Run time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Stars: Angela Bassett, Henry Cavill, Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
When spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets especially reckless in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, his sexy MI6 agent/love interest Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) asks, "What the hell is he doing?"
Sidekick Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) cracks back: "I find it best not to look."
But everybody wants a look at the sixth flick in the action-movie reboot of the 1966-73 TV show: It's better than Bourne, leaping dizzyingly from cliffhanger to cliffhanger until Cruise, 56, clings by his fingertips and toes from a 2,000-foot rock face.
For fans of nonstop jaw-dropping stunts, this epic is bliss. How did they get that nail-biter chase with Cruise piloting a helicopter? Or that closeup of Cruise skydiving (opening the chute so close to the ground that he warns another diver not to miscalculate, or "the last thing that goes through your mind will be your knees")? And how did Ilsa's hairdo get that gorgeous blowout at a pop-up medical camp in remotest Kashmir?
Cruise, now in absolute command of the $2.8 billion franchise, reteams with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, 50, for a movie lovingly tailored to the star's talents. Cruise may strain and sweat a little — he shattered his right ankle in the middle of shooting, and some of his pain grimaces may be reality-based — but he never holds back. Leave the subtle acting to Daniel Craig, 50, as Bond. But as Hunt, Cruise never surrenders.
The complicated, rapid-fire plot picks up where Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation left off. The Impossible Missions Force team (delightful Pegg, rock-solid Ving Rhames, 59, and Alec Baldwin, 60) bungle a mission to recover three plutonium orbs. To ransom them, the boys must snatch bearded anarcho-terrorist and Unabomber lookalike Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, 52) before he destabilizes the world order with well-placed nukes.
There's a lot of double- and triple-crossing that brings in Angela Bassett, 59, as a CIA chief, Henry Cavill as a CIA wet work specialist, Vanessa Kirby (The Crown's alluring Princess Margaret), Michelle Monaghan and Wes Bentley.
But you won't fret about keeping the plot straight as the McQuarrie-Cruise team throws down stunt after stunt, upping the ante with Paris motorcycle chases and London foot races that squeeze sighs of childlike pleasure from the audience as the collateral-damage body count mounts. The final 15 minutes unfold in real time as two armed nuclear bombs tick away to oblivion — and Cruise white-knuckles it in a helicopter to regain the detonator, occasionally spinning out of control inches from snowy Asian mountaintops. What a ride! What a buildup of tension and sublime release!
Action sequels often run out of steam, but this is the apex of the Cruise Mission: Impossible franchise. If stunts aren't your thing, this isn't your movie. But Cruise ably answers the question posed above: What is he doing? He's giving a master class in career longevity, using all his Hollywood clout and every muscle and sinew and (broken) bone to prove that this leading man is not obsolete but at his peak — literally.