At 56, Tom Cruise is a better action star than anyone else in the game. His name sits alone atop the Mission: Impossible – Fallout marquee because as fun as Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg are, his name is the only one that matters. In 2011, Hollywood thought to give this franchise to Jeremy Renner, but seven years later, it’s more Cruise’s franchise than ever before. Teamed with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise and company take the franchise to new heights with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. This picture is still built on a wacky plot that barely matters and explosions and over-the-top action are still its bread and butter, but there’s now a thread of winking mischief that infuses the whole affair with the freedom to take everything even farther.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout waits all of two minutes before it blasts into full throttle mayhem. The nearly two-and-a-half hour runtime is excessive, but never dull. Rather, it’s one of the most fun experiences to be found at the box-office this summer. Under threat of death, I couldn’t have told you the details of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, though I know I reviewed it positively, but my lack of context meant nothing in the face of Ethan Hunt trying to pull back a bunch of nukes that have been lost in the wind, even as he’s hampered by a CIA lackey (Henry Cavill who stands out only for his failure to register as anything other than a pile of muscles and a strong jaw) who doesn’t trust him as far as he can throw him, and the ghosts of his lady loves past. It’s a messy confusion of ripped people completing athletic feats in an ever advancing game of one-upmanship with massively deadly stakes, and boy was the audience there for it. Boy, was I there for it.
There’s a moment in Mission: Impossible – Fallout where Tom Cruise (likely doing much of his own stunt work as is his habit) is pursuing a baddie through London and takes to cutting through buildings and across roofs to gain on his adversary. He hits a dead end in the form of a crowded office with a huge glass window and a big drop. He’s yelling affirmations and questions to his partners, unseen to anyone else of course, because comms. A woman in the office stands up in disbelief. Tom thanks her, grabs her chair and throws it out the window, because of course he does. Impossibly, the whole thing comes off as sweet and a bit bumbling and really, really charming. Any other franchise would have the entire sequence fast and without hesitation, and therein lies the difference. Ethan Hunt will always win the box office just as he wins the day, because under everything else, he’s just this guy. Not unlike the man who brings him to life. Whatever else he may be, Tom Cruise is a once-in-a-generation movie star who’ll win you over every time. And Mission: Impossible is (and always has been) one of the places where he shines brightest.