With director Christopher McQuarrie and actor Tom Cruise returning for more nerve-wracking action and phenomenal storytelling, the sixth chapter in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise has arrived. Even as its leading man nears his 60’s, and the breath-taking stunts of the series couldn’t possibly get any more intense, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” didn’t pull any punches as it soared to surpass even the franchise’s best installments. While its premise tilted once more to the consequences of nuclear weaponry, “Fallout” presented a character-focused, action-heavy chapter that set the bar even higher for modern action blockbusters.

Two years after the capture of terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remains of the criminal organization “The Syndicate” have reformed into a new group known as “The Apostles.” When Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames) are tasked with intercepting the sale of three plutonium cores to the group, things take a turn when the mission goes awry. Leaving the plutonium in the wind, the CIA brings in elite operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) to team up with the IMF and locate the cores. Crossing paths with deadly assassins, shifting agendas and a beautiful woman known as the White Widow, Ethan and his team must race against the clock to stop a nuclear plot from coming to fruition. With Lane reemerging to stand in Hunt’s way, former allies like Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) must take matters into their own hands to soften the fallout set to arrive.

As far as major Hollywood film franchises go, the “Mission: Impossible” films easily lie at the top tier of enduring action filmmaking. With the sixth chapter in theaters now, the series has matured from the run-of-the-mill espionage thriller it was back in 1996 to a fascinating introspective into the limits of its leading man. As star Tom Cruise (now 56 years old) continues to push himself, plunging his character in IMF agent Ethan Hunt to the brink of his physical and psychological demands, the spy franchise has only gotten better and better. With 2015’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” making for one of the franchise’s best, as it propelled a compelling antagonist and an even more compelling double agent at Hunt’s side, this summer’s “Fallout” only furthered what made “Rogue Nation” such a sensational entry.

With “Rogue Nation” director Christopher McQuarrie returning for his second installment, the follow-up of “Fallout” held a number of familiar traits to McQuarrie’s debut in the franchise back in 2015. As the capture of antagonist Solomon Lane bled into the affairs of Ethan Hunt and his team this time around, the plot wasn’t the only familiar element to carry over from “Rogue Nation.” While the franchise has harbored a prestigious line-up of filmmakers in its past, from Brian De Palma to J.J. Abrams, the tone and directing style between the series’ latest two entries has felt the most consistent. Even with countless action set-pieces lining its script, as they always have, writer-director McQuarrie has perhaps done the most to push the franchise to new storytelling heights.

While there still remains the bare bones of the franchise, which continually pit top agent Hunt against every deadly mission known to man, “Rogue Nation” and the latest “Fallout” have especially worked to propel intriguing character-driven stories, teeming with unique characteristics of its filmmaker. From the subtle nuances between characters to the dialogue-free scenes that play out throughout the film, McQuarrie has cemented his name in the franchise’s legacy as it strives further to balance immense action with daring spy narratives. As “Fallout” further delved into what keeps Ethan Hunt going, from the vendettas of his past to the people he yearns to protect, McQuarrie sent up a premise tripping with surprises, and phenomenal filmmaking, around every dark corner.

As the film’s plot promised one of Hunt’s greatest feats yet, the cast of “Fallout” injected a great degree of emotion and fearlessness into their roles. While no particular performance really stood out to me this time around, as Cruise, Pegg and Rhames sent up their respective blends of machismo and wit, the returning faces of double agent Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust and Harris’ slithering terrorist in Solomon Lane made for some of the film’s more noticeable character developments. As far as the new players of the franchise go, Henry Cavill and the ever-mesmerizing Angela Bassett added the blunt edge to the chapter they promised from the trailers. While Cruise and Company scraped along on their wit, Cavill came crashing in with enough unyielding charm (that mustache though!) to match the film’s leading agent.

Even while the heart-stopping stunts of this installment might not match some of the best in the franchise, the storytelling and characters at the heart of the latest “Mission: Impossible” were enough to leave me eager for the next chapter. As “Fallout” expanded on the seeds director Christopher McQuarrie planted in “Rogue Nation,” the lengths at which Tom Cruise’s leading spy will go to save the world have yet to hit their limit. With another riveting entry in “Fallout,” the “M:I” franchise could be inching towards its end as Hunt and his team finally find resolution; before that, however, the next mission awaits.


Poster Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ is now in theaters everywhere.