Mission: Impossible - Fallout ★★★★★

It's not flawless. I'll pretend that I have some objectivity and say that the one thing that definitely doesn't work as well as it should is Lorne Balfe's score, which is a definite step down from Giacchino's scores, let alone Kraemer's exemplary work in Rogue Nation. It is instead all staccato strings, brass BWOMs and drones, which make up all of Hans Zimmer's work in the 2010s, and it's dull as shit. Also, I have no idea what the lens flares were doing in the first half, especially during the cold open, but I now notice them on second viewing and it's distracting as hell.

Other than that, it's gravy. Upon revisiting the series, I noticed that it has a consistent problem of putting the best action set piece somewhere in the middle, meaning that the films tend to sag towards the end. Not here. Each action set piece in this film gets progressively more exciting, starting from its HALO jump, right to its incredible, perfect third act, culminating in a time-dilated 15 minute sequence, cross-cutting between three stages of action. This is the best kind of third act since Rogue One came out a couple years back. Enthusiastically choreographed, executed with wild abandon and flawlessly edited.

All this would have been enough to make it the best film of the year. The story is surprisingly mature for its franchise, with Ethan Hunt being at his most introspective, poking at why he has a stubborn moral complex, and his persistence in choosing the life of one over the security of unknown millions. The plot around it is a complex web of deceit and machinations, which is all par for the franchise as a whole. But here we have Cruise at his most comfortable in the role, with some choice facial expressions that tell a better tale than the script.

Coupled with his charisma and his insane tenacity to perform his own stunts (and a high insurance premium), and we have one of the best action films of all time. Cruise leaps, flies, jumps, breaks an ankle, runs some more and flies a goddamn helicopter.

Together with Mad Max: Fury Road, we have the strongest evidence for the need for practical effects to take absolute priority in action cinema. Stuntmen and stuntwomen are needed, because it is so much easier and safer to have someone hang off a rope over a green screen than it is to have someone actually dangling a hundred feet from a goddamn helicopter. There is a visceral effect gained from watching the camera back away as Cruise begins to climb up an actual steep cliff face. This is simply not replicable with CGI, because our human eyes are very sophisticated at picking up subtle hints of reality. We see all of it and that is why the third act, and in fact, the whole film is as great an exercise in racking up tension as it is. Films like this need to exist.