WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Mission: Impossible — Fallout, in theaters now.
The Mission: Impossible franchise has upped the ante with each movie in terms of action and scope. As the series progressed over the past 22 years, the adventures of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) increasingly pushed the limits of big-screen spectacle. The sixth film, director Christoper McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible -- Fallout, the series soars to such new heights that it's even been referred to by some as "the greatest action movie of all time." While we may be tempted to dismissed such praise as hyperbole, Fallout certainly has the qualifications.
As debatable as that superlative may be, one thing is for certain: Fallout is the most action-packed movie of all time, by a mile.
Taking to the Skies
The already-legendary HALO jump scene is undoubtedly enough to draw some viewers to Fallout. They won't be disappointed, as McQuarrie and Cruise live up to high expectations with a shot that was almost unimaginably difficult to pull off, yet seamless in its execution. The scene in which Hunt and his CIA rival August Walker (Henry Cavill) jump out of a plane over Paris is a high-altitude adventure on its own.
As they free-fall, the camera work is so astounding; it's like Gravity meets Fast and the Furious, and not intended for those who experience motion sickness. As Walker is struck by lightning, Hunt has to pull off a mid-air rescue, further raising the stakes.
In the film's finale, the helicopter chase between Hunt and Walker is executed to near-perfection. What makes it so interesting is Hunt learns to pilot on the fly, so his mistakes dramatically increase the tension. He attempt to ram Walker, who in turn tries to shoot him down, building to a nerve-wrecking crash into a mountain.
The Missions on the Streets
Eddie Hamilton deserves praise for such tightly edited action sequences. Hunt's exploits on the streets show there's nothing he isn't willing to do, as seen with the motorcycle chase where he's evading cops and trying to meet up with his team in London. He careens into police cars, passersby, and pulls off about every stunt imaginable on a bike.
The first-person point of view leaves audiences gasping for air with each close, something McQuarrie also brings to life when Hunt has to navigate a buggy with antagonist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), or when he's in the recon van. The sequences are just as riveting as watching Vin Diesel's Dominic Torretto in action, and after this, you can't say Hunt's not a wheel man.
The collateral damage and injuries Hunt takes make it more real, painting a relentless experience. It's a shame we didn't get to see him diverting his chopper away from a truck, as this would have made Hunt the best pilot/driver of all time.
The Hand-to-Hand Battles
When thinking about action heroes, whether they're wielding guns or engaging in hand-to-hand combat, the Terminator, Rambo or Die Hard franchises frequently come to mind. Cruise as Ethan Hunt does his best to add his name to the list with Fallout, because not only is his gun work against the terrorist organization called the Apostles rapid and slick, his fighting skills are some of the best we've seen on the big screen.
It's not only Hunt, however. As he and Walker take on a gangster in Paris, the ensuing bathroom brawl is brutal. So many styles flow, from MMA to karate to Jujutsu to boxing, not to mention people get beaten with pipes, tossed through mirrors and flung through walls. There are too many scenes to mention: Hunt and Walker's cliff fight; the White Widow's knife-work against thugs in a club brawl; and Ilsa's (the heroic MI6 agent played by Rebecca Ferguson) fight with Lane in the finale, which shows them as kung-fu specialists and expert wrestlers.
The jury may be out on if Fallout really deserves its "greatest ever" title, but even if it's not top dog, it certainly belongs in the top five.
In theaters nationwide, director Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible — Fallout stars Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, joined by returning actors Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, with Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Sian Brooke and Frederick Schmidt.