The one where Ethan Hunt hangs from a cliff-face. The one where he crawls up the side of the world’s tallest building. The one where he clings to the outside of a plane mid-take-off. If Mission: Impossible movies are defined by the outrageous, insurance-busting stunts Tom Cruise is prepared to to throw himself into, Fallout will not be so easily constrained. Is it the one where Hunt dangles from a helicopter? Or the one where he leaps out of a plan at 25,000ft, or the one where he races a motorcycle the wrong way around the Arc de Triomphe? In fact, so determined are Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie to make this film bigger, bolder and twistier than previous instalments, they’ve essentially crafted a heart-pumpingly relentless two-hour action sequence. And it might just be one of the best action movies ever made.
It also has the rarest of elements for an action movie: an engaging plot that more or less makes sense. After a botched IMF sting operation hands a batch of nuclear weapons to The Apostles, an elusive gang of terrorists loyal to anarchist baddie Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Hunt and his team take it upon themselves to right the wrong. But first they must get past their new handler Agent August Walker (Henry Cavill, sporting that now infamous piece of lip fuzz), the CIA’s number one ‘plumber’ who has orders to hunt and kill the team should they step out of line. When the mission inevitably goes south, Hunt finds himself in a race against time to evade a number of assassins and neutralise the threat.
Although such a twisting, consistently surprising plot requires a fair amount of heavy exposition lifting early on – for which McQuarrie semi-successfully compensates with some stylish noir visuals – once the pieces are in place and the mission has been accepted, the movie (literally) dives head first into the globe-trotting action… and things only crank up from there. There’s a taut, adrenalin-triggering car chase through a bustling city, a bone-shattering, vertiginous rooftop jump, and a brutally visceral bathroom brawl in Europe (something that is fast becoming a niche calling card for Cruise). And those are meant to be the low-key sequences where we’re able to catch our breath in between the more death-defyingly bonkers set-pieces Cruise and McQuarrie have cooked up.
The cast is superb too, with McQuarrie (who also writes) smoothly layering powerful character moments between the revving and punching. Whether it’s sharing a joke in the middle of a skydive or a tearful goodbye during a bomb defusion, the writer-director raises the personal stakes just enough to make us fret about who will survive the next insane set-piece. Even Cruise, upon whose apparent super-human infallibility this franchise relies, allows Hunt to appear more tormented and vulnerable than ever before and a heart-pounding finale set atop the Kashmiri mountains is all the more gripping for it.
The question posed throughout Fallout is why someone would keep throwing themselves into impossible scenarios at the risk of their own life. The same could be asked of Cruise himself as he continues to push himself into unimaginably dangerous stunts for our entertainment. One thing is for sure, though: whether it’s the one where Hunt paraglides down Everest, clambers up a launching rocket or grapples with a pony-tail wearing Ben Affleck – as long as Cruise eps upping the ante, we’ll keep coming back for more.
Runtime: 148 minutes (approx.)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenwriter: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill