“Mission: Impossible – Fallout ” (2018)

Thriller

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Running Time: 147 minutes

Written by: Christopher McQuarrie

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Featuring:  Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett

August Walker: “How many times has Hunt’s government betrayed him, disavowed him, cast him aside? How long before a man like that has had enough?”

Critical Commentary:

Say what you want about Tom Cruise especially as a public persona with his associations to Scientology as well as marriages that have come and gone, but there has rarely been a more popular as well as bigger movie star in all of Hollywood history. Sure there have been box office disappointments but even when his star was seemingly falling in the US it was picking up elsewhere in the world to carry his popularity, enabling him to make not only big budget movies but more modest fare as well, such as last years “American Made” (2017), which was an above average action/drama but also a modest hit with a great cast, including some fantastic production talent. The only real box office dud in recent memory was the musical “Rock of Ages” (2012) where he only had a minor role but showed no fear in his performance, which coincidentally is what he has become known for since “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011) with its huge (mostly) non CGI stunts, with Cruise front and centre in those performances. Now against all odds when at one point this franchise seemed dead after a listless third entry we now have the sixth, arguably its biggest entry with almost everything supersized as well as a push towards the future with not only some familiar faces but new blood injected to keep things fresh, although with the sheer number of set pieces this never seems an issue.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018) as the sixth entry arrives twenty two years after the first installment revisited the East as a post cold war adaption of a television series best known for the continuous face swapping that occurred almost every episode to ensure the IMF always came out on top. The first movie had two major set pieces that have been not only parodied endlessly but served as a taster for what was to come. Until this new movie each installment had a different director that was supposed to offer something different for fans but it was not until Brad Bird directed the great “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” that it was clear the type of story, as well as feel that these movies should strive for. They became more cinematic, a lot more tongue in cheek, they took the stories global, introduced new actors to the world and of course the stunts got more practical as well as much bigger. In fact the entire franchise became more like a Chris Nolan movie than a James Bond movie, it is no wonder people would love Nolan to direct the Bond franchise.

Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie shows onscreen that he has not only learnt from his previous mission but illustrates how to make a movie that isn’t a comic book movie, differentiating it as much as possible through the use of excellent actors as well as crafted set pieces, including a story that while not completely original does something that few blockbusters do, make the action a part of the narrative in doing so it slims the plot down to a double dip, that is a road movie of sorts as well as a conspiracy thriller set around the all too familiar ‘loose nukes’ storyline seen in many other spy thrillers. The fact that the plot of this movie may seem overly familiar is not necessarily a negative as it serves a purpose cutting through with ease to the audience about what is actually occurring onscreen. Where “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is original is that separate from the action it introduces many new people to the franchise that could return or not, it also, while being based around one character, Ethan Hunt, does let many of its other characters shine in very specific ways as to really make this new movie original in a Summer full of reboots, sequels, prequels and remakes. McQuarrie has been given free reign like no other ‘Mission’ director, in that he after the success of his previous movie, as well as his close relationship with Cruise he has crafted the movie he wanted to produce with the highest stakes going, the future of the franchise is in his hands and to his credit he succeeds far higher than many other writer/directors have in the past with any equivalent franchise – this could be the franchises “Skyfall” (2012). As mentioned McQuarrie has become a fine director and this movie has many nods to previous installments as well as many other movies reflective of the genre that this movie apes in some great ways, using noise, silence as well as music to highlight moments that other directors may rely on tropes to get by.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is set two years after the capture of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remains of his organization ‘The Syndicate’ have reformed into a terrorist group known as ‘The Apostles. At a safehouse in Belfast, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) receives details of a mission to intercept the sale of three plutonium cores to members of the group. The mission takes him to Berlin where he meets up with Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), but the mission fails when Hunt makes the choice to save Luther’s life and the plutonium is taken by the Apostles. Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), Director of the CIA, instructs Special Activities operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Hunt as he attempts to retrieve the plutonium. So the movie moves at a brisk pace from here towards a goal that has a complicated plot which is as stated surrounded by amazing action set pieces.

As with any ‘Mission’ movie the central figure is always Tom Cruise as not only Ethan Hunt but also as one of the uncredited writers and as main producer. These movies have always been Cruise’s baby with him taking centre stage at almost every turn, for the most part succeeding both critically as well as financially even when his personal stock has been low these movies have soared high. Everything about Cruise has already been written, he is dedicated to action movies like no other actor ever, maybe except Steve McQueen, but Cruise does so much more physically than he ever did. Not only that but Cruise is an underrated actor both dramatically as well as comedically what is great about the ‘Mission’ movies is that he gets to exercise those muscles throughout sometimes in the same scene. Lastly Cruise is not afraid to share the screen with anyone which has been a hallmark of his entire career, here he invites the entire cast to do their best work, and within the medium they all deliver some of their best work.

