I’m no fan of Tom Cruise, so it takes a lot to (a) part with hard currency to to watch a Cruise film and (b) publicly admit how much that film rocks.
He did it with EDGE OF TOMORROW, one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. I could watch that thing every day, and the more you dislike Cruise, the better the movie actually works.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: Cruise did the impossible again with MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT.
Why is this movie so good when the last Bond movie bored me to bits, despite my utter fandom for Daniel the Craig?
(1) Practical stunts beat the snot out of CGI nonsense
Yes, CGI is expensive, and it can create amazing spectacles.
Yet we’re used to it. The wow factor is gone.
When I see a hero take on a CGI monster, it doesn’t scare me at all.
Practical stunts, where real people do really dangerous things, still impress people. And this movie is packed with them.
(2) Surprises on top of surprises
Thrillers are about betrayals, secrets, revelations and surprises.
Action scenes are only a bonus, dessert after the starters and main.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT gives the audience action scenes where the action is simply a setup for a betrayal, revelation or surprise. It’s a great way to move the story forward.
(3) Ruthless editing
This movie clocks in at two hours and 28 minutes. It doesn’t feel half that long.
How did the director and editor pull that off?
They ruthlessly cut the boring parts. Putting together a list of Scenes that Are Always Boring would require an entire post, though it would include Two Characters Talking as One Character Drives and my favorite, the Hero Types on a Computer.
The shorter, easier list is Scenes that Are Always Exciting, and that world champions on that list are (a) chases and (b) fights.
So if you make a movie that’s 90 percent chases and fights, with betrayals and surprises after every chase or fight, yeah, it’s going to be fast and fun. The trick is to avoid repetition. As a big fan of cheesy ’80s action movies, including everything Jackie Chan, Arnold and Jean Claude Van Damme ever made, I testify to the fact that most action movies believe, deep in their explosive souls, that the only way to mix things up for your audience is to multiply the number of bad guys facing our hero until the climax, when the producer has to bus in hundreds of extras and run the costume shop 24/7 to stitch up enough Expendable Bad Guy coveralls so they hero can wade through them all on his way to the Big Bad Guy.
That’s not to say there aren’t cliches and silly tropes in this movie. I pray to whichever gods that are listening, please, please stop Hollywood writers and directors from ever using stolen nuclear warheads as a plot device. I beg you. And the revelation that Clark Kent with a Beard is actually a bad guy came way too early for me.
But the nuclear MacGuffin in this movie doesn’t really matter. What puts us in those theater seats are the chases, fights and stunts, which are all spectacular. Well done, Tom the Cruise–now give us a sequel to EDGE OF TOMORROW.