WARNING: Spoilers for Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout's ending may just be the best in the franchise's history. The whole film is a step up even from the already giddy heights Tom Cruise and co. are playing at, yet it's how the spectacular finale wraps up ideas running throughout the movie, its direct predecessor Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, and the whole franchise that's so impressive.
Mission: Impossible movies typically follow the same basic plot: Ethan Hunt is on a mission, things go south, he's suspected of having gone rogue, he goes rogue and fights to prove his innocence. Everything's usually rather convoluted along the way, but it's a formula that hasn't got tired in the past 22 years, with each new movie having a fresh take on the franchise.
But none are quite as innovative as Mission: Impossible - Fallout. At 148 minutes, it sees Christopher McQuarrie playing on a much bigger canvas and, alongside the visceral in-camera action, he uses that time to explore just who Ethan Hunt is. Tom Cruise's constant world savior has long been an enigma, but now the real beating heart behind him has been explained.
The Very Complicated Plot of Mission: Impossible - Fallout Explained
Mission: Impossible movies always have deceptively complex plots, and Fallout may just take the nuclear cake. Much of its exposition comes in the pre-title sequence: after the capture of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) at the end of Rogue Nation, the remnants of the Syndicate of anarchic rogue agents, known as the Apostles, are continuing his attempt at tearing the world down to start anew, with the mysterious John Lark dealing with them to claim three plutonium cores to enact their plan. Ethan Hunt loses these in a buy-gone-wrong (caused by compassion for his team), but manages to trick the scientist behind the bombs into giving up their technical readouts. All he has to do now is track them down.
Easier said than done. Intel suggests Lark plans to purchase the plutonium from the Apostles via broker White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), but when Ethan - now accompanied by CIA oversight August Walker (Henry Cavill), who says to boss Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) he suspects Hunt is Lark and is using the entire mission as a cover - tries to observe he winds up having to pose as John himself. Inside the Widow's inner-circle, he learns that as payment for the cores he'll need to free Solomon Lane during his transportation between world powers in Paris. He manages to do this, although not without crossing paths with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who has been tasked by MI6 to assassinate Lane, and takes the captive to London.
In London, the plan is presented to have Benji (Simon Pegg) dress up as Lane for the Apostles, with the real Solomon left behind to be overlooked by Walker. However, that's all a trap: when Hunt leaves (after defying Sloan, who shuts down the mission), Walker accidentally reveals himself as Lark to Benji in a Lane mask. Lark is working with the Apostles and, although nuclear annihilation is still the goal, framing Ethan was a key part of it. However, while Hunt at first thinks he's captured both Lark and Lane, the villains have backup and, following a foot-breaking chase through London, escape with two of the plutonium cores.
This brings us to the finale. Lane's plan is to set the bombs off in Kashmir, polluting the water for an entire portion of the world he's already stricken with smallpox (he also has Ethan Hunt's estranged wife Julia moved there for extra personal victory points). Lane stays behind, happy to die in the destruction, while Lark leaves with the detonator. Benji, Luthor and Ilsa manage to get the bombs ready for disarmament and Hunt deactivates them after catching up to Walker.