Continuity has never been the strong point in the Mission: Impossible movies, other than lead character Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), very few things carry over from movie to movie. Sometimes you get Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, you never get the same female character twice (other than a quick flash of Ethan’s wife Julia from MI:3 (Michelle Monaghan) in Ghost Protocol (AKA MI:4). With Fallout, writer-director Christopher MacQuarrie (also the first director to return as he helmed the last installment Rogue Nation) may have crafted the tightest, tensest and arguably best installment of the franchise, by actually playing into the continuity of the franchise.
Hunt returns with his trusty sidekicks (Pegg and Rhames) and is joined by a CIA operative, August Walker (Henry Cavill) for a mission to recover lost plutonium. As his boss, Hunley (an also returning and delightful Alec Baldwin) argues with CIA head Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) over the big picture, the team’s mission goes sideways (naturally) when the Rogue’s villain Solomon Lane (gravelly-voiced Sean Harris) is folded into the fray, and Ethan’s somewhat colleague Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, also from Rogue) keeps popping up mysteriously. The plot is typical for Impossible, there are double crosses, masks being ripped off, and glorious stunts magnificently pulled off by a death-defying Cruise. The action, though, is ratcheted up from previous installments with little downtime and a rat-a-tat pace that is liable to give you whiplash.
The movie is gorgeous, with stunning locales (Berlin, Paris, and New Zealand subbing for Kashmir) and an beautifully rendered shots that play great service to the giant screen. Further mystery and charm is supported by the White Widow, played all too briefly by Vanessa Kirby (The Crown). There are battles with helicopters, motorcycles, under-water rescues, and plane jumps that defy logic, but it all makes for a wondrous package that supports the import of seeing this on the big screen. With a movie like this, even without the trailer pointing to it, you know how it will play out. You know which one will turn out to be the bad guy (spoiler alert: it involves an infamous mustache) and you know that the day will be saved and our heroes intact. Or will it? With edge-of-your-seat thrills, breathless plotting and a group of game actors, there is still room for some surprises in the sixth installment of a franchise that was developed for TV in the 60s. It’s a shame that Ilsa’s character continues to be used as a pawn for other characters, but Ferguson adds a layer of integrity and agency that helps soften that.
With so many big-budget action movies crumbling under the weight of their legacy (Hi, Avengers!) it’s amazing to see a film that plays to its history and still manages to deliver a fun, crazy, ridiculous ride that never loses sight of the goal to entertain.
My Grade – A-