Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

T hrough the effects-driven films of today, one franchise has reveled in the more practical side of action filmmaking: the Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise. Based on the television series by Bruce Geller, these films have given audiences some of the best action spectacle of the past decade. And with its recent outing, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the franchise has delivered its most satisfying installment yet.

In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth film in the franchise, Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is dealing with worldwide repercussions after catching former MI6 agent turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) over two years ago. While many members of Lane’s Syndicate have been dealt with, those that remain, now calling themselves the Apostles, are wreaking havoc across the world. They have one belief: destruction is a necessary function of life. One mission sees Hunt lose plutonium to the Apostles, putting the world even more at risk. Now, he, along with his allies Luther Stickwell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), must race to retrieve the plutonium before the Apostles can enact their plan. However, they are begrudgingly joined by mysterious and adversarial CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill), and their actions are being monitored by CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), superseding IMF Secretary Alan Hunley’s (Alec Baldwin) authority. Their mission also brings them into contact with former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who is hunting the Apostles for her own reasons. Hunt must battle the Apostles while facing his greatest fears: Lane’s escape from custody and losing those he holds dear.

The character of Ethan Hunt has been predominantly defined by the charisma of Tom Cruise, but what many people do not give Cruise credit for is how seriously he takes this role and how much genuine emotional weight he gives to it. Cruise is not just a person made to take on the most extreme stunts (though he does that with efficiency), but someone who tries to take a character beyond his surface characteristics. With a great script from director Christopher McQuarrie (returning from the fifth film, Rogue Nation), Cruise has crafted a sympathetic and complex character who finds himself having to find a balance between doing what’s right and doing what he feels is right. Cruise is a charismatic movie star and stunt showman, but he is also one of our most relatable actors when given the right material. This is Tom Cruise at his best.

What has changed considerably since this series started is that Cruise is no longer the sole focus. He is joined by people who can match him both intellectually and physically, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Rebecca Ferguson’s fantastic portrayal of Faust.  Ferguson continues to play coy with the idea of this mysterious agent with a hidden past, but finds even more shades to the character. Ferguson has been a revelation for this franchise, and here’s to her exciting continuation and evolution in this franchise. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are great, with Rhames, usually the deadpan tough guy, getting some strong emotional beats. Hunt is facing off some worthy adversaries, with Harris giving a more chilling performance in his second go-round as Lane, but it is Cavill who shines as Hunt’s more confrontational equal. Also returning is Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s former wife, adding even more emotional weight to the story.

While the character beats are all great, what also define this series are its action sequences. The globe-trotting set pieces are the strongest the series has to offer, and McQuarrie has proven himself a master of capturing the kinetic feel of every chase, punch, fall and run. Two particular sequences stand out the most: a motorbike chase through the streets of Paris and a helicopter fight over the snowy mountains of Kashmir. Both are dripping with atmosphere (cinematographer Rob Hardy’s work adds to that effect), realism and excitement. The minimalist editing by Eddie Hamilton and the grounded and exquisite score by Lorne Balfe enhance these sequences even more.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best installment in the franchise. It has taken all of the series’ best elements to a whole new level. It is more than just a summer blockbuster. It is a master’s thesis in how to craft an emotionally charged action film with a high-stakes and character-driven narrative, death-defying set pieces and the sheer star power of its lead Cruise. |Bill Loellke

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