Can a movie be good if it is shallow? Surely, you have seen movies that a critic may have called shallow or without depth, but later thought you saw plenty of depth. But I feel rather confident in saying that Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a shallow movie. They spend maybe ten minutes developing a plot at the beginning of the film and let it hang there like a sign directing your path.
I’m not exaggerating either, it is a few minutes of Ethan Hunt’s mission briefing that basically marks the answers on a school worksheet saying. “These are the bad guys, check. This is how you save the world, check. This is the spy-girl of this movie, check. This is the bad guys again in case you missed it…”
As you may have realized at this point in reading my reviews, I like depth in my movies. I like to be immersed. Fallout doesn’t do that. What it does do is grab you by the throat and squeeze for two-and-a-half hours. The last thing this movie wants you to do is to take a breath and think about things.
I would agree in calling it a thrill-ride. I would agree with calling it intense. It is like a pure concentration of blood pumping action distilled from all five of the Mission movies so far. It is the first one I would call a real sequel instead of a new episode. The difference being that it doesn’t just rinse off the main characters and put them into a new situation, it brings back two characters directly from Rogue Nation, the British agent Ilsa Faust, Rebecca Ferguson, and the Syndicate leader Solomon Lane, Sean Harris.
The movie premise plays off of the aftermath of Rogue Nation but doesn’t develop it much further. Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise, wrestles with the consequences of, SPOILER, not having killed Lane in the last movie. Lane also wants Hunt to suffer as he watches the world he protects crumble around him. You know, basic ‘spy-stuff.’
The action kicks off with Hunt and his crew trying to regain three stollen plutonium cores. His core group sees Benji, Simon Pegg, returning alongside Luther, Ving Rhames, under the supervision of former-antagonist-turned-ally Alan Hunley, Alec Baldwin. After failing to recover the cores, the group follows the trail of an unknown person with only an alias to follow, John Lark. Believed to be a fundamentalist and leader of the Apostles, the bad guys, Lark is the mysterious expected double agent that doesn’t stay mysterious for long. Again, this movie has a very obvious path full of signs for you to follow.
It even openly makes the distinctions of its characters when it calls Ethan Hunt ‘a scalpel’ compared to new agent August Walker, Henry Cavill, as ‘a hammer.’ They do showcase this more in the way they fight as well. Hunt is a more martial flow kind of fighter with Cavill as a straight brawler. Walker is placed on the team after they fail to retrieve the plutonium cores earlier because Hunt chose to save his teammate instead of securing the package. It actually represents the deepest point of the movie as a moral decision over saving one life versus saving many lives.
Cavill’s play as Walker works well as the prevailing counterpoint to Hunt. From the way he fights to the choices he makes, he stands as the other half of the coin, the mirror image, the dark Hunt. Walker is Hunt if he would have killed Lane. He is Hunt if he had lost faith in the world.
While the movie blatantly holds your hand on plot and characters, I would probably call it clutching your hand while it drags you through the fast-paced action scenes, it seems to have reason to do so. Remember how I said the movie doesn’t want you to think? It gives you the answers on a platter because it wants all of your attention focused on the craziest stunts I’ve seen in a while. I swear, Director Christopher McQuarrie must have woken up one day and said, “I hung this character outside of a huge plane as it took off in the last movie, what can I try to do to get Tom Cruise killed this time?”
Okay, joking aside, the point is that the action and stunts of this movie are the main focus as it dashes from one piece to the next. Beautifully, there is such a variety of action scenes in this film. From skydiving to gunfights, from car and motorcycle chases to hand to hand combat, the film tries its best to leave you breathless and exhausted by the time you leave. They have helicopters, building jumping, a foot-chase, explosions, hangings, and even some rock climbing. I don’t know how to find Ethen Hunt in real life, but please send him to the Olympics for marathon running.
The one moment I had to think about a stunt being done was watching him learn to fly a helicopter while it was crashing. But, hey, movie logic, right?
One thing I did enjoy about Fallout is how self-aware it was. With the face-mask gag done so much throughout the film, it makes fun of itself several times and even has the bad guy figure out mid-rant that he was talking to a guy in a mask.
It also harkens back to its more Cold-War roots from the first film with a film-noir-looking Vanessa Kirby as the White Widow. While her character becomes more of a background character shortly after her introduction, she still manages to pull all eyes in her direction when on-screen. I’m not just she looks good, its the old school femme fatale aura she has that I might give just as much credit to costuming and the director for the idea as to her for pulling it off.
The movie also returns a character from the third film, Michelle Monaghan plays Julia, Hunt’s ex-wife, tying up the semi loose end by the credits. Playing on the role as Hunt’s ex, she becomes a symbol of Hunt’s past. Showcasing so many things from past films is a nice way to finally tie them all together as it connects the pieces in style as well as story. There is less intrigue in this sequel than in most of the others, but it trades off for the fun of the action.
So, “Can a movie be good if it is shallow?” Ultimately, sure it can. It may not be very fulfilling, it may not even be inspiring, but it is still riveting to watch. Its fun, its crazy, and its a step up from certain films in the franchise… Yes, I am looking at you Mission: Impossible 2.