Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett, Sian Brooke

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

 147 min.

The M.I. series is actually getting better the more the years pass and each additional film arrives on screen. Though the initial outings were huge commercial successes, their critical appeal seemed limited. However, the studio has nurtured the franchise with time and money, and now we have the latest – Fallout – that offers a great deal more than its initial promise. Writer-Director Christopher McQuarrie’s film has everything you’d want in an escapist 2 hours plus: huge cinematic spectacle, meaningful characters, edge-of-your-seat action sequences and a tough as nails ensemble on both sides of the camera. It contains some flawless workmanship and is a technical triumph - and not just in terms of the spy-thriller genre. 

McQuarrie crafts a solid narrative that deals with something we don’t often see sneaking up on action heroes: consequences. Two years have elapsed since the events of Rogue Nation, and IMF agent extraordinaire Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his skilled squad – Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) – haven’t been resting on their laurels. The disciples of the crime syndicate that leader Ethan captured, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), have now formed an extremist cell plotting to destroy the current world order. However, when Ethan botches the mission to prevent plutonium from falling into the wrong hands, he and his team are forced into an even higher-stakes undercover game of cat-and-mouse. His task is made more complicated by moustachioed CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill), who’s been assigned by CIA Director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) to babysit Ethan. Also, ex-flame/ex-MI-6 operative Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) turns up again – with a different directive. Whether it be narratively, audibly or visually, the after-effects of Ethan’s split-second, occasionally careless decisions are evident in every element of the picture. The protagonist’s inner turmoil is fuelled by guilt and grief over his previous failures, and McQuarrie fully explores this conflict as he is forced to question the ramification of his actions time and time again. We see nuanced glimpses of this weighing on an emotionally-compromised, doubting hero within the facets of Cruise’s performance – which shows depth and gravitas – making this his best in the entire series.  

The characters’ emotional drive remains at the forefront of all the pulsating, rivetting action sequences. The incredible jump and mid-air helicopter rope climb are astounding sights, but an even more breathtaking sequence is the prolonged scrap in the Palais’ gents loo, where Hunt and Walker tussle with a suspect. Here the cinematography, production design, editing and the work of the fight choreographers and sound designers all come together in a glorious harmony. McQuarrie employs angles and Steadicam movement that show off the tight quarters in and out of a toilet cubicle. But the pièce de résistance is McQuarrie’s outstanding finale. It’s imperative that other film directors take note on how he keeps several plates spinning for a sustained period of time. The ticking clock scenario will have you buzzing with excitement. He slices it into four sections and splinters them into smaller, even more pressing pieces, whilst making it all feel urgent and immediate. This is also where the women actors are given standout moments to shine, demonstrating their mental and physical acumen. McQuarrie finds plenty of moments to favour the symphonic score over the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire, engrossing the audience all the way through. However, the greatest magic trick McQuarrie pulls off with panache – is the checklist. We know Ethan’s about to go rogue and that his boss isn’t going to trust him. We know there will be multiple double-crosses along the way. We know the team will be tested to the maximum. The brilliance is how the film dazzles the viewer, cloaking the expected in the unexpected.