8/3/18: CRUISE CONTROL
At some point midway through Mission: Impossible -- Fallout, the sixth and notably longest-running of the delectably dangerous franchise, one of the villains (there are several) encounters field agent Ethan Hunt in a face-to-face moment (there are several) and asks him, equally as amazed as he is taunting, “Don’t you know when you’re beaten?” The answer, which Hunt doesn’t give, is no, apparently not. After twelve years, five daring films and roughly eleven screen hours of being chased, tricked, and shot at by the world’s most dangerous and sadistic, whether by air, sea, underground, or at the Arc de Triomphe, the answer is no. Ethan Hunt, or perhaps we should just say Tom Cruise, never knows when he’s beaten, something actually believable due to the fact that through all deception, betrayal, and targeting, Ethan Hunt has never truly been trapped. But damn it, if he doesn’t come close every single minute.
It’s a point of admiration for each of the M:I filmmakers, from De Palma in 1996 to the current holder, Christopher McQuarrie, that Ethan Hunt is as indestructible and precious as the plutonium he sets for in Fallout, and yet we still find ourselves devoured in sequences where he can’t possibly, he can’t actually… the filmmaking is grandeur enough to warrant several key set pieces (in the last installment, a live opera performance, and before that, an acrophobic scaling of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), each of which seem to layer a dizzying amount of double-agentry and second guessing as to keep the blood pulsating for the whole of the sequence. In Fallout, it’s a helicopter pursuit in the jagged mountains of northern India, where you see ten minutes of pure, visceral rotorcrafts flying into small crevasses and leaping into the clouds, cross-cut with the IMF team performing tedious but no less harrowing wire-cutting.
Perhaps this is what Fallout does best, in keeping its audiences engaged and entertained for a near hundred-and-fifty minutes, and through no shortage of spectacle; one minute, McQuarrie stages a bare-knuckle, stripped-down fistfight in a club bathroom that, when viewed in IMAX, makes you want to ice your whole body; the next, seamlessly, as if by prophesied clockwork, Hunt is back on the streets of Paris, throwing himself between angled rooftops and dodging every single honking car in the streets (at some point, after a few films, you’d think the Parisians would just accept it). Sure, some moviegoers may shamelessly note that a similar plotpoint is employed in Rogue Nation, and they’d be correct, but they should not wail themselves into thinking there’s little to no ingenuity here. In point of fact, McQuarrie seems to pique his own interest (and his lens) in details rarely seen in the multiplex. Take, for example, the early HALO jump into Paris by Cruise and co-star Henry Cavill, in which aerial videographer Craig O’Brien captured the two falling through the clouds at a speed moving above 230 miles per hour, resulting in the first time non-stunt actors attempted such a feat. Let the sequel-barraging continue.
Yet, there is some humility to this installment, more so than you’ll find elsewhere in the series. Ethan Hunt’s morality and keen sense of self-awareness are tested all throughout, as is his confidence; after all, Fallout begins not with a death-defying stunt or a popcorn-bearing brawl, but a lakeside wedding, featuring Hunt and lover Julia (Michelle Monaghan), wherein the minister twists the traditional vows with words like “steal”, “lie”, “loss”, etc. before the clouds roll in and the two disintegrate into nothing. And then Hunt wakes up, our first glimpse in the film of the awake agent, but in his eyes he still wishes he were sound asleep. The film’s inciting incident deals with this complexity of self, too, as Hunt sacrifices a mission staple to save a member of his team (obviously trained to see that situation the other way around), and facing far more dire obstacles as a result. The “one-life” Hunt, as he’s then called, is not as weak as he is just human, to the point where the bullets have built up, and here he stands, knee-deep in a cinematic sextet, lost on where to go next (besides what he hears in his comms).
Everything comes in fresh and at light-speed, which is, at the least, half-expected with Cruise at the helm, delivering yet again on a summer success despite the resounding knowledge of tropes and plot nuances. “‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it’”, as villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) mimics, “I wonder: did you ever choose not to?” Why would he? In each film, Cruise proves more unbreakable, even when literally broken on set (an ankle fracture led to the production’s delay for seven weeks; in the spirit of Ethan Hunt, two weeks early of the diagnosis), and the franchise is sporadically improving, dumbfounding Hollywood, the audiences, and the world beyond. The action is silky, the cast is suave, and the locales are always worth several looks. Six films in, and no signs of slowing down.
Here’s to the next one.
9/24/2018 10:18:17 am
You are now my god.
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comments on the screen by nolan lampson.