Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is still part of the IMF team, though his experiences in keeping the world safe from bad guys have left him with trouble sleeping. Tonight he awakens in a location in Belfast where he is given a book by a courier; inside is a projector that he activates and takes in the information it tells him about a group called The Apostles who will stop at nothing less than the total collapse of civilisation. To that end they have recruited a scientist who can manufacture nuclear weapons small enough to carry around, yet deadly enough to cause utter devastation, and now Hunt must travel to Berlin to make sure the plutonium they need doesn't fall into their hands...
The best part of any of the Mission: Impossible franchise remains Lalo Schifrin's classic theme tune (and his incidental music, not used in them all but latterly quite often): strike up the band with that brilliant piece of music, or a variation thereof, and suddenly it all seems very dramatic and important, imperative that the titular mission be carried out successfully. Bruce Geller's original concept for the television series these movies were supposedly inspired by were every week to watch a clever operation, like a heist or a kidnapping, pulled off with professionalism by the IMF team, which did mean that each episode followed much the same set of rules, never wavering.
The tension was not so much in whether they managed to succeed, but how they did against those apparently "impossible" odds; however, while there would likely be no television show without James Bond, this was not The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was its own thing as much influenced by European suspense thrillers from the Continent as it was by Ian Fleming, maybe more so. The movies, starting in the nineties, had no time for any of those finer details, as this was a Bond clone through and through, and by the stage we had reached this sixth entry in the franchise, it resembled nothing more than an excuse for a bunch of middle-aged stars to act out their boyhood spy fantasies.
That was all very well if you were sympathetic to what could from some angles could look like a very selfish item of self-indulgence, but if you were not so impressed by Cruise's demands for audience respect by placing himself in dangerous stunts he performed for real, quite often, then there was something that irked about this aggressive aims for the approbation of all who witnessed them, and even those who did not. Jackie Chan made countless movies like this, yet he was a far more genial star which though he was also injured in his stunts as Cruise was here, only far more often, made his obsession with action flick perfection a lot easier to get along with; you didn't doubt Jackie had an ego all his own, but his sense of humour added a self-deprecation more amiable than a little man trying on his most macho facial expressions and stances.
Fallout had the action setpieces all right, but despite the fate of the planet in the balance it failed to give us much to care about unless you had truly made an effort to be invested in these cardboard characters, all arranged to give the adoration to the Hunt character. Again, a bastardisation of Geller's original where a team working together like the parts of a Swiss watch was the ultimate to aspire to, here it was Mission: Cruise, and everyone else played second fiddle. It would be nice to see a M:I instalment where there genuinely was an ensemble, something like a more serious Ocean's 11 entry, but we were not going to get that as long as Tom had his vice-like grip on the only enduring franchise of his career, and why not? They provided surefire hits for him every time one was released. Back at this film, what did you have? Stunts that impressed mechanically, an obvious double agent, smarmy gags, a weak villain carried over from a previous effort, two lead actresses to love Hunt, and a stodgy plot only springing to life for the helicopter/defuse the umpteenth bomb business at the climax. After all that it was... just OK. Lorne Balfe provided the Schifrin variations.