Mission: Impossible - Fallout review: Cruise chaos explodes nonstop

Tom Cruise goes full bore in another ridiculously entertaining -- and entertainingly ridiculous -- superspy stuntfest.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
4 min read
Paramount Pictures

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch Mission Impossible: Fallout and not get swept away by the old-school, over-the-top spy chaos.

Should you choose to accept this mission, you'll join Tom Cruise as he confidently returns to the role of Ethan Hunt, indestructible secret agent. Someone's stolen some plutonium and Hunt has to round up his chums in the Impossible Mission Force for more death-defying, gravity-defying and, frankly, common-sense-defying action scenes. A lot of movies are referred to as roller-coaster rides, but in this case it barely seems like a metaphor: very few films throw its stars and audiences around quite as much as the Mission: Impossible series, and this adrenaline-pumping sixth outing is no exception.

The film opened in the US Friday and earlier this week in the UK. It hits Australia Aug. 2. 

As cutting-edge as the stuntwork is, the word "Fallout" seems like a faintly quaint title. This oddly dusty term evokes the nuclear paranoia of the Cold War rather than the more modern preoccupation with devious data and sinister surveillance often seen in today's espionage thrillers. And Mission: Impossible - Fallout does have a certain old-school feel to it. The story begins in Belfast and Berlin, two cities that have put their troubled pasts as geopolitical hotspots of skullduggery behind them. The bad guys wear moustaches and impeccable three-piece suits. And the implausible high-tech gadgetry is kept to a minimum -- even the iconic introductory tape comes hidden in a book.

Pleasingly for anyone struggling to distinguish the Mission: Impossible franchise from other all-action espionage movies, at least one part of the team's plan comes straight from the original 1960s TV show. You might also spot echoes of The Dark Knight's and The French Connection's most memorable action scenes, not to mention surprising similarities to the most recent James Bond movies

Of course, the title isn't really a reference to the devastation that'll be wrought should the IMF team fail to retrieve the contraband nuclear material. It refers to the fact the film is basically Tom Cruise falling out of things. Helicopters, planes, windows, cliffs, huge sewer gratings: there isn't anything Cruise won't fling himself into, onto or out of in the name of a thrilling action sequence. You've got to hand it to him: you really feel like it's Cruise himself rather than a digital double doing all the running and jumping.

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Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill light the fuse.

Chiabella James

And what running and jumping it is. I'm not sure there's anything to quite compete with the realisation that it was actually Cruise clinging to the side of an actual skyscraper in Ghost Protocol or to the side of an actual aeroplane in Rogue Nation, but the relentless breathless action scenes still set the standard for big, loud set pieces. It's definitely worth seeing Fallout in IMAX format, or even in a 4DX theatre -- one of those rollercoaster-style theatres with seats that tilt and vibrate while jets of air and misted water are sprayed over you. 

Mission: Impossible - Fallout was my first experience of 4DX, and I can't decide if it's the worst thing that's ever happened in the history of cinema or the perfect way to watch this kind of ridiculous adrenaline ride. Randomly flashing strobe lights are annoying and your seat jostling you at inappropriate moments is distracting, but when slower movement is twinned with subtle onscreen camerawork it's surprisingly effective at drawing you into the moment.

And I admit, by the end, when the screen is just filled with absolutely nonsensical carnage, it actually makes sense to have your seat jerking around so violently you feel like you're about to be fired through the screen, where you'll find yourself blinking in the street picking popcorn out of your hair and wondering what the heck just happened.

Fallout isn't just delirious action, though it's mostly delirious action. There is also some cinematic deftness on display alongside the theme park convulsions. Director Christopher McQuarrie and cinematographer Rob Hardy inject some elan between the action, particularly in a stylish silent shootout, a sinister opening dream sequence and a party that seems to come from another age. These quieter scenes also give composer Lorne Balfe room to breathe with brooding teases of the iconic M:I music ... before unleashing a bombastic sonic barrage chaotic enough to match the visual bombardment.

British actors Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris return from the previous movie, Rogue Nation, bringing a real touch of class even if they're underused. Thankfully, Jeremy Renner's useless sidekick from the last two films is jettisoned to make way for moustachioed Henry Cavill, a CIA agent who's the hammer to Ethan Hunt's scalpel. Cavill is meant to be a wild card, brought into the fold to keep an eye on the team and ready to shut things down if necessary. Mostly though he's too useless to be threatening, coming across as a dim-witted lummox rather than a credible menace.

Anyway, where was I ... oh, yes, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come out of this ludicrous movie without a smile on your face. As always, should you or any of your force not be caught up in the comically over-the-top capers, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Wait a minute, is this thing on?

Yes? Great. Then this tape will self-destruct in five seconds...

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