Returning to the franchise are Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin all playing their parts like old pros, they have all made appearances before so know their jobs with all shining in their own individual ways which compliment the main star. New to the fold are great character actor Angela Bassett who is always fantastic to see onscreen especially in high profile projects such as this and the huge success that was “Black Panther” (2018). Also newly arriving is the unofficial co-lead of the movie Henry Cavill, who has been searching for a successful high profile movie after the success of “Man of Steel” (2013), which it appears he has found after two disastrous DCEU movies as well as the underrated “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (2015), it appears playing this part may have stretched him showing that he has a viable career after playing Superman. Cavill is a physically gifted actor who here gets to not only play strong action scenes, but gets to really invent a character playing high drama, comedy as well as being duplicitous throughout his arc in a very good bordering on great action movie, one of the best of the year.

The road movie narrative fits very well with this new movie, it starts in Belfast and doesn’t give up until the climax of the movie, like all great movies of its ilk, it is not so much the end goal that is important or even satisfying, it is the trip it takes to get there, unlike many movies this attempts to not only up the ante from previous movies but seeks to do that from scene to scene. The fact that this movie succeeds as a spectacle speaks highly of not only the director as well as the actors but of the stunt people, the cinematographer and everyone else involved in the production. Unlike many similar movies there is definitely something that will be lost not seeing this on the big screen, it is that much of a unique event, it has to be the best ‘Mission’ movie yet which speaks directly to how great it is, anything that the previous movie missed in terms of quality, story, narrative or action or more than made up for here, not only that it sets a firm direction for the future without offering any kind of bait for a sequel.

This movie does so many things right with not only the stunts but the overall way this sequel fits into the overarching narrative started with “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” which hinted at some rival group of terrorists as well as the fate of Ethan’s wife. What is unusual to almost all blockbusters especially the patriarchal themed movies is this one does actually have a very real emotional core that has only increased with each subsequent sequel. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” does what possibly only the middle two ‘Bourne’ sequels did, that is explain why character shifts occur as well as how the last three movies fit in to this universe which is now free to really ramp up to a new story yet leaning on the past in a very substantive way, I cannot wait for more of these movies.

If you want a movie that is entertaining as well as action packed with moments of comedy then this is for you. It is that rare franchise sequel that is worth the price of entry; it begs to be watched multiple times, this movie is a winner on all levels and a great way to end the summer blockbuster season.

Technical Commentary:

Video

The sixth installment mounts the biggest rescue mission yet on Ultra HD, outfitted with an exceptional HEVC H.265 encode that does a slightly better job than the Blu-ray. 

Shot on a combination of traditional 35mm and 8K digital cameras, which was later mastered to a 4K digital intermediate, the freshly-minted transfer enjoys a notable uptick in overall resolution. The tiniest crease and stitch in the clothing is sharper, and every unique feature of the European architecture is a bit more distinct, exposing the most minute crack, crevice, and pockmark of the walls, pillars, and streets. Each individual hair, whisker and small fuzzballs on the clothes are plainly visible and very detailed while facial complexions often expose pores, wrinkles and the most negligible blemishes with lifelike textures. On a more interesting comparison, the diffusion-filter look of Rob Hardy’s stylized photography is not quite as prominent on UHD as it is on the Blu-ray. Of course, a few scenes, such as the nightclub party in Paris, still fall on the mildly softer side, but the deliberate look still maintains outstanding clarity and definition while also lightly bathed in natural film grain.

Also, from beginning to end, the 2160p video saves the day with improved, more luminance contrast, supplying the action with radiant whites and an energetic glow that makes each stunt all the more spectacular and stunning. Compared to the Blu-ray, the car chase through the Parisian streets are vibrantly striking and eye-catching. Unfortunately, specular highlights are not really any more dramatic or intense, with a couple instances of very mild blooming from some light fixtures, likely due to the filmmakers’ creative intentions. But on the whole, the brightest areas are fairly tight with strong detailing while giving metallic surfaces a realistic shiny gleam. Interestingly, the cinematography doesn’t affect brightness levels like before. In fact, blacks are significantly richer and more luxurious with a velvety gloss in hairdos, a swarthy ebony polish in vehicles and silky, inky shadows that penetrate deep into the screen, providing appreciable dimensionality and a gorgeous cinematic appeal. In the Paris nightclub scene, the bathroom fight offers excellent demo-worthy material.

