" I have heard of the arrogant male in capitalistic society. It is having a superior earning power that makes you that way. "
— Greta Garbo, Ninotchka

MRQE Top Critic

Alias: Season Three

In its third season, Alias pulls off a hat trick with another round of pulpy page-turner adventure —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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This is what great summer movies are all about.

The Odyssey

The Impossible Missions Force
The Impossible Missions Force

It’s the best so far, and that’s possibly the biggest odds-defying accomplishment in this sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible series, which debuted on the big screen 22 years ago. Time flies when you’re busy saving the world.

Back in 2015, Jurassic World recreated the funhouse sensations of the great thrill-ride movies of the ’80s. Now Fallout takes its turn as the epitome of the spy movie. This one escapes from the CGI-heavy effects madness that dominates the popcorn set these days and goes full-tilt on high-energy, high-humanity stunts and action that produces winces and gut checks that no amount of CGI can replicate. It’s a globe-trotting adventure and human spectacle on par with Mad Max: Fury Road — this kind of filmmaking is far more interesting on a technical level than anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Take a look at the pedigree of this entire series. It’s always drawn A-list talent; no doubt having Tom Cruise attached as the star helps. A cavalcade of stars appears on screen, but behind the camera is even more interesting. Brian De Palma started the series, but he seemed pre-occupied with turning it into a high-end, modern Hitchcock movie with a 1940s vibe. John Woo followed that with, well, a John Woo version. Then J.J. Abrams turned M:I III into a very special extended episode of Alias. And Brad Bird apparently thought he was making a live-action Pixar movie with Ghost Protocol.

So, five episodes in, enter writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. With Rogue Nation, he did something truly daring. He made a Mission: Impossible movie that felt like... a Mission: Impossible movie.

Light the fuse.

This series has found its creative core and the screen is en fuego.

The Storm

Following the storytelling strategy of Daniel Craig’s James Bond series and the MCU, Fallout pulls on story elements from previous episodes, giving the series a nice narrative ecosystem that helps the Ethan Hunt saga step beyond the traditional episodic feel of the typical spy series.

With that in mind, it’s recommended to revisit Mission: Impossible III (the J.J. Abrams episode) and Rogue Nation in order to fully appreciate the character arcs and references. And, as an added bonus, Fallout is so good, it actually makes M:I III better as well.

As already mentioned, the series has been running for 22 years now. Looking back at that De Palma launch from 1996, Cruise was a young pup of 34. He’s 56 now and he’s at an age which carries with it plenty of world experiences. The very real Tom Cruise has seen a lot, and so has the extremely fictional Ethan Matthew Hunt. Cruise keeps in shape — good for him; that’s a source of inspiration rather than a topic for derision. We’re in the new millennium and the world belongs to the fit — physically and mentally. So. Tom. You go, boy. (Just don’t waste our time with another Mummy fiasco.)

With that worldliness comes a smidge of baggage. Most notably, there’s that hopeful attempt at romance with Julie (Michelle Monaghan, Patriots Day) in MI:III. The lifestyles didn’t blend and that painful acknowledgement has gone on to make Ethan a much more interesting character than the typical playboy super spy whose bed count and body count are nearly equal.

Ethan is loyal. Smart. Fit. Strategic. And by the end of Fallout, he’s a legitimately sympathetic hero. Maybe that’s the movie’s biggest accomplishment. It’s debatable. And a fun debate it is.

The Apostles

The human element is a key to Fallout’s success. But there’s also a crazy plot line that’s super juicy.

The story revolves around the return of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, Prometheus), captured by Ethan at the end of Rogue Nation. He’s the world’s most in-demand criminal; he’s a key bargaining chip among national agencies and the lead broker is a crafty woman dubbed the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby, Princess Margaret in The Crown on Netflix).

At stake: Solomon’s destiny, plutonium, Ethan’s ex-wife, two nuclear weapons, a sophisticated detonator and the fate of the free world. And making it happen is some of the most delightful action scenes to hit the screen in quite some time. Spicing it up, there’s also a conflict of espionage styles between Ethan and August Walker (Henry Cavill, whose mustache wreaked digital havoc with Justice League reshoots) that provides both humor and drama.

The movie’s embarrassment of riches runs deep: Angela Bassett joins that on-screen cavalcade, with Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg once again in the thick of it. And there’s a self-awareness that puts all those infamous M:I masks in a gently humorous perspective, as the Impossible Missions Force is derided as the “Halloween team” by more serious agents.

Topping this one seems like an impossible mission. Hopefully McQuarrie and Cruise will choose to accept it.