This is very much a review of two halves so I have split it into two parts. The first is a more general review of Mission Impossible: Fallout, and the second is me raving about the fight choreography in the film.
The plot of the film is significantly baroque, with lots of frills and twists and twiddly-bits. I think they realised that they had a lot of set pieces and not a lot of plot and back-filled from that to try to link them together.
The bit with Wolf Blitzer is very like the series in a way the films often aren’t, but it’s an example of how the film is very bitty. There’s a cool bit, tenuous link, another cool bit and so on. Every bit works, but I’m not sure they all hang together.
One thing I liked was the sense of place. Yes, there is no way there is that little traffic in that part of Paris at any time of day or night but it’s still recognisably Paris and not just tourist Paris. It’s something they did well in the last one too. Although I know you can’t actually run that quickly along the route in London (or drive across part of the race through Paris), I acknowledge their attempts at realism with joy, especially as they choose some of the less obvious bits of London and Paris (and Vienna in Rogue Nation).
What I also liked about the Paris bit is how many of Ethan Hunt’s problems were brought about by aspects of his character that were established all the way back in Mission Impossible 2.
The acting was uniformly solid, even if Wes Bentley playing nice but dull husbands makes me feel old. Very old. The film-makers make good use of their solid cast. I think having Tom Cruise helps, if you’ve got him, you know the anchor of your film will be sorted so you can concentrate on giving other people stuff to do. When those other people include Sean Harris, good things ensue.
SPOILERS START HERE AND ARE VERY, VERY SPOILERY
An example of how the film-makers give every character their own thing to do, is the ending in Pakistan.
The tech boys were so happy to see Julia, while recognising how awkward it is going to be for Ethan, referencing their shared history. Meanwhile, Ethan and Julia were all “hi, I still love you but we’ve both moved on and it’s kinda awkward and kinda great at the same time,” which reinforces what the rest of the film has said about Julia being important to Ethan. There’s a reason his subconscious has Solomon Lane threatening her as his worst nightmare. The other characters also got nice touches such as Erik knowing Julia is lying about something and more or less guessing correctly what it is. Then you have Julia and Ilsa both recognising who the other is or was to Ethan immediately. Although really, Ethan Hunt has a type and he has a type hard, because I can’t tell the actresses apart without a few clues. If she’s kicking someone, it’s probably Ilsa.
On team bad guy meanwhile, you get August Walker and his determination to see his plan through while thinking enough of his accomplice to ask if he’s sure about being left behind. It’s a nice touch, he’s a professional genocidal maniac. He likes to work with good people. He sees someone with whom he shares goals and methodology. There’s also that lovely bit of business earlier with August Walker, when he talks about Hunt’s motivation for turning traitor in the particular direction of the Apostles. It’s really his reason and there’s enough of a frisson that it’s obvious to us what is really going on, while it might not be to other characters.
Solomon Lane gets the moment of zen calm that is normally associated with heroes. He really doesn’t care what comes next as long as everything Ethan Hunt loves dies with him. It’s disconcerting in its totality. From this, we know that there’s is nothing the bad guys won’t do to win, and that if our heroes don’t succeed, they will be the first to be vaporized.
I was able to watch this in the cinema, so I got to see audience reactions. This time, watching this in the cinema gave me a better understanding of the whole “we all watch different films” thing. It was the bit the start where the bad guys are threatening Luther. My reaction was “oh no, they’re going to kill off a secondary character I am fond of to make the hero feel bad.” I was a bit miffed, because I think it’s a cheap ploy in films and I’m quite fond of Luther. In front of me were a bunch of enjoyably rowdy black teenagers who were, justifiably, more pissed off, because once again, it was going to be the black guy that got killed. They were very pleased when Luther did not get killed off. Pleased and amazed. Dear Hollywood, note the amazed there and maybe do something about it.
In short, most of Mission Impossible: Fallout is enjoyable and solid.
But the fight scenes are exceptional.