Mission: Impossible – Fallout review: dizzying high of a franchise

That bit in Mission: Impossible – Fallout where Henry Cavill reloads his arms in the middle of a frenzied punch-up? That’s also Christopher McQuarrie, on the first day of production, preparing to lay waste to whatever memory you have of Hollywood action filmmaking in the last couple of years.

Fallout is a resounding anomaly: the dizzying high of a 20-year-old blockbuster franchise coming into its own at film #6 — and it’s a glorious thing. McQuarrie is the only director in the franchise who’s returned for a second go, and at this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Rogue Nation, then a series’ best, now looks like a warm-up to this wild 2.5 hour whirling dervish of stunt-craft delirium that frequently dangles Tom Cruise over the precipice of death with seemingly reckless glee.

If the terrorist/nuclear bomb plot is somewhat recycled, Fallout contains a fair share of subtle surprises to neutralise its more familiar trappings. Like, who would have thought Ving Rhames, generally relegated to computer-whiz sidekick, would deliver the most sincere and emotional moment the series has ever had? There’s a compelling, sharply defined arc for Rebecca Ferguson, whose slippery operative Ilsa Faust continues to be a fierce match for Cruise. Cavill’s pain-in-the-ass CIA babysitter is a terrific addition, and Simon Pegg gets to do shit!

Cruise, the dauntless pro that he is, looks hilariously at home with each death-defying spectacle, of which the finale, a breakneck helicopter chase optimised for vertiginous IMAX perfection, is surely one for the ages. And with Fallout, the rubber mask has finally come off Ethan Hunt: he no longer feels like an action-hero cypher with a charismatic smile, but a genuine beacon of goodness whom we can always count on.