The greatest action movies—the ones that can make you feel like simultaneously applauding and waving a lighter in the theater—tend to be those most adept at seemingly losing control, somehow maintaining a fluid anything-can-happen vibe while also sporting atomic clock choreography. The ecstatically touted Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an amazingly entertaining blockbuster in a whole lot of ways, but it never quite escapes the flowchart stage. Even at its most astounding, you’re still aware of just how much pre-planning must have been required at any given moment in order to keep Tom Cruise from enthusiastically shuffling off from this mortal coil. That said, if you’re in the mood for sheer kinetic oomph, this is really, really tough to beat. Oh my god, that bit with the helicopters.
Picking up a few years after 2015’s Rogue Nation, the plot finds weary jack-of-all-shady-trades Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team tracking down an apocalyptic cult with a thing for plutonium, while also fending off interference from an overzealous CIA operative (an amusingly gargantuan Henry Cavill). The double-crosses and multi-purpose gizmos quickly pile high. As always with this series, if you’re ever lost, just assume that at least one of the characters is wearing a mask.
Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie makes the most of his second go-around, deepening the themes and characters from the previous installment (Rebecca Ferguson’s enigmatic British superspy has even more to do, which is a very, very good thing). Still, the stunts are the main draw here, and McQuarrie and company keep finding ways to up the ante, quickdrawing between heaven-level parachute jumps, close-quarter punchouts, and high speed motorcycle chases, while also continually finding new objects for its frighteningly game star to perilously dangle off of. This supreme commitment to perpetual motion makes Fallout a ridiculously enjoyable, giddily bruising experience, even if it never fully jumps the tracks. Apologies for repeating myself, but oh my god, that bit with the helicopters.