Tom Cruise leaps to conquer yet again in Mission: Impossible Fallout, the third best in the series after the first film made in 1996, and Ghost Protocol, the fourth entry from 2011. Mission: Impossible Fallout is a determinedly old-fashioned action thriller that rarely stops to take a breath for fear that the loose ends of its twisted plot will be exposed. The always-on-the-go quality ensures momentum in a storyline stuffed with double blinds and dead ends. The action is superlative, the stunts justify the incredulity built into the very title, and the knowing banter builds upon the enduring question of whether lead character Ethan Hunt is even human.
Played by Tom Cruise with unwavering focus and admirable energy since 1996, Ethan Hunt is both figure of admiration and single-point meme generator for the number of times the special agent has defeated death. Ethan’s other-worldliness, which overlaps with 56-year-old Cruise’s inability to act his age, and the character’s welcome lack of an inner life have rescued the franchise from fatigue and sentimentality ever so often. Every new Mission: Impossible film is a test of Cruise’s ability to push his body and the imagination of stunt designers to the limits. In Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise adds dangling from a helicopter, climbing a rockface despite grievous injuries, disrupting the traffic in Paris, and running across half of London to his lengthy list of death-defying feats.
The helicopter sequence, supposedly set in Kashmir but actually playing out in New Zealand, comes at the end of a breathless but workmanlike hunt for a dirty bomb planted by anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Lane was captured in Rogue Nation (2015), and in Fallout, the sibilant-voiced villain becomes a prized asset to be fought over by Ethan and the other members of his Impossible Missions Force team (including Ving Rhames’s Luther and Simon Pegg’s Benji), Rebecca Ferguson’s British operative Ilsa, Central Intelligence Agency agent Walker (Henry Cavill) and the slinky arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).
The blank-faced and recently moustachioed Henry Cavill is just the man to gape at Ethan’s latest defiance of the laws of gravity. The busy plot even makes room for Ethan’s ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), whose safety is a recurring source of anxiety for the peripatetic field agent. That appears to be some finality in Julia’s new marital status and the meaningful looks exchanged between Ethan and Isla, but the climax suggests that Ethan Hunt still has a few mountains to scale and rivers to wade through. Onward, then.