Kevin: Like death and taxes, if nothing else this summer movie season you could count on the newest “Mission: Impossible” film to be both really good and to have a much lower second-weekend drop at the box office compared to other blockbusters which opened much higher. I know this is a shocking concept for Hollywood to grasp nowadays, but the reason why the “Mission: Impossible” films have better legs than their more frontloaded competitors is because people actually like them and can recommend them to their friends without the usual “yeah it’s not great but the special effects are cool I guess” or “you’ll like it if you check your brain at the door” caveats.
Of course I guess the other thing we can count on is Tom Cruise risking his life just for our entertainment, and if nothing else “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” proved he is actually human when he broke his ankle doing a relatively “simple” stunt for this franchise (perhaps as with the Predator, this was Tom’s first “if it bleeds, we can kill it” moment of weakness). Either way CJ, we are at the tail end of the summer movie season, and so far we have seen Thanos wipe out half the universe with the snap of his fingers, Bryce Dallas Howard doom the survivors of Thanos’ extreme climate change proposal to a life of running from dinosaurs, and Alden Aldenreich actually passed off as a guy who will someday grow up to be Harrison Ford.
But have we seen anything in a movie this summer more spectacular than the footage of Tom Cruise actually hanging off the bottom of a helicopter in mid-air? I know we are already getting into the climax, so SPOILERS AHOY, but how can we not since the movie takes a standard “one helicopter chases another helicopter” scenario and turns it into one of the most exciting and inventive action scenes in years, and which just by itself justifies seeing this on the big screen. Also, remember how the first trailer ended with a shot of Tom in his helicopter about to collide with an 18-wheeler?
Well this shot is nowhere to be found in the final film. How long did this sequence originally go on for? Are you saying there is more insane footage left on the editing room floor? Bring on the 4-hour “M:I – Fallout: Extended Helicopter Chase Edition”! For all we know, Tom originally chased Henry Cavill across Central Asia, Europe, and finally the United States, before they crashed into each other above University of Phoenix Stadium and duke it out on the 50-yard-line during the Super Bowl.
CJ: My guess is that once Tom had control of the helicopter he just decided to go until the fuel ran out. I honestly believe Cruise no longer knows where the movie ends and reality begins. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually thinks he’s Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise is just one of his many aliases.
But that chopper climb, goodness! I believe I turned to you at one point and went “Holy shit” as we watched Cruise wriggle his way around. And I think that’s why I will still see Tom Cruise movies, insane religious beliefs be damned. Cruise is one of the few remaining movie stars who still puts the audience first. He cares solely about making movies that we will enjoy (Kevin: Let’s pretend “The Mummy” never happened), and if it means he breaks his ankle leaping between buildings, so be it.
Actually that would be a great bet for the next cast and crew of “Mission 7”: What can they convince Tom to do despite how little sense it makes? I bet if Simon Pegg explained that wrestling a gator would help with Hunt’s paperwork, Cruise would immediately leap into the Florida waters and just wrestle the biggest one that crossed his path.
Kevin: Now let’s not forget that the climax starts with Ethan Hunt grabbing on to one helicopter to get a detonator from Henry Cavill, who is in a completely different helicopter. How will he do that you might ask? “I’ll figure it out,” he says, before racing into action. Whereas the Ethan of especially the first few films was all about coming up with intricate and well-thought-out plans, in “Fallout” he pretty much wings it most of the time, including several times using a version of “I’ll figure it out/”I’m working on it”/”we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” that I also use, except usually in the context of trying to put off something my wife wants done that will require my credit card number.
But in the case of Ethan it usually involves saving the world, and his batting average there is still 1.000. You know that friend who gets upset when you have to keep reminding him of how important it is he is on time for some event, even though you wouldn’t have to make such a big deal about it if his track record wasn’t so lousy? Well Ethan is totally the opposite of that guy, he will always show up on time for the rehearsal dinner, and he will get that detonator at the 1-second mark (he even teaches himself how to fly a helicopter for the first time during this life-or-death battle).
Even the villains kind of admire how dogged and reliable Ethan is at all times. There is a moment during the climax when Cavill sees that Ethan is somehow following him in the other helicopter, and rather than doing the usual bad guy thing of screaming “Huuuuunt!,” Cavill just takes a second to process this and then gives a little shrug, as if he is both kind of impressed with Hunt and not entirely surprised about what is happening. Compare that to the guy Hunt first encounters in the chopper, who does what most of us would do and just stares at him in confusion for a few seconds, because yeah, that is definitely not what he was expecting. Although in real life, if any of us were in a helicopter and Tom Cruise randomly popped in while in mid-air, would we be surprised at this point?
Of course my only complaint with this sequence is the ticking clock, which starts at 15:00 to give the bad guy the chance to get the minimum safe distance from the nuclear blast. Although if I’m the villain in one of these flicks, I would ask that maybe for once we could do a little more than minimum safe distance. I don’t know, how about maximum for a change? I mean, am I worried my henchmen are gonna think I’m a pussy otherwise?
Either way, the countdown starts and as usual I always wish they would add on an extra five minutes to it, because I have a hard time believing that everything we see in this climax took place in 15 minutes. For one thing, two different characters are tied up with ropes, and I don’t care if you were an all-star Boy Scout, that seems like it would take more than a couple of minutes at least. Of course nothing will ever top the end of “Tango & Cash,” in which our heroes run from the second floor of a giant warehouse to “minimum safe distance” about half a mile away in less than 18 seconds.
