The new Mission: Impossible opens with two scenes that, put together, constitute a clinic in how to handle exposition in a dumb, fun action spectacle. The first is a flashback-cum-dream vision in which we see the wedding of super-agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to his long-suffering ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan). A priest (who also happens to be Solomon Lane, the villain from the last movie — don't ask too many questions, it's a dream) delivers the wedding vows, which gradually segue into a gruesome litany of the troubles Ethan has caused Julia over the course of this series.
Just then, an ominous, explosive flash of light wakes up our hero. Now, we see that he's all alone, in a dark, dank room somewhere in Belfast. A message arrives. It contains the details of his next mission, which involves a maze-like network of international arms dealers and nuclear scientists and nutty Year Zero anarchists, each betraying and counter-betraying the other. It's such a dense, extravagant cascade of gobbledygook that I actually giggled in the theater as I tossed aside my notepad and pen.
A cinematic centrifuge of acrobatic stunt work, breakneck chases and immersive action, Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a perfectly calibrated piece of filmmaking that plays the viewer like a drum right from the start. Here's a goofy dream vision to catch you up on the important emotional stakes. Got that? Good. Now, here's some impenetrable blather to let you know that, yeah, it's OK just to sit back and enjoy the ride. I've enjoyed much of Cruise's recent work, but here he does something more: He makes you believe in movie stars again.