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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT - Review - We Are Movie Geeks

Review

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – Review

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Oh no, those dreaded “back to school” commercials and sales flyers are suddenly popping up everywhere. Action film fans must realize that the Summer movie season will be over in a few short weeks. Serious cinema will be on its way post Labor Day. SKYSCRAPER was weeks away, while the return of Denzel as THE EQUALIZER may be too brutal for the pre-teen date crowds (it”s rated “R” for “really rough”). The superheroes have packed away their tights and capes for a few months. How about some spies, instead? Well, we won’t be seeing the “JB” duo, Bond and Bourne, anytime soon. So, blockbuster thriller fans will have to rely on another franchise, now in its 22nd year and its sixth installment. And all from a broadcast network TV show, which had a pretty good run of seven seasons, along with one of the greatest opening title music tracks ever (as instantly recognizable as Monty Norman’s 007 intro riff). Of course having one of the biggest movie stars of the last four decades helps. Multiplexes may need to install safety belts to their theatre seats as Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt to lead his IMF (Impossible Missions Force) in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT.

This mission begins with Hunt (Cruise) getting his latest assignment via the signature device (a compact reel to reel tape deck) from the TV show (the second best holdover from the series other than Lalo Schifrin’s iconic theme). If course it’s “tricked-out” with a video projector and a pop-up needle to grab a blood sample ID (ouch). Hunt learns of the underground terror organization known as “the Apostles” and its mysterious leader “John Lark” (a phony name for an individual whose face is unknown). They plan to change civilazation through chaos (“the bigger the war, the bigger the peace”) and are targeting three cities with great religious significance (naturally). Seems that three globes of plutonium have been smuggled out of the former Soviet Union, and Lark has plans for them as part of three portable explosive devices. Ethan accepts the mission (was there any doubt) and soon his team, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), are posing as buyers for the globes. Unfortunately an unknown third party disrupts the dark alley deal, and the globes are “in the wind”. After a nifty bit of deception pulled on a radical scientist, the IMF learns that the globes are in Paris, the property of a lauded philanthropist/secret arms provider known as the “White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby). But just as Ethan’s boss, former CIA head Hunley (Alec Baldwin), is about to send Hunt to a meeting with the Widow, the current CIA director Sloan (Angela Bassett) arrives on the tarmac with her number one operative August Walker (Henry Cavill). Sloan informs Hunley that the president is tired of the IMF’s “Halloween” games, and since they lost the globes, the CIA will now take over. After some fast negotiations, the operation becomes a joint mission between the two agencies with Hunt and Walker now a team (the two are most reluctant ). The men continue to butt heads during the Paris meet, even as they are suddenly joined by a former acquaintance of Hunt’s, MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who we saw in the last film MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION. The quest for the deadly globes soon involves a former IMF foe, master terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, and even Hunt’s former wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Perhaps the film’s subtitle should’ve been “Homecoming”.

The “golden boy”, who’s now 56, bounces back from his last two action flick disasters (AMERICAN MADE was a character “dramedy”, while THE MUMMY and the second Jack Reacher debacles stopped two franchises dead in their tracks), much as Ethan seems to bounces off any surface with the slightest of injuries (a limp that lasts seconds till he’s back to full flexibility). His ability to “sell” a stunt or “action gag” is still a marvel, but Cruise is no mere “mint” action figure toy. We get to see a bit more of what makes Hunt “tick”. Yes, he’s a confident, always charging (primo Cruise running meme material here) dynamo, but there’s an inner conflict. He doesn’t want to harm an innocent, or “civilian”, no matter the stakes . He’s paying a big price here for his humanity. His “missions” have cost him a new romance (with Ilsa or even the sultry Widow) and his former wife. Plus there’s the continued frustration of having his loyalties doubted via a really elaborate “frame”. Cruise shows us Hunt’s physicality and conflicted soul, which gives all the shooting, jumping, dangling, and punching an extra “oomph”. As for his teammates, Rhames also shows his warmer side, being more than just “the man in the van”. Unfortunately the gifted Pegg has less opportunity to showcase his comedic gifts in this outing, but he gets in on the stunts a bit more. Ferguson still generates some sparks with Cruise, as his female counterpart whose motives always seem questionable. She’s out for herself, despite the helping hand she offers. Baldwin’s an endearing “hard case”, who goes from strict taskmaster to supportive father-like mentor. Harris is pure dead-eyed evil, his words spitting from his beard like a snake’s venom-tipped tongue. Bassett is “cold as ice’ as the smooth, demanding rival. The great surprise here is Cavill, the man from Krypton who’s truly  playing against type as the arrogant, back-stabbing (literally) ruthless Walker, almost the “anti-Ethan”. With his glaring eyes and thick mustache (no CGI there), he’s the bullying jock as ultimate blunt force weapon. Even though he’s on “our side”, he’s just as dangerous as any of the thugs and assassins.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is another returning IMF vet having helmed the last installment (he’s the first director of two MI flicks). He keeps things moving at a brisk pace, improving on his work in ROGUE NATION (though the series best remains MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL from INCREDIBLES 2’s Brad Bird), making sure the time between action set pieces is brief. This is one film that requires you to get your snacks (and do your bathroom business) before it begins, so as to not take a chance on missing some incredible stunt work. As for the script, it doesn’t feel as though the plot was shoe-horned into said stunt scenes, rather it has a more natural flow. But, as with many entries in this franchise, there are a few too many double, triple and quadruple crosses, stretching plausibility for the team to predict and prepare for any outcome (one character actually says something close to “Why must it always be so difficult?”). And as said earlier, we just have to believe that Cruise and company have endless stamina and Wolverine-like healing abilities (if the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series can ignore the laws of gravity, then…). After all, audiences return again and again to see what crazy bits of derring-do will try and top previous installments. McQuarrie and crew promise thrills and they certainly deliver, along with gorgeous exotic locations and impeccably tailored heroes and villains. Right now, the biggest “bang for your buck”, action-wise is the sixth, but far from final dangerous assignment, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT. Somewhere the spirits of those first film action stars, Fairbanks, Keaton, and Lloyd must be pleased to see that the “thrill’ spectacles live on.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.

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