There’s an unfortunate moment near the end of Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) when a villain asks the invincible Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) an angry question: “Why won’t you just die?” This question more or less summarizes my general reaction to the Mission: Impossible movie franchise after two miserable outings in a row. Fallout may not be as bad as Rogue Nation, but it’s still terrible, a soulless, vapid pile of frantic video-game action scenes.
Hunt’s mission this time: recover three missing plutonium cores from the hands of “the Apostles,” a shadowy network of leftover Syndicate heavies who plan to continue their terrorist vendetta against the old world order. Hunt’s team, which includes recurring IMFers Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), heads off to Europe to do the job. But when the mission fails, CIA Director Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett) assigns an outside operative, assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill), to join the team in its globe-hopping follow-up effort to prevent a massive nuclear disaster. It’s a mission that once again entangles rogue MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
Ferguson is great, and I’m glad the series has managed to build something of a team around Hunt’s frenetic solo act. (The team could be better, but at least it’s a team.) There’s stunning scenery as the film ricochets from Europe to Asia, and a handful of impressively staged fight scenes and special effects. But beyond that, I don’t have much good to say about Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which somehow manages to make relentless waves of world-saving violence both dull and emotionally empty. The contrived script reads like pastiche, full of by-the-numbers twists and demi-clever comedy; it’s like unvetted fan fiction written by someone who half-understands the source material. Cruise is Cruise. Cavill is stiff and sparkless. There are masks and guns and double-crosses. You know the drill. Oh, and Michelle Monaghan turns up again, at one point saying something to Hunt that made me cringe: “You were here. And I sleep soundly at night knowing you always will be.” That makes one of us.