Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Mission:Impossible - Fallout; "Does anyone fall for this stuff?"

When Henry Cavill looks straight at the camera after an explanation of Mission Impossible’s mask technique and asks “Does anyone fall for this stuff?” I nearly died. That’s twice in a couple of weeks that a main character has stood in for the audience as the going got downright implausible, and I just felt too lucky. Little did I know that this was also a Chekhov moment, and an hour later that question was going to seem kind of ironic.
Mission:Impossible-Fallout is nonsense, as usual, but it’s usually moving fast enough for that not to matter. It’s a film series which has become simultaneously a rebuke and a hostage to CGI superhero movies. The Mission Impossible movies do their stunts for real, and there’s a real weight to Tom Cruise falling off things which are actually there, whether he’s jumping out of an aeroplane for no particular reason or falling down a rope from a helicopter. This is objectively dangerous stuff, and Cruise’s commitment is borderline troubling; he broke his ankle in a pretty routine [1] building to building to building jump and like a trouper and/or a crazy person, he tried running it off as soon as he clambered back on to the roof. They used that shot in the trailer, and the movie. They also had to shut down the production  for two months so that it could actually heal up.
So yup; it’s as real as nonsense can be, and it really does have an impact. But making those stunts pop has brought the movies to the point where they’re just as much as a spectacle delivery machine as the CGI fakery-fests they’re wagging their finger at. Cruise trained for a bonkers length of time to do HALO jumps so that they could really do a stunt where two people are messing up a freefall parachute jump. But why get a military aircraft to impersonate an airliner so that they could do the jump, when there’s hundreds of commercial flights into Paris every day and the Impossible Mission Force can look like anyone they want to?
I’m being a little unfair. Most of the rest of the action makes more sense in context, and some of it is really exhilarating; the helicopter chase as the end is quite something, all the more so because when you see Cruise flying the helicopter, he’s flying the helicopter. He went off and learned how to do that just so that they could have real footage of him flying solo. That’s brave. Nearly as brave as deciding to have a BMW car chase in Paris when this exists. Cruise does not dethrone it.
What’s a bit of a shame about the big spectacle is that the series continues to be quite good at the small stuff. The interaction between the characters rings true, and there’s always something beguiling about Tom Cruise trying to be a decent person in moments of pressure. There’s a solid tense moment as he tries to talk his way out of having to shoot a Paris traffic cop which underlines what a good idea it is to let Cruise just be an ordinary guy, and a lot of what makes the helicopter sequence work is the way in which Cruise is convincingly out of his depth and trying to keep his own morale up.
So that’s my thought if they do another one. Tom’s my age, and it must be starting to get old togging out trying to top the stunts from the last movie. Why not dial back the stunts and try topping the acting?
[1] routine by Tom Cruise standards; insane by most people's

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