Mission Impossible aIt’s safe to say that writer-director Chris McQuarrie and mega-star Tom Cruise have hit their collaborative stride with Mission: Impossible — Fallout. McQuarrie has learned how to properly wind Cruise up and let him loose to do his thing, resulting in an enjoyable over-the-top slice of spy-fi full of misdirection, disguises and double crosses within triple crosses hinged on Cruise’s zeal for doing his own death-defying stunt work. It’s the kind of well-tuned action machine that makes it all look easy, even when Cruise is dangling by his fingertips from a helicopter or hauling ass on a motorcycle while going the wrong way on a Paris traffic circle.

McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher) returns to the franchise (the first director to do so), with a story that is a direct sequel to the preceding Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015). Arch villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is still in custody and being passed around from government to the next for interrogation. All that remains of his Syndicate is a batch of hardcore true believers dubbed the Apostles, who get their hands on three plutonium cores after Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the IMF team botch an operation.

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The team races to prevent the cores from being used in terrorist bombings, and are saddled with a CIA operative (Henry Cavill, sporting perhaps the most expensive mustache in film history) to make sure they don’t screw up again. To further complicate matters, the team has to cozy up to a shady arms dealer known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) while sussing out whether former British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is ultimately working with or against them.

It’s straightforward stuff, but McQuarrie dresses it up with some nice character beats — mostly involving Hunt’s dauntless dedication to the job, his equally unwavering loyalty to his team, and the personal cost involved — as well as a few some unexpected twists. (However, a late-game betrayal is telegraphed very early on). Little of that matters, since M:I-Fallout is primarily a delivery system for gonzo action beats, which McQuarrie serves up with flair. A skydiving sequence cut to look like a single take, and an extended car chase in Paris, and a two-on-one restroom melee are among the highlights. It’s an exhausting movie to watch — in a good way.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb49-oV0F78]