Action films seem to get a bad rap from some people. They’re often criticized for being light on plot, characterization, and thematic depth, which they often are. However, people seem to forget that terrible films exist in every genre. Drama films are usually the most lauded, but you don’t normally hear people talking about the melodramatic, saccharine trash that plagues the genre. It’s unfair to compare a film like The Godfather to something like RoboCop, because they both set out to achieve different things. What matters is that they achieved what they set out to do perfectly.

In Mission: Impossible: Fallout, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), like usual, receives a dangerous new mission to take on some bad guys. His new enemies are The Apostles, a terrorist group that spun off from The Syndicate after the capture of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) in Ethan’s previous adventure. When him and his team fail a mission that allows plutonium to fall into The Apostles hands, Ethan is put in check by the CIA. As he continues his mission to find The Apostles, he’s paired up with CIA operative August Walker (Henry Cavill), a man with a much more violent work ethic. It’s now time for Ethan, August, and the rest of their time to work together and make another impossible mission possible again. 

The Mission: Impossible franchise is an interesting one. It’s a 22 year old film franchise based off a 60’s television show that stars a consistent lead actor in every installment. The oddest thing of all how much better it’s gotten. Mission: Impossible: II is honestly one of the worst action films I’ve ever seen, but ever since the third installment, it’s only gotten better and better, with the fourth and fifth films being two of the best action films of the century so far. This sixth installment continues that upward trend, providing even crazier, death defying stunts and creative and exciting setpieces. Cruise has been a producer of the films since the beginning, so it partially seems like a vehicle for him to just fulfill his adrenaline junkie desires. From jumping across incredibly high rooftops in Paris, to racing a motorcycle against oncoming traffic in a massive roundabout, all the way to hanging on very bottom of a cargo net hanging from a helicopter, it’s all Cruise doing it and it’s all glorious. The fact that you know he’s actually doing these stunts just makes the action that much more exciting and real. One little aspect I liked was during an awesome bathroom fight scene with Cruise and Cavill against a baddy, whenever they would take hits, you would see them stagger in the background, trying to regain their composure. It’s rawness you don’t get very often these days. Oh, and if you want Tom Cruise running, then this is your movie, because there’s lots of it.

Cruise is the main reason why this franchise works so well, and not just because of his will to do these insane stunts, but because of how well he plays the character. When his career is all said and done, I truly think Ethan Hunt will be his defining role. Perhaps it’s just since Cruise imbues his charming and witty personality into Hunt’s character that makes him feel like he embodies this character. When he’s talking out loud to himself saying, “Come on, come on, not when I’m this close,” during a climactic action scene, you really believe it. He’s saved the world and averted death so many times that you can really buy into his unshakeable moral foundation and how much he really cares for not just the world, but his friends and family. The relationship between Hunt and his team is just as sharp this time around, with stars like Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Alec Baldwin returning. They’re certainly the side characters, but they’re still given plenty to do and some decent character growth. Henry Cavill as Hunt’s CIA babysitter played off Cruise well, both using their own distinct charm and charisma to make for some fun interplay. He’s also a beast, being able to show off his action skills just like Cruise.

Of course, that’s what matters the most: the characters, which writer/director Christopher McQuarrie makes sure to make us care about. Every movie genre has one thing they’re trying to accomplish, but all of the good movies out there follow the trend of having strong characters. When your characters are interesting and when the story has some depth, then the action actually means something. It’s no longer just mindless noise and pretty pictures, but it has a purpose.  The plotting and story elements are all things we’ve seen before, but Mission: Impossible is really just a spy thriller franchise and when you’re six films in, it’s nearly impossible not to tread some old ground. However, there are plenty of twists and turns throughout to keep up the intrigue and actually found myself surprised at points. The most surprising thing of all, is that I was actually invested during the action. Out of all the action fare this year, nothing has made me feel more tense than the last 45 minutes of this film. I was actually gripping the armrest of my chair and pumping my fists whenever our heroes would get the upper hand. It does what every action film should do: excite and exhilarate. 

When a film series just keeps topping itself, you’re sometimes waiting for the breaking point. How long can Tom Cruise and his team keep this up and excite us more and more? Well, we’re lucky we haven’t found the breaking point yet, because Mission: Impossible: Fallout is, without a doubt, one of the great action films I’ve ever seen. It’s up there with the classics like Die Hard and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but also just as worthy as modern action classics like Mad Max: Fury Road and the John Wick films. The action sequences are expertly staged and directed, the characters are fun to watch, and for a 150-minute movie, it’s perfectly paced and totally flies by. It’s one of those films that immediately made me want to watch it again once the credits started rolling. It looks like now, if they choose to accept it, other action movies have an impossible mission of their own: topping this masterpiece. 


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