I have a confession to make: I’m a big fan of Tom Cruise.

Yes, I know it’s controversial, but I can’t help but admire his dedication to pure entertainment. He’s not only a great action star, but a truly excellent actor. You may not agree with his religious beliefs (not many people do), and you may not like him because he jumped on Oprah’s couch once, but if you don’t think that he is one of the most iconic movie stars of all time, you’re wrong.

The Mission: Impossible series has only had one lull in quality: John Woo’s over-the-top Mission: Impossible 2. To date, the series has prided itself on having a different director for each installment, bringing their signature style to proceedings. The series has been on an incline since J.J. Abrams’s Mission: Impossible III, with Ghost Protocol delivering a lighter tone to the series, and displaying Brad Bird’s kinetic direction. It was followed by Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation, which combined the tension and suspense of Brian De Palma’s underappreciated first film along with Brad Bird’s fun tone and emphasis on insane stunt work. It was my favourite of the series up to that point. Cruise went against the trusted formula by bringing back McQuarrie to direct.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the filmic equivalent of having adrenaline injected into your body. When the film’s majestic practical stunt work is gracing the screen, it’s a rush. It was exhausting!

Set two years after the events of Rogue Nation, in which Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and his Syndicate were defeated, a terrorist group made up of Lane’s followers known as The Apostles has risen—working with a mysterious leader known only by the alias John Lark. After a mission gone wrong, plutonium cores are unleashed into the hands of The Apostles, and the Impossible Mission Force team—comprised of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames)—must stop The Apostles from weaponising the plutonium before a New World Order is born. To help execute the mission, CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) sends in her number one Special Activities operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) to assist Hunt and his team. The mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns, who’s on her own personal assignment which intertwines with the IMF team.

Not since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road has an action film been so viscerally compelling and utterly exhilarating. We receive so many stale, underwhelming blockbusters every year and Mission: Impossible – Fallout is here to demonstrate how good blockbusters can be when everyone involved in the production is working at the absolute top of their game.

If you’re not sold by the incredible practical action on display, I’d be shocked. It’s this asset of practicality that gives this film an extra edge. In one of the film’s more extraordinary sequences, Hunt and Walker do a HALO jump from a plane allowing them to enter Paris undetected. In true Cruise style, the actor is performing his own stunts and jumping out of a plane for real. It’s this legitimacy which gives every sequence added tension and pure scale.McQuarrie proves once again that he’s one of the best action directors working today, delivering an array of jaw-dropping sequences ranging from the aforementioned HALO jump to a brutal restroom fistfight (which feels more akin to a scene from the John Wick series). We also get a signature Cruise foot chase, a motorcycle chase through Paris and a helicopter duel which should go down in the ages as one of the most exhilarating in action film history. Oh, and Tom Cruise actually learned to fly a helicopter for it. I’m serious! Every character is put in some sort of precarious situation making the mission seem legitimately impossible and the stakes—both personal and global—feel gigantic.

As well as being a canvas for spectacular action, the film also explores the inner workings of Ethan Hunt and delves into what makes him the person he is; his greatest strength—prioritising the people he cares for—may also be his greatest weakness. McQuarrie’s screenplay is darker and more emotional than the previous two films, while still containing the entertaining team dynamic. Even at a lengthy 147 minutes, the film is paced perfectly.

Performances are stellar across the board. I’ve already mentioned Tom Cruise, and surprise, he’s great. Simon Pegg adds brilliant humour as always and Ving Rhames perennially oozes cool. Henry Cavill is a stone-cold force of nature, adding an extra layer of physicality to the film. Fellow new addition Vanessa Kirby adds class as an arms dealer known as The White Widow. Rebecca Ferguson excels once again, after her star-making performance in Rogue Nation, and Sean Harris goes to another level as the slimy Solomon Lane, who cements himself as the Moriarty to Hunt’s Sherlock Holmes.

It’d be unfair not to mention cinematographer Rob Hardy, who after Annihilation, has now shot arguably the two best looking films of 2018 to date. This film is incredibly elegant and slick, exuding class in every frame.

Frequent Hans Zimmer collaborator and protégé Lorne Balfe composes his first score for the series. Balfe gives us a score which feels very similar in style to his mentor’s collaborations with Christopher Nolan—and that’s a major compliment. The score feels huge, combining epic strings and catchy percussion rhythms to give the film an even greater sense of scale.

Not seeing Mission: Impossible – Fallout in a cinema should be a punishable crime. You’d think a franchise would’ve petered out by its sixth installment, but Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie simply won’t allow that to happen. Early in the film Hunt says, “I won’t let you down.” While he’s reiterating that to Benji, he’s really saying that to the audience. No one else is willing to go as far and extreme to create the most authentic entertainment as Cruise. Say what you will about him but he’s a star like no other, and it wouldn’t be amiss to say this is one of the best action films ever made.

 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout hits Australian cinemas August 2.