For some reason, it seems that I only see the even-numbered Mission: Impossible films. In times past, I went because of the director: John Woo and Brad Bird helming M:I films was, once upon a time, a very big deal. So when Christopher McQuarrie took the reins on the fourth installment, Rogue Nation, I took a pass. Who cares about Christopher McQuarrie, right? The guy won an (undeserved) Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects, helmed the decent The Way of the Gun in 2000, then disappeared for eight years, only to mysteriously resurface as Cruise's go-to screenwriter (now at six films and counting). Regardless, I'd been hearing great things left and right about Mission: Impossible – Fallout, so I had to see it for myself.
As McQuarrie is the first person to direct (and write) two M:I installments, Fallout isn't quite the standalone film that its predecessors were. I didn't catch Rogue Nation, so while Fallout deftly provides the exposition we need to get up to speed on Ethan Hunt's adventures, the story concerns certain characters and relationships that were introduced in the previous film, and I for one didn't get all the nuances.
But in the end, who cares? It's Mission: Impossible! The plot – the usual spy stuff, i.e. the genocidal madman, the treacherous mole, the bomb that must be defused – is just a clothesline for the jaw-dropping set pieces that have defined this franchise. And boy, have Cruise and McQuarrie amped up those set pieces. Much has been made of Cruise performing his own stunts, even well into his fifties, and although one could guess that numerous greenscreens and wires have been erased in post-production, it's still refreshing to see an action picture that looks real, or at least isn't 75% computer-generated. (Looking at you, Marvel.)
As for the action, it delivers in spades. If the first few breathless chases aren't enough for you, just wait for that over-the-top third act, which had my audience literally whooping. By the time end credits rolled, my palms were damp with cold sweat.
There are flaws, namely one Henry Cavill, as a CIA officer alternately assisting and thwarting Hunt's IMF team. Cavill's rugged and handsome, but is he always this stiff? One scene between him and Angela Bassett, playing his boss, has some of the worst acting I've seen in a recent studio film. Like Cruise, Cavill's best when he shuts up and dives into the action. Fortunately, Fallout gives him plenty of chances to do so.
Anyway, see the film. It's like a really well done Disneyland ride. Lots of thrills and spills and "how is Hunt going to get out of this one?" moments. And the staging of those set pieces is truly masterful.