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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

I was so skeptical of the sixth Mission: Impossible movie that I didn’t put it on my list of most anticipated movies this year, even though I loved the last three dearly. I was influenced by the news stories about it: Christopher McQuarrie bucking the trend of having a new director for each film. Jeremy Renner choosing to be in Avengers 3 over this. Henry Cavill growing the world’s most expensive mustache. We were due for a disappointment, it seemed inevitable. I was wrong: instead we got the best Mission: Impossible yet.

Yes, Christopher McQuarrie’s return was always going to be controversial for series fans, but it works for two reasons. The first is that McQuarrie has switched up his style, writing a much darker story and working with a new crew to create a tone distinct from Rogue Nation, perhaps closest to harrowing exploits of Mission: Impossible III. The second is that this is the first direct sequel in the series’ history, dealing with the “fallout” of the IMF taking down Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) without also killing every single member of The Syndicate.

The remaining members of The Syndicate have rebranded themselves as The Apostles and, thanks to an operation gone bad in Berlin, are in possession of three nuclear bombs. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of aspiring field agent Benji (Simon Pegg) and un-retired badass Luther (Ving Rhames) are tasked with getting the plutonium back, with the CIA insisting the team bring along one of their agents; gigantic, manly man August Walker (Henry Cavill). Their mission becomes even more impossible when Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) reappears and seems to have an agenda of her own.

Mission: Impossible stories tend to exist purely to string together the action sequences, but Fallout raises the bar. Typically, these stories are motivated by MacGuffins, however, this time the movie shows early on what the consequences of the IMF failing would look like, which was effective enough to raise the stakes throughout. Also, most of the big twists and double crosses are condensed into one long scene of people betraying each other, which takes a confusing, dramatic aspect of these movies and turns it into a hilarious delight while simultaneously unmuddling the rest of the action. Plus, the way the movie chooses to pay off dangling character threads is surprisingly satisfying for a franchise that’s motto has always been “you don’t need to have seen any of the others to have a good time.”

You probably already know this, but the real joy of Fallout is watching all the stunts Tom Cruise did for real. The movie shows a HALO jump in one long take because this adrenaline junkie really did it, and they were able to get another guy crazy enough to do it backwards while holding an IMAX camera. The same goes for rooftop jumps, dizzying motorcycle chases, and even dangling from (and flying) a helicopter. It’s all so intense, while I was watching the movie I was getting the same feelings I had watching some of my other favorite action movies for the first time, like Fury Road and The Dark Knight. I’m not sure this is quite in that league, but it’s close. I know we got tired of watching that trailer, at least it was all worth it.