‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ is a transcendent, flawless action masterpiece

With 2015’s Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie earned our curiosity. With this sixth Mission: Impossible adventure, the first occasion any director has returned to the franchise a second time, he has earned our reverence and respect. Not since Christopher Nolan’s double-whammy of The Dark Knight and Inception has a blockbuster director arrived so completely and extraordinarily, delivering a work so totally engrossing and impossible to fault that future consideration as “one of the defining Hollywood releases of the era” is without question. If people thought George Miller’s Fury Road was a game changer, wait until they see how the game is played, won and reinvented threefold by this movie. Fallout is truly a perfect movie.

As much as McQuarrie has developed a striking directorial flare for this film, the overarching creative voice of the Mission series remains its marquee star, Thomas Cruise. Cruise, it is abundantly clear from Fallout, will be remembered as the greatest movie star of my lifetime (though his career predates me by a decade): he exists on screen in metahuman form; it’s hard to believe you’re watching him perform these acts, occupy these spaces, and yet he does. He is a heavenly creature; he must be treasured and protected.

Fallout sends Cruise HALO jumping into Paris, swinging from an airborne helicopter, flying said helicopter (while also operating the film camera), running and jumping and climbing and motorbiking and being beautiful and hilarious and fully committed during every minute. The man has never given a half-assed performance in his life, but Fallout sees him double down on the energy audiences have adored for decades; if he was physically allowed to do every job on this movie, you know he would.

Yet McQuarrie reigns in Cruise’s more narcissistic, indulgent instincts (see: The Mummy) in this film, allowing Cruise more than ever to disappear into the role of Ethan Hunt (the one flaw of Brad Bird’s outstanding Ghost Protocol is that Cruise is effectively playing himself throughout). And Hunt is incredibly interesting now, getting a less muddled version of the Bond/Skyfall treatment (Fallout is very much the Skyfall of the series, and it’s an even better film) that allows for the return of his ex-wife (the delightful Michelle Monaghan) in the third act. Where Fallout succeeds most impressively is in the intersection of solid emotional beats with a very Nolanesque set of clinically-staged set-pieces (a near-silent 25-minute stretch of outdoor action in Paris is an improvement on anything in the Dark Knight movies). There’s a Sicario vibe to a premonition Hunt has of a violent extraction that climaxes with him — clad in black and surrounded by mercenaries — murdering a cop; it’s strikingly dark and morally complex material for a movie with as silly a title as Mission: Impossible. Not that the series’ trademark silliness isn’t present: Simon Pegg’s Benji and Ving Rhames’ Luther are a sparkling pair of lightweight:heavyweights providing not just expected comic relief but a constant base point for Hunt’s resilient humanism, reminding other characters (and the audience) of how much — while endlessly defying death — he values life.

Fallout’s plot doesn’t need to be summarised — it provides a bedrock for the action and is best experienced in context — but involves a nuclear threat, stolen plutonium (yay) and the return of Rogue Nation’s big bad Solomon Lane (the deliriously nasty Sean Harris). Hunt and co. are dispatched by The Secretary (the great Alec Baldwin, having an absolute blast) to retrieve said plutonium under the supervision of a suspicious CIA suit (Henry Cavill), leading them to adrenaline-fuelled pit-stops in Paris, London and Kashmir.

In Paris, prepare to forget what breathing feels like as Hunt races into oncoming traffic, and as Cruise and Cavill engage in a staggeringly-choreographed nightclub toilet brawl. In London, watch Cruise work those city rooftops like nobody since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Not to forget the aforementioned HALO sequence, so astounding and unparalleled in pure tension that it renders Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity effectively pointless. In Kashmir, things get really crazy and the audience in my screening became to just giggle hysterically at the outlandish boldness of every frame, every twist and every gag McQuarrie and Cruise have packed into this relentless and riveting work of art.

In light of both this and Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2, it simply feels like Hollywood will either have to stop making blockbusters or try a lot harder. I can’t see myself voluntarily paying to watch Ant-Man & The Wasp or several inferior incoming releases when two such fine examples of top-tier, mega-budget movie-making are still showing on big screens nationwide. Fallout is the film large cinema screens, IMAX and otherwise, were invented to display. It’s a magnificent ballet of excellent screenwriting and brutally engaging physical performance by Cruise and his ensemble (we haven’t even mentioned the terrific work done by Rebecca Ferguson and Angela Bassett) cut by a great editor to a great score (shoutout Eddie Hamilton and Lorne Balfe).

Find me in 10 years when my Blu-Ray of this movie is long since worn out from repeat viewings; see if I’ve thought of a bad word to say about it. I’ve oft used Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol as a barometer by which all movies should be measured, such is its significant place in my heart. I have zero quibbles or reservations in saying that Fallout is better, a lot better, in a lot of surprising and interesting ways. McQuarrie my friend, welcome to the big leagues.