There's good news for Mission: Impossible fans right now, as it turns out the director of Fallout - the sublime latest addition to the franchise - Christopher McQuarrie, is set to return for two more back-to-back M:I movies with Tom Cruise returning to the fray as Ethan Hunt.
The news comes courtesy of Variety, who also say there won’t be a three year gap between sequels (though we will gave to wait for the seventh in the series until 2021 and then the eighth in 2022). Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson are all expected to return too, while it seems likely that Sean Harris will return as The Syndicate leader Solomon Lane, despite being handed over to MI6 at the end of Fallout. He's persistent like that.
Quite what the story will entail for those movies remains to be seen, but it does seem likely we'll see the end of the seventh movie introduce a major cliffhanger (probably relating to Hunt's assumed death, let's be honest), given the way their releases are being set up. And frankly, that's probably the only way for McQuarrie to do what he needs to with those movies, which is to some outdo Fallout.
The problem for the returning director is that he's set his own benchmark way too high. Just as Sam Mendes' Spectre was good but not as good as Skyfall, McQuarrie faces comparisons to Fallout with whatever he makes next. He's got his work cut out for him.
Sure, Fallout had some issues - like the over-insistence on Solomon Lane's importance, which matters more to the film-makers than the audience and the relegation of supporting characters to furniture at times - but it was one of the best action movies of all time. And much of that is down to McQuarrie's direction, which was exhilarating, bold and at times impressively innovative. That helicopter scene in particular was unbelievable.
But how can he possibly hope to outdo that?
Presumably, the story will continue to focus on The Syndicate, since they've been positioned as the Spectre to Ethan Hunt and the IMF's MI5 (and since Lane continues to be alive). IMF need a reason to be on their toes, since these stories work best when Hunt and his team are rats up a drainpipe with nowhere to turn, while also saving the world from itself. But really, the story is becoming less and less important, which is also a problem McQuarrie has to overcome.
The danger for McQuarrie is that he will naturally be expected to do more of the things that stood out most in Fallout - namely the incredibly well-shot stunts that reinvigorated the series and made it more than just an alternative to Bourne and Bond. It's the same thing Tom Cruise faces: now that he's well-known in this series for doing his own stunts, fans clamour for him to do more outrageous ones every time. The natural extrapolation of that is for him to put himself in mortal peril while screaming ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED with his broken bones sticking out of his skin.
Sounds extreme doesn't it, but McQuarrie LITERALLY used the shot of Cruise breaking his ankle in Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Because it added an extra bit of a thrill, presumably.
McQuarrie will face the same sort of thing, and the danger there is that the series will turn into a Fast & Furious clone (it's already getting there, to be honest - though this is not a problem) where the premium is on stunts and set-pieces only and nothing more cerebral. For Mission: Impossible 7 to outdo Fallout, it needs to be both that AND have a strong story and that is a hell of an ask for even a director as strong and talented as McQuarrie.
As already qualified, there are ways to improve on Fallout. Firstly, either giving the audience more reason to care about supervillain Solomon Lane (who is backed up by a great performance by Sean Harris but let down a little by the material framing him) or replace him entirely with a new threat. Secondly, the supporting characters need a little more to do and we could do with some fresh blood. Obviously the Fast & Furious parallel is mostly used disparagingly, but that series ingeniously introduced The Rock when it needed a shot in the arm and Henry Cavill's role in Fallout proved how effective a new main character can be.
it would be extremely interesting to see more of IMF clashing with agents as well-trained as Cavill's August Walker (hell, it'd be great to have him back, even with his death looking pretty irreversible at this stage) and there's always more of a thrill in the idea of IMF being the enemy of the state. So why not lean into Lane's incarceration with MI6 and have them become the agency IMF have to fight? Who wouldn't want to see a sort of Bond vs Ethan Hunt situation?
At the end of the day, McQuarrie is the right man for the job and he has built up a lot of trust and goodwill from Fallout, it's just important to acknowledge how daunting it's going to be.