The latest entry in the long-running Tom Cruise action franchise is a giddy, essential spectacle.
If America has a James Bond, it is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), the persistently bouncy hero of the Mission: Impossible franchise, whose sixth entry, Fallout, hits theaters this week. Bond was framed as a paragon of British upper-class smoothness, a tuxedo-clad man’s man who felt most at home at a Monégasque casino, ordering martinis and killing bad guys with equal suaveness. Hunt is none of these things. He throws his whole body into every problem he encounters, crashing against walls and diving out of the sky with lunatic aplomb. His biggest strength is his brash confidence—his utter inability to conceive of failure even as it stares him in the face.
As his boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) put it in 2015’s Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, Hunt is “the literal manifestation of destiny.” He’s a walking and talking copy of The Secret, who accomplishes tasks almost by magic, simply because they need to be accomplished. At a moment’s notice, he’ll scale the tallest skyscraper, drive his car off a cliff, or commit pages of bank-account numbers to memory, since the alternative is always the end of the world. As these films have gone on, they’ve become more and more fascinated with Hunt’s essential ludicrousness. Mission: Impossible—Fallout decrees him elemental—a crucial, indefinable component keeping the very fabric of humanity knitted together. The film is so dizzyingly fun that, at least while you’re watching, it seems like a sound conclusion.
Since 1996, the Mission: Impossible franchise has been passed around from auteur to auteur, with Cruise as its constant. There was Brian De Palma, then John Woo, J. J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and Christopher McQuarrie. Fallout upsets that pattern by bringing McQuarrie back, though it’s hard to object given his first-rate work on Rogue Nation. This film is thus a more direct sequel, bringing back several characters: Hunley; Hunt’s loyal team of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames); the villainous Solomon Lane (Sean Harris); and the steely MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who so impressively matched wits with Hunt last time around.