“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT” — 4 stars — Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson; PG-13 (violence and intense sequences of action and for brief strong language); in general release
At this point, it may be a good idea to clone Tom Cruise, if only to ensure he can continue to churn out installments to the “Mission: Impossible” series for years to come — so long, that is, if they are all as good as Christopher McQuarrie’s “Mission: Impossible - Fallout.” This latest is a fantastic ride, and may be the best installment in the series yet.
Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, the top agent for the U.S. government’s Impossible Mission Force. The story picks up in the aftermath of 2015’s “Rogue Nation,” which saw Hunt and Co. square off against the Syndicate, a nefarious group of international rogue operatives led by an ex-MI6 agent named Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
This time, the IMF is tracking the Apostles, a splinter group from the Syndicate that is trying to acquire three canisters of plutonium to arm a trio of nuclear bombs. When Hunt’s initial sting operation fails, his team has to shift into desperation mode in order to fend off disaster.
Fortunately, Hunt is flanked by longtime associates Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), but thanks to tensions between the IMF and the CIA (led by Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett, respectively), the team is joined by an operative named August Walker (Henry Cavill), who is known for brutal tactics.
While the heart of the plot is relatively simple, McQuarrie’s story soon sets out on a dazzling array of twists and turns. Along the way, the story weaves Lane, Hunt’s wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a black market arms broker named the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), and mysterious MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) into the mix.
The amped-up result is so loaded that at times the 147-minute experience feels like a pair of "Mission: Impossible" films rolled into one. Yet “Fallout” never drags, and each set piece proves to be more incredible than the last.
Once again, Cruise pours every ounce of adrenaline-junkie effort onto the screen, skydiving, riding motorcycles, climbing cliffs, flying helicopters and yes, running really fast. But unlike in previous outings, Hunt frequently shows just enough flickers of vulnerability to give the character a bit of a relatable Indiana Jones vibe.
The return of Faust is an especially winning move. Ferguson was a revelation in “Rogue Nation” as a femme fatale that could hold her own against Cruise, and her role here is no less dynamic. Kirby fits more of the traditional Bond Girl stereotype, but once again, Ferguson is the secret MVP, and Pegg and Rhames continue to offer strong complementary value.
From time to time, “Fallout” will stretch believability just enough to remind you that you’re still watching a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, but at the same time, the twisting plot, mind-blowing action and just-right doses of wit and humor add up to the absolute best that genre has to offer. “Fallout” is an embarrassment of riches, just in time for that part of the summer when the big screen pickings are starting to feel thin.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is rated PG-13 for frequent sequences of intense action and at times brutal violence, as well as some mild sexual innuendo and profanity, including a single use of strong language; running time: 147 minutes.