But while the helicopter chase is spectacular, “Fallout” contains a handful of other action set pieces which any one by themselves would be the highlight of another film. You really gotta be careful with your bathroom breaks in this one, because whereas another movie would take an extended breather after the sequence in which Cruise actually jumps out of a plane and has to revive an unconscious Cavill before they splatter on the ground in Paris, in “Fallout” we quickly get the most brutal bathroom beatdown since “True Lies”:
Although note that this scene begins with Cruise and Cavill planning to knock out and impersonate a guy who is about to meet with a weapons dealer. The fact that this guy is Asian means Hunt was planning on wearing the face of someone of a different ethnicity and impersonate his mannerisms. So essentially, Ethan Hunt was going to culturally appropriate the Asian culture just to save the entire planet! Seriously, I can’t even with this! How has there not been a boycott over the offensive minstrel show “Mission: Impossible” was about to become? Hopefully there was a post-credit scene showing Hunt being forced to take racial sensitivity training from the IMF Human Resources Department!
(Oh and before I forget, let’s also note this is the second blockbuster we have seen in the past year after “Justice League” that featured Henry Cavill and in which the heroes have possession of a box that could destroy the world, but then turn their back on it to fight some guys and when they turn back around it has been taken.)
So CJ after having several days to think about it, where do you rank “Fallout” in terms of the “Mission: Impossible” series? For me I think I go:
1) “Rogue Nation”: Yeah I know it’s basic to say you liked the last one the best, but in a series known for its elaborate set pieces, the opera house sequence here is my favorite, and it epitomizes the movie’s ability to balance serious spy movie tropes with fun summer movie action.
2) “Mission: Impossible III”: While they may be known for their set pieces, the villains in these films are usually fairly unmemorable. But not this one, in which Phillip Seymour Hoffman is completely scary and menacing without a lot of showy theatrics or monologues.
3) “Fallout”: While this one doesn’t have the usual extended set piece (only about six or seven awesome action sequences), Henry Cavill does turn out to be a very fun bad guy himself. I feel like more people are finally beginning to appreciate Cavill. Whatever you think about the Snyder DC movies, I think overall he’s a good Superman and he finally got to really have fun with the role in “Justice League.” Meanwhile I really enjoyed him in the extremely underrated “Man from U.N.C.L.E,” which ironically came out two weeks after “Rogue Nation,” and at one point was going to star Cruise in the Cavill role.
4) “Ghost Protocol”: I know a lot of people rank this as their favorite, but for me it doesn’t really hit its stride until almost an hour in when it gets to Dubai. But once that happens the movie goes to another gear and doesn’t stop, building on the legendary Burj Khalifa climb and coming with perhaps less death-defying but equally inventive obstacles for Ethan to overcome.
5) “Mission: Impossible”: It’s kind of hard to believe such a cold and relatively action-free film (CIA break-in and bullet train climax aside) quickly led into such a fun and action-packed franchise. As it is, let’s acknowledge what a ballsy move it was for Cruise and Paramount to hire Brian De Palma to direct a summer blockbuster, not that far off from him bombing with “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and letting him make pretty much a typical Brian De Palma movie, for good and for bad.
6) “Mission: Impossible 2”: Yeah I know, everyone puts this at the end, and the romance is boring, and there is hardly any action until the last 30 minutes. But fuck it, this is still the last time John Woo got to be John Woo in a big budget Hollywood movie, with all the slow mo, double guns, and doves in places that doves shouldn’t be that that entails. Plus, it has the all-time laughably worst villain in the franchise in Dougray Scott, who thankfully because this movie went over schedule, was not able to play Wolverine in the first “X-Men” movie as originally planned.
Also let’s at least acknowledge this is the only “Mission: Impossible” film in which the theme song was done by Limp Bizkit:
CJ: Here is my breakdown:
1) “Ghost Protocol”: One of my favorite parts is when Cruise tries to leap into another floor and just goes head-first into the window frame. I always appreciate how Cruise is fine with being the butt of a joke, or being a hero who gets his ass handed to him. This is why Cruise continues to make movies and Vin Diesel needs The Rock to keep his career alive (although he’d never admit it).
2) “Rogue Nation”: There is nothing clever or eloquent to say, but that opening plane sequence was just cool. Also, Simon Pegg imagining what would happen as he tried to make it through multiple levels of security reminded you that “Mission: Impossible” knew how to get good laughs.
3) “Fallout”: Alec Baldwin can not only take a few punches from Superman but can also dish a few out? Sure Alec, whatever you say buddy!
4) “Mission: Impossible”: My guess is when Gordon Bombay left the team for NHL tryouts it was actually a cover to do this. Those poor kids are still waiting.
5) “Mission: Impossible III”: Meh.
6) “Mission: Impossible 2”: Double meh.
Kevin: As entertaining as the “Fast and Furious” and “Transformers” films have been, we probably agree that “Mission: Impossible” is the greatest franchise of the last 25 years, correct? I mean, the first one came out when Bill Clinton was still in his first term, and they have only gotten better as we’ve gone through three more presidents.
CJ: Of course we don’t agree, are you insane? “Transformers” is the greatest franchise ever built! Kingdoms will rise and fall and “Transformers” will reign supreme. Do not try and force your propaganda on me, Stalin! I shall stand strong!
Kevin: Well before I cause a rift in Tough Guy Digest that cannot be repaired, let’s also end with a little blast from the past by giving a shoutout to someone who has unfortunately not made a return appearance in any of the five sequels, but can at least claim credit for being the first actor we see in the first shot of the first movie in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise: Emilio Estevez!