A rare case of a franchise improving with each new instalment, Fallout is a spectacular cinema experience that begs to be seen on the big screen.
'Franchise' needn't be a dirty word in Hollywood, and Mission Impossible: Fallout is a shining example of why. Now in its sixth instalment, this isn't just a franchise done right, it's one that somehow improves with each new chapter; an ongoing escalation of stakes and stunts without ever sacrificing the core intelligent, honest and light-hearted storytelling that's been so critical to the series' sustained appeal.
At the forefront once is again is its leading man and producer, Tom Cruise, whose capacity for performing increasingly complex and outrageously dangerous stunts remains inversely proportionate to his ageing (chronologically, if not physically). In Fallout his IMF agent Ethan Hunt is at it again, weaving cars and motorbikes through the traffic-packed streets of Paris, HALO jumping from 30,000ft and leaping across rickety London rooftops (including one failed stunt that, in the studio's words, liquefied his ankle so badly it shut down production for months). Cruise even accrued over 2000 hours of helicopter flight time prior to filming, all so that he could personally perform what is arguably the film's most thrilling and death-defying sequence. He is, in short, the antithesis of 'phoning it in'; an old-school movie star who approaches every shot with the enthusiasm of someone about to film their first. It's a love of filmmaking apparent in every frame the actor occupies, and its value to the enduring allure of the franchise cannot be overstated. That the Mission Impossible brand could survive beyond his involvement seems far less assured than, say, Bond or Batman.
And just like those two most recent Bond films, Fallout at last compels its hero to shine a light on his own past deeds; the movie's title referring not just to the literal threat posed by three nuclear devices but also the consequences of a lifetime spent obediently killing, stealing and undermining at the behest of the US Government. Adding to the emotional stakes, Fallout also repeatedly asks its characters to weigh up the value of a human life, presenting them with multiple scenarios in which they're forced to choose between 'the one or the many' knowing that either path carries with it irreconcilable guilt and heartache. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (whose return to the franchise marks the first repeat involvement by a director, having also written and directed the previous instalment, Rogue Nation), Fallout achieves the rare feat of being an unceasing action movie that always feels more like a drama. There is no superfluity here. Every punch, shot, jump, crash and boom exists because it must; a story-driven international escapade that never stops to sit down and catch its breath.
Around Cruise the IMF 'family' assembles once again, with Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson packing equal measures of comedy and conflict into every moment. Man of Steel's Henry Cavill also joins the action in Fallout, with his lumbering and muscular CIA assassin 'Walker' representing an appealing counterpoint to Hunt's penchant for the softer, tradecraft touch. Hunt and Walker are at once rivals and compatriots; two competing CIA assets unwillingly paired together in pursuit of a common goal. Or so it seems. As always, the Mission Impossible franchise throws up all manner of red herrings, double-crosses and mask-pulling identity swaps, meaning - just like the characters - you're never quite sure who to trust. If it borders on confusing at times, it's only because the time-honoured tradition of spy movies commands nothing less. Ever since 1996's original, the franchise has unapologetically embraced jargon-heavy dialogue and twists upon twists without ever feeling compelled to play it safe or dumb things down via base simplification (MI:2 being the regretful exception). If most sequels fail because they're rushed into production purely to capitalise on the predecessor's success, Fallout demonstrates the benefit of patience and the discipline to say: we will make this film not when, but if a good enough story comes our way.
In all, this is a benchmark setter for action movies; a rollicking, tense, sensual and captivating piece of cinema that begs to be enjoyed on the big screen.