If you told me there were seven Mission Impossible movies, I’d believe you. If you told me there were five, I would too. And I write that as someone who’s seen and mostly enjoyed all (checks notes) six of them. But hell, it’s been 22 years of latex masks and quadruple crosses and tall structures for Tom Cruise to almost fall off—a person’s bound to get confused. What Mission Impossible: Fallout brings to the table is the best action choreography I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road and a serviceably twisty espionage plot.
Functioning as a pretty direct sequel to 2015’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Fallout assigns Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and crew (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson) a pretty standard “terrorists have nuclear bombs and that’s bad” scenario that gives them excuses to heist and fight and banter around Western Europe and Central Asia while dealing with an increasingly complex series of intelligence agency betrayals. But writer/director Christopher McQuarrie spoils a good thing by connecting a few too many vital plot threads to previous films in this decades-old, often-muddled series; even having recently rewatched Rogue Nation, I was still frequently baffled when characters started discussing the events of that film without context.
But in terms of pure action cinema, Fallout absolutely sings. Every punch cracks teeth, every bullet thuds against brick or body armor with a real sense of weight, and every stunt has a very real feel of risk to it. (Probably because there was.) McQuarrie directly draws from the weighty European car combat of 1998’s Ronin (one of Fallout’s early sequences, an arms-deal scene, is staged identically to a bit in Ronin), but hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. And in echoing a masterpiece, McQuarrie has created a masterpiece himself—at least in terms of frenetic motorcycle chases through downtown Paris.