With every single installment, Mission: Impossible is proving itself one of the most sound franchises. Fallout is yet the most exciting and impressive sequel that comes the audience’s way. Christian Tesfaye appreciated its bold theme and fantastic actions sequences, awarding it 8 out of 10 stars.
I had high expectations for Mission: Impossible – Fallout. After incremental progress in the quality of the movies in the franchise and the positive critical acclaim this installment has garnered, I went into the theatre looking for wit, thrills and adventure. Fallout delivers like the prequels in the franchise have only dreamed of doing.
The plot is not wholly original. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), veteran point man of the Impossible Mission Force, is given another mission should he “choose to accept it.”
He does. He is tasked with recovering plutonium cores from a terrorist group known as The Apostles. He and his team almost do, but the mission goes awry when Ethan chooses to save a team member instead of protecting the cores at all costs.
Ethan’s inability to make hard decisions for the sake of the “greater good” gets him in trouble with the Central Intelligence Agency. An agent, August (Henry Cavill), is assigned to ensure that the team acquires the cores. This turns out to mean having to break Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), leader of a crime syndicate that Ethan put behind bars at a significant cost in the prequel, out of custody in return for the cores.
This may sound like a mediocre enough plot that inspires more apathy than excitement. But Fallout finds its strength in its execution, character depth and sophisticated theme.
The action sequences are intense and high risk. The fight scenes are clean. It helps that Cruise does a great deal of his own stunts. There is no need to edit fight scenes into so many shots that we do not realise that it is not the actor himself doing the fighting.
It is not just the fight scenes. The motor chase through the streets of Paris in the second act is a sequence to behold. It would have made the filmmakers of Bullitt and The French Connection proud. Taking place in the crowded and narrow streets of the French capital, it succeeds in putting the audience in the high-octane chase that Ethan tries to get out of in one piece.
For all the strength and meat of the action sequences though, it is the theme and complexity of the lead character that is most impressive.
Over the years we have become accustomed to heroes that are willing to make hard choices.
It is a scenario that is usually created in contemporary movies. It is one in which the protagonist has to choose between having to sacrifice a few lives to save the many or rescue those few at the expense of the many. Such character development has permeated mainstream cinema with the popularisation of the grey character.
I have applauded filmmakers for being more realistic in the protagonists they give us. No human is utterly good, and no situation can be interpreted as black or white. Everything is complex. Thus, as the ultimate purpose of art is to give us a glimpse into the human condition, a character must imitate a human.
But such characters’ actions began to be taken at face value. A non one-dimensional character became merely cruel, not human-like. This was because protagonists were being presented with a false dilemma – the case of having to either save the many at the expense of the few or vice-versa. This moral perversion embraces utilitarianism, not to mention reductionism, and has the arrogance to take it at face-value that the collective good always demands the sacrifice of the few.
Ethan is a humanist. He refuses to fall for the defeatist hypothetical that lazy filmmakers fabricate for their characters. He cares just as much for the individual as much as he does for the millions he is tasked to save. He is a practical man that recognises a lost cause when he sees it but also understands that there is always a third alternative if only we are bothered enough to search for it.
Fallout is a character-driven action movie. It is a movie that is less concerned with having the protagonist save the day rather than save himself, and by extension, the proverbial day.
It is likewise a commentary on the current delusion that leaders of developed countries have come to suffer from. From the United States to Europe, the existing world order is coming under attack. Globalisation has not worked, it is claimed, and thus the alternative should be its dismantling. This view, which is subscribed to by the film’s villain, fails to consider a third alternative.
The global world order can be modified to become fairer and more effective at countering autocratic governments in countries such as Russia and China. But that requires patience, understanding and a great deal of teamwork.
Fallout is not perfect. Some scenes are too sentimental. But it is one of the best action movies that have graced cinema in the last couple of years. To top it off, it has a message worthy of critical attention and is an unabashed proponent of the liberal world order. Franklin D. Roosevelt would have loved it.
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