lips. Bond, James Bond, would have accepted this as par for the course, a perk of the business, so to speak. And the audience would have been primed for the oh-so sophisticated interlude that would surely occur later in the film.

Ethan Hunt, on the other hand, looks slightly unnerved. For a brief flicker his cover identity wavers and we know from the surprised widening of his eyes that this brazen hussy is never going to get what she wants from our man.

AUDIO: Benji, do you copy? We’re on our way.

I said in my 2015 review of Rogue Nation that over the past decade, in the same way 007 has long represented an elite European ideal, America’s most iconic secret agent has come to embody the broad values of our culture. After watching this latest MI installment, I stand by that assessment.

AUDIO: How is he? Oh you know, same old Ethan.

We expect the best spy thrillers to offer eye-popping action sequences set against breathtaking foreign locales, and on this score Fallout certainly delivers. Perhaps more than any other entry in the franchise so far.

Sure, the plot may whiplash so fast through triple and quadruple crosses that none manage to have much impact. But what is that against the sight of Tom Cruise Halo jumping through a lightning storm to land on the gothic roof of a French opera house?

But more than just eye-candy, we’re drawn in by the man Ethan Hunt has grown to be over the course of these movies and the enemies he battles.

Here, the enemy is a terror syndicate self-dubbed “The Apostles.” If they had a theme song, it would be John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The plan of these radical secularists is to nuke three major religious sites—the Vatican, Mecca, and Jerusalem. They hope to achieve that lyric about “no religions” and force the rest of the world to join them.

AUDIO: Your mission should you choose to accept it…and the blood will be on your hands – the fallout of all your good intentions.

The movie doesn’t explore this element as much as I’d like, but it’s saying something that it never suggests that any part of their argument might have merit. Better fleshed out is the other antagonist Hunt has to face.

AUDIO: It might be your mission, but this is the CIA’s plane…My man goes or no one goes.

In other words, only outcomes matter. Individuals do not.  

But that’s not how Ethan Hunt and his merry band of rogue outsiders play the game. Ethan’s inability to sacrifice one life on the altar of a higher good is his greatest strength. It goes hand-in-hand with his uniquely American optimism. He believes he can find a moral way to complete his mission.

While he may racked up a few regrets over the years, we still don’t see an Ethan Hunt plagued by inner demons or tormented by cynicism. In fact, Fallout’s storyline turns on Ethan’s sense of duty leaving him open for framing.

AUDIO: We got talk, need to rethink this. Enough talk. I’ll see you in Paris.

At 56, Tom Cruise is finally starting to show a few crinkles around the edges. Barely. They suit him, and they suit the trajectory of the Mission Impossible movies, giving Ethan Hunt a maturing edge that makes his resistance of a world-weary persona all the more appealing.  

AUDIO: Which way Benji? I’m jumping out a window! Oh sorry, good luck.

Let the sophisticates have their martinis shaken and stirred.  I’ll take the spy whose puritan roots would never allow him to drink on the job.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures and Skydance via AP) This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in a scene from “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” 

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