Furthermore, Hardy’s creative cinematography also enjoys another unmistakable upgrade, as colors are observably bolder without also seeming overemphasized or excessive. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation delivers a sumptuous array of primaries, making the cerulean blue skies glow during the many daylight exteriors. There are appreciable differences in the ruby reds of blood, the crimson radiance of lights and the candy rose in some articles of clothing. Meanwhile, the greens of the surrounding foliage are brimming with life and a lovely splendidness. Although a bit more nuanced and subtler, secondary hues and softer pastels receive a welcomed, dazzling boost, showering sunset scenes with a lovely, picturesque assortment of orangey yellows, blushing pinks and deep lavenders. Flesh tones have a more natural, reddish appeal as well as, making this UHD version better than its HD SDR counterpart and the preferred way of watching the movie. 

On a side note, the presentation comes with alternating aspect ratios, switching between 2.39:1 and 1.90:1 IMAX sizes for those action sequences taking place in the sky or through mountains. Although faithful to the filmmakers’ intentions, CIH enthusiasts will want to make the proper adjustments. Personally, I found the 2.20:1 aspect ratio a good comprise for enjoying the movie during these scenes.

Audio

Joining this stressfully nerve-wracking excursion to stop the greatest suffering is this awesome, edge-of-your-seat, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack. 

Right from the opening moments, the front soundstage feels broad and expansive, displaying lots of warmth and fidelity in Lorne Balfe’s understated score. Meanwhile, various activity in the background spreads across all three channels with spotless fluidity and into the top heights, establishing a highly-engaging half-dome environ that amazingly stays consistent from beginning to end. Rich, clarity detailing within the mid-range allows for the echo of gunshots and ricochet of bullets to be heard with stunning precision, and the crunch of metal during action sequences is distinctly heard while vocals are lucid and well-prioritized over the loudest segments. A powerful and occasionally authoritative low-end provides gunfire with a tight, potent snap, collusions with a room-shaking rumble, engines with a realistic growl and explosions with an aggressively resounding boom. There are a couple instances when bass even digs into the ultra-low depths, dropping well below 20Hz  with some serious decibels, adding an incredible sense of presence to the action and music (bass chart).

Rear activity is also at a near constant, as various ambient noises during quieter, dialogue-driven moments litter the room and convincingly encircle the listening area. Whether it’s the bustling city traffic of Paris, the chatter of people in the Kashmir village and medical camp or voices echoing while characters argue underground, the surrounds are continuously employed with a variety of effects discretely moving from one channel to the next, creating an enveloping 360° environment that keeps viewers glued to their seats. Action scenes can be quite aggressive as an assortment of atmospherics smoothly journey into the ceiling channels, expanding the visuals to a grander scale. The engines of planes and the propeller blades of helicopters fill the empty space above, and the ringing of police sirens reverberate in every direction. Chase sequences, unsurprisingly, are the best moments with helicopters, cars, and motorcycles flawlessly panning overhead to generate an immersive hemispheric soundfield, making it one of the best high-resolution tracks of the year. 

Special Features

  • Behind the Fallout (HD, 54 min): A seven-part documentary breaking down various action sequences, the dangerous stunts performed and other areas of the production as they relate and affect the central hero, Ethan Hunt, while also providing some thoughts on the other supporting characters and their relationship with Hunt.
    • Light the Fuse
    • Top of the World
    • The Big Swing: Deleted Scene Breakdown
    • Rendezvous in Paris
    • The Fall
    • The Hunt Is On
    • Cliffside Clash
  • Foot Chase Musical Breakdown (HD, 5 min): Composer Balfe is given a few minutes to share his thoughts behind composing the music to a pivotal scene in the film.
  • The Ultimate Mission (HD, 3 min): A much-too brief discussion on the insane practical stunts and visual effects with tons of BTS footage as evidence.
  • Storyboards (HD): Four pieces that play separately, focused on specific action sequences.
    • Paris
    • What If?
    • London
    • Helicopter
  • Deleted Scenes Montage (HD, 4 min): With optional commentary from director McQuarrrie and editor Hamilton, this is a short collection of scenes that didn’t make the final cut.
  • Trailer (HD, 3 min)
  • Audio Commentaries: The first in a trio of commentaries features director Christopher McQuarrie and star Tom Cruise in a friendly chat about working together while also providing some insight into the visuals as they occur on screen and sharing some amusing anecdotes from the production. The second discussion has McQuarrie talking with editor Eddie Hamilton on the technical aspects, mostly related to constructing suspenseful action sequences which some cinephiles will find particularly interesting and insightful. The third and final track allows composer Lorne Balfe to share his thoughts on creating the score and particular musical motifs, as well as his thought process behind certain sequences. 
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