Mission Impossible: Fallout – a wild 4K ride with inconsistent video
By Jim Bray
Tom Cruise' Mission Impossible movies are kind of like cotton candy.
Huh, you say? Well, the MI movies are a bit like the kind of empty but fun calories (fun, unless you have a beard!) you get from an order of cotton candy – fun while it lasts but not particularly nourishing.
That isn't really being completely fair to Mission Impossible: Fallout, however, because, while we're here for the stunts and the action scenes (stuff that's traditionally top shelf in this franchise), there's actually a modern, believable plot on hand as well. It just kind of gets lost in the action.
It's almost as if they wrote a one-hour movie, but then filled out the film's 147-minute running time with mayhem. And though I often decry stories that lack story, in the case of the Mission Impossible franchise it works more often than not. Heck, I'd even go so far as to say the last couple of MI movies have been better, and more entertaining, than the last couple of James Bond movies.
Still, you'd think by now the Powers That Be would know the missions aren't really impossible and, perhaps, rename them Mission Really, Really Difficult or something. But I digress…
I really tip my hat to Tom Cruise in this franchise. Not only does he bring his movie star power to the projects, he also puts himself on the line. In the last outing, he hung from the side of a military cargo airplane, and in this one he HALO jumps from a military transport, dangles from a helicopter, flies a helicopter in a chase scene, drives the motorcycle in a chase scene, drives cars in chase scenes – you name it. It's really remarkable.
On the other hand, if I were a younger and in a LOT better shape and someone offered me many millions of dollars to make an action flick, I'd be tempted to make it my own personal toy box as well. I mean, Cruise is a driver, a pilot, etc., so why not get paid to indulge in your hobbies? Heck, that's why I review cars and movies and other tech stuff!
According to the supplements that really shouldn't be missed (they're on a separate Blu-ray in Paramount's multi disc/digital set), Cruise went out and got his helicopter pilot's license for this film (lucky duck!) and he does a lot of his own flying here. I find it hard to believe he did all the stunt flying, but he did enough "stunt-ish" flying to bring a lot of credibility to the scenes.
Buzz during the filming of this impossible mission was how star Tom Cruise broke his ankle during a stunt – and be darned if that shot doesn't show up in the movie, and it isn't even one of the bigger stunts!
Cruise claims that he does all this stuff for believability (if you can see his face on camera, it's more credible than a stuntman hiding his face for the same shot) and it really does help lend a sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings.
The proceedings in this sixth Mission Really, Really Difficult revolve around a plot to steal some plutonium and use it to build some small nukes that will be used to create a crisis that will destroy the current world order and, from its ashes, usher in another one (which makes it kind of like the evening news might be like if it weren't so busy being fake). Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his happy little band of "unagents" (Simon Pegg's Benji Dunn, and Ving Rhames' Luther Stickell) must track down "The Apostles," an offshoot of the now-supposedly-defunct "The Syndicate."
Hunt actually lets the bad guys get the plutonium right off the bat, much to his chagrin, so the rest of the movie sees them trying to get it back before the bad guys can build and use the bombs.
Supposedly along to give them assistance (but really to act as a CIA clown chaperone) is August Walker (Henry Cavill), with whom Hunt tries to intercept and replace "John Lark" (Liang Yang) before Lark's meeting with arms dealer "The White Widow" (Vanessa Kirby), who they think knows where the plutonium cores can be found.
I do not understand why Henry Cavil continues to get cast. I've seen him as Superman, more than once, and as Napoleon Solo (only once, fortunately) and in none of the movies I've witnessed has he exhibited the slightest screen presence. He continues this tradition here.
Naturally, things don't work out as planned as the story unfolds and people may or may not be who they seem, but by the time the end credits roll everyone who's supposed to live and walk away free does – otherwise, we might not have the undoubtedly inevitable Mission Really Difficult 7: What Crazy Stunts Can We Get Tom To Do Next?
Hey, I'll watch it! It's nice to see "mindless entertainment" that doesn't pretend to be more than it is (yet busts its butt to be as good as it can be considering its mandate), rather than a ponderous and/or pretentious piece of politically correct indoctrination masquerading as "entertainment" (though they often get the "mindless" part right).
And the stunts! And the locations! And the hardware!
Paramount's 4K Ultra HD (with HDR) disc is top notch, though I'm a tad ambivalent about some of the video quality. Don't get me wrong; the film looks great, mostly – especially the IMAX scenes, which can be glorious – but there are some parts (especially dark indoor or night scenes) where it seems a tad flat, not giving the "pop off the screen" goodness you can get with a good Blu-ray or, even better, a good 4K disc.
But when it's good, it's very, very good indeed! The aspect ratio jumps around from 2.39:1 to the screen-filling IMAX size, but the change isn't jarring. I wish they'd pick one and stick with it (preferably IMAX), but it does seem that when the screen opens out to the "giant" IMAX image it also brings a sense of majesty and importance to the shots.
The audio – backwards-compatible Dolby Atmos – is really over the top. Sound quality is excellent, but it's also very, very loud and in your face, and has so much bass I had to go up and down our cul-de-sac
later and apologize to my neighbours. I jest, but you get the point: I had to turn the system down a few notches to keep pictures from rattling on the walls. I loved it!
The UHD disc (and its duplicate Blu-ray), also comes with audio commentaries, one with director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise, one with McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton and one with composer Lorne Balfe. There's also an isolated musical score track, in 5.1 channel surround.
Blu-ray Disc Two has lots of goodies and I recommend it highly. First up is a seven-part, nearly hour long "Behind the Fallout" documentary, which is a really good look at the film's gestation and birth. It's one of the best such features I've seen in a while and I came away with even more respect for Tom Cruise as a movie maker - not just because of his gigantic genitalia, but for his work ethic and pursuit of excellence (including hiring the best people for the gigs).
There are also some deleted scenes, and some shorter featurettes that are as promotional as they are informative, but which are interesting and entertaining enough to be worth a boo. You get a storyboard demonstration as well, and the theatrical trailer.
Paramount's package also includes a code for a digital download copy.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is a very enjoyable home theatre romp, best viewed in 4K HDR of course, and with your audio system on the defensive. I figured it would be a typical Hollywood "going through the motions to make a buck" sequel but Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie and their little friends have gone far above and beyond that and given us a ripping yarn that's also a home theatre treat. Just don't treat it as a reference quality disc.
Copyright 2018 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.