Mission: Impossible – Fallout

It was 1996 when Tom Cruise took on his first impossible mission as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt.

Twenty-two years later these “Mission: Impossible” flicks – now totaling six – gradually have gotten bigger, the action has become bolder, and Cruise? He’s just gotten better.

Maybe that’s because the action-spy genre continues to raise the bar, with Daniel Craig being arguably the best James Bond there’s ever been, and the Jason Bourne movies redefining what we expect in terms of movement and adventure.

Or it could be (hint: it is) because Cruise himself is performing the jaw-dropping stunts we see onscreen, virtually becoming Ethan Hunt and subsequently impressing the hell out of audiences.

Cruise has, among other seemingly impossible stunts, jumped off a skyscraper in 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III,” scaled the world’s tallest building in 2011’s “Ghost Protocol,” hung from side of an airplane as its taking off in 2015’s “Rogue Nation.”

Now Ethan Hunt and his team – including Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg, god bless this guy and his perfectly-timed quips) – are back to wow us once again in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

And honestly, it’s one of the most suspenseful and exciting action flicks I’ve ever seen.

The mission in “Fallout” seems fairly straightforward – on its surface.

Ethan receives a message in typically cryptic fashion, and we watch and listen in as the details are explained: “… syndicate of rogue operatives… remnants of an extreme splinter cell… destruction of the current world order… plutonium cores… nuclear weapons… 72 hours… your mission, should you choose to accept it… secretary will disavow… good luck, Ethan.”

You know the drill.

But there are constant twists and surprises, and these crafty layers of deception add complexity and intrigue to this task, thereby bestowing its “impossible” status.

And, of course, there’s the ever-present sense of urgency because of the time element – and if you happen to forget, the background score will provide the rapid heartbeat with which to sync your pulse.

It’s helpful to have at least seen “Rogue Nation” before checking out “Fallout,” because a few familiar faces pop up, including those of exceptionally-breathy baddie Lane (Sean Harris) and former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

A mustached Henry Cavill (y’know, “Superman”) is a new addition, bringing some muscle and unexpected but welcomed humor as CIA Agent August Walker.

Cruise again outdoes himself, performing his own stunts and bringing an unmatched level of authenticity to the franchise.

He jumped 106 times from a plane to get that HALO jump (High Altitude, Low Opening) just right; a special helmet with a wider shield was used, allowing us to see that it’s Cruise doing the work.

He broke his ankle during the rooftop jump but managed to hobble through the scene so the footage wouldn’t be wasted.

That’s him weaving in and out of Paris traffic during the motorcycle chase, with “no safety gear or helmet,” according to the film’s director Christopher McQuarrie.

Cruise trained for and earned a helicopter license to fly the craft during that spiral descent, the presentation of which is literally breathtaking – a clearly panicked Ethan at the yoke with the background rushing toward the camera.

Oh, and that payload rope scene on the helicopter? Yep, that’s him, too.

Your mission is to remember to freaking breathe during this flick; it’s chock full of so much intense action and ridiculously insane stunts that the anticipation alone might cause all involuntary behaviors to cease.

But this is how big action movies should be – filled with grab-you-by-the-throat ferocity and heart-stopping uncertainty that only lets up when it’s damn good and ready, at which point the audience that has been knotted with tension while holding its collective breath finally can exhale.

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is a ton of fun.

The scenery is achingly gorgeous; the film’s visuals are brilliant and flashy and quick and purposeful; it’s got the best bathroom fight scene since “Casino Royale”; and McQuarrie’s use of light and shadows bring a whole new level of mystery.

I can’t wait to see what this crew does next.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

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