4.5 out of 5 stars.
The “Mission: Impossible” film franchise has a lot in common with its leading man, Tom Cruise. They’re both relentless, and never seem to know when to stop or how to slow down. But they also age gracefully while managing to pull out some new tricks to impress audiences. And while “Mission: Impossible- Fallout” is the sixth film in the series, it’s proof that not knowing when to stop is sometimes a good thing, as it very well could be the best “Mission: Impossible” yet.
Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed the franchise’s fifth installment, “Rogue Nation,” returns to do the same for “Fallout,” which is set two years after the events of its predecessor. The film opens with IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) being briefed on his mission. After the takedown of criminal Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), his organization took on a new name, The Apostles, who are trying to obtain three plutonium cores that could be used to create nuclear weapons. Hunt teams up with his usual IMF cohorts, tech expert Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), but when they botch their attempt to intercept the plutonium, they have to go on a new mission to retrieve them, one that forces them to work with CIA operative August Walker (Henry Cavill).
The plot is actually pretty straightforward, and, if you get a chance to think about it in between breaks in the action, kind of silly. But this movie shines in its execution of said plot. McQuarrie has further improved his skills at directing this sort of action thriller since the last film; all of the action sequences, whether it’s a fist fight in close quarters or a helicopter chase over a mountain range, are tense and often brutal. There are a lot of things that happen that are completely bonkers, as the series continues to top itself with crazy situation after crazy situation, but the scenes never feel overly ridiculous because McQuarrie keeps them grounded in some semblance of reality. And even though the movie is long and feels like it has two or three different climaxes, the pacing is solid, and it never loses its grip on the audience.
“Fallout” also has a ton of callbacks to its predecessors, but it manages to make these an integral part of the story without overwhelming the plot. It’s always nice to see references to the original 1960s television show, even though with today’s technology you’d think some of those practices would be obsolete (the film opens with Hunt receiving his briefing from an old-school film hidden inside a book). But this film is also very character driven, and characters from past films in the series reappear, while references are also made to Hunt’s past, and the fact that the U.S. government hasn’t exactly been kind to him despite the sacrifices he has made. Hunt’s compassion for others is what sets him apart from other agents in the field, and that is put into play more here than it ever has been. Say what you will about Tom Cruise—he really proves to be the ultimate action star with this movie. He plays his scenes in the field with a calm smoothness, and plays the more personal scenes with emotion. Once again, he does all his own stunts in this movie, adding yet another impressive layer to not just his performance, but also his character as an actor.
As for the rest of the cast, besides those already mentioned, Alec Baldwin reprises his role as Hunley, the former CIA director who is now the IMF Secretary, with Angela Bassett’s tough Erica Sloane taking over the former position. Vanessa Kirby is a nice addition as resident femme fatale and arms dealer known as the White Widow, and appears to relish her role in her performance, while Cavill manages to be not bland as the questionable CIA agent monitoring Hunt and his team. Rebecca Ferguson, who played ex-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust in “Rogue Nation” has another significant role in this film (and she’s great), and we also see Michelle Monaghan back as Ethan’s ex-wife Julia.
“Mission: Impossible- Fallout” is a master class in action filmmaking. It boasts great practical effects and set pieces, and well-staged action and stunts performed by a capable cast. It’s as stylish as any Bond movie, and immensely engrossing and entertaining to boot. All of the films in this series so far have been at least decent, if not great, so it isn’t like “Fallout” had anything to prove; but if it did, it shows that even six movies in and 22 years later, this franchise—and its star— is still at the top of its game.
Runtime: 147 minutes. Rated PG-13.