REVIEW: The Day Superman Beat Down Tom Cruise, a.k.a. Mission Impossible: Fallout

There’s no real way to be diplomatic about this, so let me be honest. I hate Tom Cruise. There. I said it. You may, then, wonder why I want to review Mission Impossible: Fallout. The problem is, I love Mission Impossible movies. I LOVE THEM. It’s not even a guilty pleasure in my mind; I just straight up love them. So, today, I’m going to just put my thoughts on the table about the fantastic Mission Impossible: Fallout. Don’t look for a straight review like you would normally get to from me. You won’t find that here.

At this point, we have six Mission Impossible films, the first dating back to 1996. After so many films, what’s going to motivate me to spend $30 to see it in the theater? (Yes, I buy the Dolby with the recliner seats. Shut up. I’m old enough. I’ve earned my comforts). Answer: Henry Cavill’s massive arms. Yes, that was enough for me. You’ve seen that scene from the trailer—everyone’s seen it—where it looks like he’s rebooting before punching the face off someone. So, I see the trailer, and I’m like, wait, Superman’s looking a little evil. Is Cavill the new villain? Will he get a chance to beat the ever living shit out of Tom Cruise? If there’s even a chance that’s all true, I’M IN. Yes, I’m that easy when it comes to going to the movies.

First off, let me take a minute to explain why I love movies starring a guy I purport to hate. Humans love patterns. Tropes. Genres. Mission Impossible, as a franchise, is reliable in three areas: Tom Cruise doing bat shit crazy stunts, insanely over the top action pieces, and supporting characters, particularly women, worth giving a damn about. I gotta give it to the franchise. The women of MI, for the most part, are not used as one-sided vessels for emotional manpain. Thank god. The women in MI are smart, strong, capable, and human (I mean, too many fall for Tom which is the evidence they are human; they are fallible). As long as those three things keep in the formula, and that’s a lock that Tom’s getting beat up at some point, I’ll show up at the theater.

So what’s great in Mission Impossible: Fallout?

Dammit, it hurts me to admit, but Tom’s stunts are pretty spectacular. There’s a skydiving action piece early on that got my pulse racing. In the second half of the film, Tom gets hit by a car while riding a motorcycle. That doesn’t sound like much, but how they filmed that was so on point. I felt my own ribs cracking watching it. Of course, the massive action climax at the end of the film alone is worth the price of admission.

In a pleasantly surprising twist of events, both of Ethan’s love interests of late are in the film. They do not have even one moment of catty behavior between them. What? Grown women who have history with the same man can be in a room and keep their ever living minds? Yes. Thankfully, Mission Impossible: Fallout keeps up the tradition of respecting women, or at least letting them be multifaceted and complicated. Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is just as kick ass as she was in previous installments, and Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade-Hunt is a more mature, stronger, more interesting woman than the last time we saw her.

So what’s good?

Henry Cavill is plenty good. Where Ethan is the “scalpel,” Cavill’s character, August Walker, is a “hammer” (an apt description by his boss, CIA leader Erica Sloan, played deliciously by Angela Bassett). He’s there to beat the shit out of anyone or anything getting between him and his mission directive. He’s with Ethan and the team, right? Of course, I got distracted by the marvelous mustache because I’m a comic book movie fan, and the insanity around Justice League reshoots and Cavill’s CGI-outed mustache are legend at this point. It was a good stache; it gave his character an interesting face. All in all, Cavill played his part well. Even his American accent was passable. Of course, you can’t get a guy like Cavill on the screen and not let him loose in a fight. For a big guy—and he is—he moved pretty well, very much relying on a smash-and-grab style of fighting. It wasn’t elegant, but I would have been disappointed if it had been.

Mission Impossible Fallout

What’s predictable about MI: Fallout? Well, the Apostles—the bad guys. They must be channeling their inner Thanos because the phrase, “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace” is generously thrown about during the film. It was a twisted variation on let’s kill a shit ton of innocent people to bring down the systems in order to let a new system rise. Okay. It’s a bland enough motivation to work just about anywhere in the modern world because, let’s face it, unless you live somewhere like New Zealand or maybe Iceland, no one is particularly happy with their systems of government. The Apostles work well enough because they are deep undercover within all the systems they want to tear down. Makes for good whodunit.

One mainstay in MI films are the great locations. We’re zipping around Paris, London, and deep in the mountains of Kashmir. All dramatic and compelling locations for a summer action flick. The film would have actually benefited from dropping either London or Paris. Too many urban chase scenes with beige stone buildings in the background became a little repetitive. A sunnier Mediterranean locale would have balanced out the urban Europe and mountainous central Asia areas really well.

What didn’t work in MI: Fallout?

Nothing. I loved the movie. No one going into a Mission Impossible film is going for hyperrealism or deep socio-political discourse although these films tend to be more interesting and deeper than say, the Fast and the Furious franchise. We go because we know exactly what we’ll get in a MI film, and we know it’ll be fresh and exciting. It’s a bit of a paradox, going to something you have very specific expectations about, knowing they will be met, but having no idea how the creative team will deliver. Yes, Tom will do some batshit cool stunt. But what will it be? He’s already jumped off skyscrapers, out of planes, onto planes, what’s left? That’s the hook that brings in the audience.

If you’d asked me 22 years ago if we’d still be getting Mission Impossible films with Tom Cruise as the star, I’d have told you that you were crazy. I would be wrong. Mission Impossible: Fallout is a fantastic action flick firing on all cylinders. I’m hoping the 7th one is in the works, because I’m here for it.

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I'm a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.

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