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2018’s been quite the year for cinema; we’ve seen a mad titan wipe out half the universe, Sally Hawkins fall in love with a fish and noise sensitive monsters invade the Earth.
But when it comes to white-knuckle thrills and spectacular action sequences, one film stands apart from the crowd.
That film, should you choose to accept it, is Mission: Impossible – Fallout the sixth nail-biting entry in the immensely popular adrenaline-infused spy series.
Fallout sees Tom Cruise return once again as Ethan Hunt who, after a mission gone wrong (don’t blame him, they are supposed to be impossible), is tasked with tracking down some stolen plutonium.
Desperate to stop a new terrorist group known only as the Apostles from using the deadly nuclear fuel, Hunt recruits his old team Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luthor (Ving Rhames) to track down the terrorists.
Unfortunately for Lane and his team, they won’t be going on this particular adventure alone. The CIA has tasked Agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) with monitoring our heroes and he’s been authorised to use lethal force to stop them from messing up again.
To say Fallout is a triumph would be to do it a disservice, it is simply epic in every sense of the word, with director Christopher McQuarrie and his production team managing to surpass all of the Mission films that came before it in every respect.
The stunts are bigger, the action bolder and the plot twistier than ever before, but despite all that the film somehow manages to remain grounded in the overtop world the Mission: Impossible films have built over the last five films.
It’s this grounding that separates Fallout from its competitors allowing McQuarrie to weave deft character work and clever dialogue in between the film’s grand set pieces.
Critics and audiences alike adored the film with Fallout earning an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (a Mission: Impossible series record) while CinemaScore filmgoers gave it an impressive ‘A-Grade’ the highest grade a Mission film has ever received.
Not only that Fallout took in a total gross of $791 million at the worldwide box office making it the biggest film in the franchise by a staggering $97 million.
Earlier this month we were lucky enough to chat with to Christopher McQuarrie about the film’s success, the process of making it, and to ask him how he felt about people online calling this is the greatest action film ever.
UNILAD: How do you feel when you see people online calling Fallout the best in the series or even the best action film ever?
Christopher McQuarrie: [Laughing] I’ll be honest it’s a lot of intimidating hyperbole and I’d be totally biased in my opinion! I have always said when we set out to make Rogue Nation, I’d settle for anywhere in the top five and with this, I’d settle for top six [laughs]. I’m just pleased to be part of this franchise and [the success] has been something I’d never really have of imagined.
Christopher is, of course, the only director in the franchise’s history to return for a second film. His first official Mission film was Rogue Nation although he actually did an uncredited rewrite of the Ghost Protocol script.
He admitted to us that part of the film’s success is probably down to the fact that his experience on the last two films helped prepare him for this film. Specifically it prepared him for how ‘unprepared he was going to be’ and a lot more realistic about what he could achieve.
To that end, he confessed that the first thing they start making these films isn’t imagining the crazy over the top scenarios they can put Tom Cruise like some might think, instead they focus on the story.
With action sequences, we’re very adamant about the story and making sure that the action sequences have a story within them, otherwise they’re just spectacle.
So we actually plan everything out meticulously and we’re constantly prosecuting those scenes to ensure that there’s story running through them and that it’s engaging.
That said you’d be amazed at how quickly you can lose the audience when you take your foot off the gas, it can be very tricky, so we come at it from both ends at the same time.
As you can imagine this makes working on a film incredibly challenging and Christopher joked it almost leads to the film taking on a life of its own as they try to balance character arcs and action sequences.
For example, in Fallout, they knew they wanted to have a climactic helicopter chase in the third act so the rest of the film had to justify that set piece and each and every choice they made went to serve that.
Christopher further added:
There are inevitable ideas, stunts and story points we want in the movie and then we find ourselves ‘stuck’ and you have to learn to let go and go with the story.
For example, on Rogue Nation, we really struggled with the third act because we really thought that in a film like this we’d have a big fight in the third act between the hero and villain.
We realised though this wasn’t the case with Rogue Nation because it’s not where the movie wanted to go and we couldn’t make it satisfying. So we were honest with ourselves and said we don’t have a need for it and we wrote a much more intimate ending that was a battle of wits. And it worked!
One person who might be more than a little annoyed at where Fallout went is Sean Harris, who plays the evil Solomon Lane, the mastermind behind the Apostles who made his first appearance in Rogue Nation, and is the only villain ever to return to the franchise.
Why’s he annoyed about starring in one of the year’s best blockbusters? Well because when he was cast Christopher promised him he’d die at the end.
Of course, the film didn’t want to go that way and he survived Rogue Nation. So when they were plotting this movie it made sense to bring him back and ‘finish the job’.
Unfortunately, poor Mr Harris didn’t get his wish this time either as Christopher explained:
Twice now we’ve tried to kill Sean and twice the movie has said: ‘Ahh we’d rather not’. But that definitely means he could come back.
It’s funny though because it’s a testament to what a professional he is. After I first pitched the idea of [Lane] surviving he called me and said: ‘I’ve just read the script I don’t think there’s a way he can die.’
So I said: ‘well it’s funny you say that’ and I went on to explain the ending we had in mind, and once he heard it he said: ‘You son of a b*tch, I’m going to be in five of these aren’t I?!’
Just like Lane, who could return again, McQuarrie isn’t ruling out coming back for the third in his Mission Trilogy and even teased that he had an idea where the plot would go, but joked he couldn’t tell us where it would go.
After talking to Chris though it sounds like it’s pretty difficult to know where a beast like Mission: Impossible will take you.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is available on Digital from 19th November and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from 3rd December.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.