Gosh, there is no really bad Mission: Impossible movie, and no really good one, is there? Let me count the ways: the first one, Mission: Impossible (1996), has the courage to kill most of its illustrous cast quite early on, and it has that famous scene wherein a helicopter is chasing a high speed train through a tunnel. That sequence is so preposterously over the top that the rest of the movie sort feels muted in comparison. And if you can make sense of the plot, then you are a better person than me.
The second one, Mission: Impossible II (2000), had all these John Woo action sequences and then desperately needed a screenplay, and they brought in Robert Towne, the number one script doctor at the time, to find a story in that mess. I remember Thandie Newton being allowed to do something that changed the outcome of the movie, something that most Bond girls can only dream about, although Newton plays a master thief, but we never see herteal anything, and she is even upstaged by Ethan Hunt’s thievery skills. Something with a cigar cutter for punishment. And that scene at the end with those doves… Really?
Mission: Impossible III (2006) has one thing going for it: Philip Seymour Hoffmann gives the movie a very credible baddie because his Owen Davian is allowed to be an off-kilter philosopher: “You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat people they don’t have to treat well.” Doesn’t prevent him to find the elusive rabbit’s foot. And I still remember the electrocution scene. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) finally realised that numbers are too hard to remember, but it had Paula Patton and Léa Seydoux kicking guys in the ‘nads, so who cares about the forgettable plot? Same goes for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), which I remember only because of Rebecca Ferguson.
Now there’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and it made me aware of one thing: if I can figure out who the elusive John Rusk is, then everyone can. Here’s a hint: it’s the least fun actor in the whole movie. And they really screw up the mask thing: if Ethan announces that everyone gets a mask except Benji, well, guess who gets to wear the mask? Who? Am I way past a spoiler alert or what? No, honestly. And I am no longer so fond of action sequences. The motorcycle chase through Paris is well made, but no longer really good popcorn fun. Maybe I have seen too many chases through too many cities. (My favourite is still the chase on the wrong side of the highway with a huge number of cars in a time before CGI in To Live and Die in L.A. from 1985. It took six weeks to shoot and was shot last, in case any of the actors involved should have an accident.)
And while I am not looking for realism in any action movie, there is that preposterous helicopter chase scene between Ethan Hunt and, well, John Rusk that ends with the hull of both copters hanging from their respective loading wires. I have a father-in-law who, having been a helicopter mechanic all his life and constructing fake rocket launchers once for a James Bond movie, would tear that sequence apart like nobody’s business. His main complaint with most helicopter scenes in movies is the wrong sound. He can recognise most copters without so much as looking at them.
Tell you what: go and watch Jack Reacher, the first one, which is also a Tom Cruise/Christopher McQuarrie movie. That one has something sneaky going for it, something that happens behind the scenes, something unsaid in the room, but you cannot lay your finger on it. It’s a bit of movie atmosphere that Fallout can only dream about. If you like Fallout better than Jack Reacher, then by all means, keep going.