Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
Serialization has never been the primary goal of the Mission: Impossible film series, which kicked off with director Brian de Palma's mask-ripping, helicopter-crashing, sweat-dripping 1996 original. In the two decades that have passed, the larger Hollywood franchise machine has transformed, prioritizing chapter-like sequels and expanded universes over standalone spectacle, but 52-year-old star Tom Cruise is still risking (and breaking) his limbs to entertain the masses with each new adventure as super-spy Ethan Hunt. The latest movie in the series, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, is another ridiculously entertaining, thrillingly ludicrous popcorn contraption that requires practically no prior knowledge of the character to put the pieces together.
And yet, Fallout does modify the formula in some small yet significant ways: This is the first entry helmed by a returning filmmaker, with Rogue Nation mastermind Chris McQuarrie back in the director's chair, and it's the first to make an effort to connect the dots between Hunt's various globe-trotting escapades. In the same way Skyfall attempted to reckon with James Bond's complicated past to arrive at a larger poetic truth about the character, Fallout digs deep into what makes Hunt tick while still delivering the elaborate stunts, outlandish plot twists, and droll zingers that make this the most reliable blockbuster behemoth running.
Our mission, which we dutifully accepted, was to unpack some of the stray references, Easter eggs, and possible allusions to past M:I films that popped up between all the bathroom brawls, rooftop foot-chases, and nuclear weapon disarmaments. We kept our eyes peeled for connections and reoccurring characters throughout the movie's surprisingly brisk 148 minute runtime. Luckily, this post will not self-destruct before you finish reading it.