Breathtaking "Mission Impossible: Fallout" is best action thriller this summer


Tom Cruise’s sixth outing as master spy Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible: Fallout” may be the franchise’s best. 

Filming “Fallout” at age 55, Cruise still insisted on doing his own stunts, aiming for a level of realism that few other action films can boast. He succeeded. 

Unique camera angles help accentuate the fact that it really is Tom Cruise on the side of a cliff, flying a helicopter on a dizzying chase through the mountains, and generally running, jumping and fighting like few people his age can. 

After the James Bond films, the “Mission Impossible” series is likely the most enduring action series, stretching 22 years from the first installment to “Fallout.” Over that span, the films have evolved from the 1996 entry’s low-key taut intrigue that resembled more of a Cold War-era spy thriller to the high-octane stunt-fueled blockbusters of today. Through it all, Cruise has remained rock steady as Ethan Hunt, and a strong cast of supporting actors has developed.

A recurring theme of the “Mission Impossible” films is treachery, and “Fallout” has its share of backstabbing and betrayal. Hunt’s character has long been haunted by his past, unable to settle down and lead any sort of normal life despite his affections for ex-wife Julia and former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust. 

In a world where knowing who to trust can make the difference between life and death, Hunt has few close confidants. Former bosses have proven unreliable, and former teammates have turned. Still, Hunt trusts and has the respect of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Rhames being the only cast member besides Cruise to appear in all six films. 

Hunt’s affections and trust issues have cost him in the past, and in “Fallout,” could result in massive destruction affecting tens of millions of people. 

Writer and director Christopher McQuarrie has directed Tom Cruise in two previous films: 2012’s “Jack Reacher,” and the fifth installment in the MI series, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” in 2015. 

As a writer, McQuarrie’s resume may not be extensive, but it’s impressive. He won an Oscar for the 1995 classic “The Usual Suspects,” penned the cult hit “The Way of the Gun,” and wrote the highly-acclaimed “Edge of Tomorrow,” which also starred Cruise. 

Here, McQuarrie’s script is tense and full of action, and his direction provides a rapid pace that barely allows a breath between high-action scenes. 

And the cinematography, by relative newcomer Rob Hardy — whose work until recently was limited to short films — provides breathtaking views of the car and helicopter chases and intriguing angles of a few of the fight sequences. Working on just his second big-budget film, Hardy shows amazing promise under the direction of McQuarrie. 

Alec Baldwin returns as IMF chief Alan Hunley and Henry Cavill joins the cast as CIA agent August Walker, under the direction of CIA boss Erica Sloan, played by an always-impressive Angela Bassett. 

In all, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is as fast-paced and thrilling as anything you’re likely to see this year. With a mediocre outing from the “Jurassic World” franchise and an underwhelming entry from The Rock in “Skyscraper,” there’s a void in the summer action flick genre. “Fallout” easily fills that void.