Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Tom Cruise is a movie star.
His latest film, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” cements Cruise as the last true Movie Star in capital letters, someone whose talent and charisma transcends box office success, critical acclaim and award season notoriety.
Cruise is a generational talent that has defined true stardom, that collaboration between cinema and celebrity people only talk about in past tense terms referencing Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe or Humphrey Bogart.
He puts his rubber stamp on modern moviemaking with “Fallout,” an action film that simply shouldn’t work as well as it does.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the plot, which follows the same basic format as the classic television show of the same name upon which it is based. Ethan Hunt and his team of Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agents must stop a psychopathic arms dealer from obtaining a Macguffin and causing international catastrophes.
This time, the Macguffin is a case of three plutonium balls intended for trade to a vigilante dead-set on detonating nuclear weapons for maximum global conflict.
The plot doesn’t entirely matter to the success of “Fallout.” It’s more of a means for propelling Cruise forward at breakneck speed.
There’s about 10 minutes at the outset of the film that orients the audience and establishes the most clear emotional stakes in the history of the franchise.
Then writer/director Christopher McQuarrie cranks the dial to 100 and sets Cruise loose for the next two hours in the most dazzling thrill ride you’re likely to see this year.
None of it works without Cruise.
In a world where over-reliance on computer-generated images have made the outrageous seem matter-of-fact, what Cruise does in his sixth turn as Hunt feels almost too possible given how easy movie magicians at a desk could make it look.
And yet, “Fallout” sees Tom Cruise, Movie Star, literally jump out of airplanes 25,000 feet in the air and choreograph a mid-air rescue that works like a stunning dance of fear and tension.
Cruise spends months learning to fly — and then actually piloting — helicopters in dazzling dogfight sequences. Incredibly, this doesn’t feel authentic in the moment on a first viewing.
Yet somehow more incredibly, it is.
The cinematic precision and practical stunt work at play in “Fallout” reveal itself in staggering fashion on a second, third or fourth trip to theaters.
Oscar winner “Mad Max: Fury Road” was lauded several years ago for its dynamic practical effects and movie magic featuring stunt men.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” takes things to the next level.
Cruise could have, and almost certainly should have, legitimately died five different times over the course of filming.
The fact that he only broke his ankle and delayed production eight weeks is simply astounding.
There’s a real emotional depth to his performance, too, given the daredevil nature of his stunt work.
Because everything audiences see is really happening, the hesitations we see on Cruise’s face are genuine. We can find ourselves churning our minds alongside him during these moments of peril.
Suspending disbelief isn’t necessarily because it’s the disbelief that makes the impossible happening in front of you even more incredible.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a talented and diverse supporting cast including a stoically serious Ving Rhames, relatable and hilarious Simon Pegg and alluring Rebecca Ferguson to pair with Cruise while Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin provide sizable resistance and gravitas.
While Jeremy Renner had firmly planted himself in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise the last two outings, his absence here doesn’t feel missed.
McQuarrie helps carry the weight by stepping up considerably in the director’s chair, taking lessons learned from his last outing in “Rogue Nation”and pairing it with real stakes moment to moment you’d find in the more grounded Jason Bourne franchise or the recent James Bond films.
The thing that truly sets “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” apart from your average action film is its unwavering commitment to relentless, dynamic fun. Cruise and McQuarrie rev the engines from moment one and take off on the cinematic Autobahn.
Though a trip down memory lane watching the prior films of the franchise (especially the first, third and fifth) will help inform viewers, you don’t have to know a lot going in to enjoy the heck out of “Fallout.”
You have to see this film on the big screen.
They don’t make movies like this anymore.