Over the next week, The Atlantic’s “And, Scene” series will delve into some of the most interesting films of the year by examining a single, noteworthy cinematic moment from 2018. Next up is Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout. (Read our previous entries here.)
The ludicrously dubbed “Impossible Mission Force,” the imaginary federal agency at the heart of the Mission: Impossible franchise, is difficult to define. Its members are international superspies with a gift for stagecraft; imagine MI6, but with an elaborate makeup department, a healthy CGI budget, and a flair for dramaturgy. Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) and his pals might combat villains by jumping off a building or executing a daring car chase, but they’re also fond of masks and voice-changers, and they always seem to have a wardrobe of disguises in tow. “The IMF is like Halloween, a bunch of grown men in rubber masks playing trick or treat,” sighs the CIA chief Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett).
But the beginning of Fallout, the sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible film franchise, suggests that the world has gotten too grim for fun and games. When the series launched in 1996, it was a hearty throwback, reviving a hit 1967 TV show for the decade’s biggest star. By 2018, Hunt is a man haunted by his years in the field, a marriage he had to abandon for work, and villains that are hell-bent not on financial gain or political power, but on apocalyptic destruction. Fallout is the third Mission: Impossible in a row in which the bad guy has decided that Earth is beyond saving and needs to be annihilated. And at its beginning, that’s exactly what seems to have happened.