After a mission to retrieve plutonium from the black market goes wrong, Ethan Hunt must now race against time to track them - working with a CIA assassin (Henry Cavill) who has his own agenda - before they're turned into viable nuclear bombs.
What's set the Mission: Impossible franchise apart from others isn't just Tom Cruise's ability to run full-sprint in every film, but how each director truly brings a unique aesthetic to each movie that's incorporated into the whole. Brian DePalma's opening salvo was a twisty psychodrama with Cruise - fresh-faced, though he was - sprinting around Europe with a look of utter panic in his eyes. John Woo, meanwhile, co-opted music videos of the '00s for his look whilst Brad Bird used his animation roots to give a cartoonish sensibility in 'Ghost Protocol'. With 'Fallout', Christopher McQuarrie has burned away the extraneous elements of the series - typified by Jeremy Renner's character - and comes back with the most focused instalment of the series. Six movies in, there's few franchises that can say that.
The setup is simple enough - Cruise and his team, made up of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, botch a simple operation to retrieve plutonium before it can get into the hands of a group of terrorists known as The Apostles, a remnant of the organisation led by the truly terrifying Sean Harris in 'Rogue Nation' that are utterly dedicated to destroying the current world order. The CIA has been wiping out the organisation piece-by-piece with the help of a moustachioed Henry Cavill. The plutonium's in the open, so Cruise has to come with an increasingly complex solution to get it back.
In a lot of ways, 'Fallout' embraces its own ridiculousness. There's a line from Angela Bassett when she describes the IMF as Hallowe'en, grown men running around in masks, and more than a few times, Cavill's character rolls his eyes when there's a mask reveal. McQuarrie's screenplay knows that audiences are hip to them, so it allows them in on the joke rather than making it feel like it's at their expense. McQuarrie uses these moments to add some levity in a film that truly does ratchet up the action from the start.
Some of the set pieces in the movie are among the best seen in a decade, maybe ever. A chase sequence through Paris calls to mind the likes of John Frankenheimer's 'Ronin' or the Holy Grail of car chases that is 'The French Connection'. Because there's only ever one character or group of characters chasing another, the action is never difficult to follow and allows it to flow easily from one scene to the next without a need to remind the audience of the geography. It's this fluidity that gives 'Fallout' the edge over other movies of this ilk because once the fuse is lit, it's truly relentless.
What's more, the use of in-camera effects and action gives it a tactile quality that so many blockbusters nowadays lack. When you see Tom Cruise flinging himself after a helicopter or when you see Henry Cavill grimace with effort as he puts a guy through a wall, you can see them doing it and not a stunt double or some ropey CGI covering their face. McQuarrie allows the action to convey the terror rather than letting the actors fake it. Cavill may have to contend with a scene or two that shows up his lack of natural charisma, but they're few and far between and supporting players like Vanessa Kirby and Alec Baldwin never feel like they've been dropped in to satisfy a screen time quota.
The action in 'Fallout' is to the forefront, as it should be for a blockbuster, and that action is staged in such a way that is so artful and expert as to bring the genre itself to a new level entirely. One of the best films of 2018 and easily the best blockbuster of the year.