Mission: Impossible - Fallout's High-Octane Ending, Explained

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Mission: Impossible -- Fallout, in theaters now.

Since the 1996 debut of the blockbuster franchise, audiences have been confident that Tom Cruise's agent Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Missions Force would complete their mission and save the day, no matter what. However, the sixth installment in the series, director Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible – Fallout, dramatically raises the stakes while taking the action sequences to ridiculous, but entertaining, new heights.

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This time, Hunt is haunted by his past, with enemies of old, namely Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), and the love of his life, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), returning to leave him torn between duty and emotion. But in the film's high-octane finale, McQuarrie delivers not only edge-of-your-seat thrills, reshapes Hunt's future and his mission.

Fallout revolves around recovering stolen plutonium, which the Syndicate -- Solomon's army from the previous entry, Rogue Nation -- has put into play, in the form of two nuclear devices. The Syndicate, now a bunch of contractors known as the Apostles, is still a thorn in the IMF's side, leading to Hunt and his CIA rival, August Walker (Henry Cavill), reluctantly working together to retrieve the plutonium from the mysterious terrorist John Lark.

Sadly, Walker turns out to be Lark, a general in the Apostles, and pits the IMF against the CIA so he can trick Hunt into extracting his imprisoned leader Lane while he keeps the plutonium. Walker succeeds and arms his devices; feeling free and believing he's achieved his purpose of destabilizing a corrupt world, Lane prepares to end his life when the bombs detonate; and the Apostles frame Hunt as, once again, a rogue agent.

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In one of cinema's most bombastic finales, Hunt journeys to a medical camp in Pakistan where Lane intends to detonate the bombs because 1.) the nuclear fallout will poison the water supply to India, Pakistan and China, thus killing one-third of the world's population, and 2.) it will kill Julia, now confirmed as Hunt's ex-wife and who's carrying out humanitarian work there with her new husband, Patrick (Wes Bentley). Lane no longer cares whether Hunt is taken in by the authorities because he's done just enough to fool everyone into thinking Hunt is Lark, and believing the IMF and CIA can't be trusted. Basically, he'll nudge society into anarchy.

But as is Hunt's modus operandi, every time the Apostles think they've killed him, he gets back up and, with the help of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), figures out a plan. It requires Hunt to retrieve the detonator, which leads to an epic helicopter chase between him and Walker, culminating in a cliff fight to the death.

Hunt's squad has 15 minutes to disarm the bomb, as they need the countdown to start to carry out the plan, but it requires them to be two places at once. Luther and Julia attempt to defuse one device at her medical camp, while Benji and Ilsa (Hunt's new love interest and British MI-6 spy from the previous film, played by Rebecca Ferguson) take down Lane and try to defuse the other bomb.

The hitch, though, is that they need to cut their cord at the same time as Hunt disables the detonator. With radio contact gone and Hunt hanging off a cliff after killing Walker, they go on blind faith and cut their cords with one second left. Luckily, Hunt has only just disabled the trigger and so, the world is safe once more.

That leaves our hero battered and bruised, resting atop the cliff, waiting for pick-up. With the Apostles' plan thwarted once more, Hunt simply wants to see his team again, especially Ilsa, knowing he can rest easy ... for now. With the entire complexion of the IMF and CIA altered because of Lark, deep down Hunt knows there's still a lot to fix.

Tom Cruise reprises his role as Ethan Hunt in Fallout, joined by returning co-stars Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, and Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, along with franchise newcomers Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby. Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, is also back for its sequel. Also starring Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Sian Brooke and Frederick Schmidt, Mission: Impossible — Fallout is in theaters nationwide.

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