The 2018 summer release schedule is crammed full of limp, sad, flavorless, nobody-asked-for-this-shit sequels. There are now two The Equalizer movies, three Hotel Transylvania movies and four The Purge movies. A new hope for a Star Wars comeback fades far, far away with each passing release. All Marvel movies remain as insipidly anonymous as ever, no matter who directs. The Harry Potter extended universe is running on the fumes coming off Johnny Depp’s mustache. Ben Affleck is Batman.
All of this is to say that while Mission: Impossible has become arguably the best and certainly the most reliable blockbuster movie franchise in circulation, it certainly doesn’t have a lot of competition for the titles. Still, that’s not a knock against Christopher McQuarrie’s vigorously entertaining Fallout, the sixth movie starring Tom Cruise as indestructible superspy Ethan Hunt. It’s as polished, precision-tuned and effective a piece of filmmaking as you’re likely to see all year long.
The most impressive thing about the Mission: Impossible movies, especially these last three entries, is that they have settled into a comfortable and familiar formula filled with recurring characters and nostalgic callbacks without lowering the bar. Nothing in Fallout should feel unfamiliar to anyone remotely aware of the Mission: Impossible bag of tropes. Motorcycles race through metropolises, rubber faces get ripped off, bomb timers tick down and Cruise runs and runs and runs.
Even Fallout’s plot—Hunt and his team chase a shadowy terrorist organization threatening nuclear destruction, despite getting disavowed by their own governments—feels 100 percent recycled. Yet none of this stops McQuarrie from staging one astounding action sequence after another, from an oxygen-deprived parachute jump over Paris to a helicopter chase through Kashmir. Despite the familiarity, Fallout is one of the freshest films of the year.
With Fallout, director and co-writer McQuarrie becomes the first person to helm a second Mission: Impossible movie, even bringing back Rogue Nation bad guy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) to serve as Hunt’s main nemesis. Hunt’s team of wisecracking, crackerjack safecrackers also remains largely intact from the previous films: fan favorites Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg take another lap, while Rebecca Ferguson has been re-upped from Rogue Nation (good call) and Jeremy Renner has been jettisoned (great call). The one major new addition to the cast is Henry Cavill as CIA assassin August Walker.
New blood or not, Mission: Impossible remains Cruise’s show. For all the CGI tastefully slathered across Fallout, Cruise remains one of the most believable action heroes in the world, still performing many of his own death-defying stunts at 56 (I’m exactly as old as Cruise was when he made Mission: Impossible III and I hurt my neck last week while sleeping, but that’s beside the point). I don’t know how long Cruise can keep it up, but I’d happily consume a new Mission: Impossible movie every summer.