Monday, July 30, 2018


(US/China - 2018)

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Vanessa Kirby, Frederick Schmidt, Liang Yang, Kristoffer Joner, Caspar Phillipson, Alix Benezech. (PG-13, 147 mins)

Big-budget summer blockbusters don't get much more entertaining than MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT, the sixth film in the durable, 22-year-old franchise. An incredible jolt of adrenaline in cinematic form, FALLOUT is easily the best in the M:I series so far, and it might even be the best movie Tom Cruise has ever made. Setting aside his batshit religion, Cruise may very well be The Last Movie Star and only a fool would count him out after a trio of forgettable underperformers--JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK, THE MUMMY, and AMERICAN MADE--that had all of the entertainment industry prognosticators concluding that the now-56-year-old (!) actor was washed-up and his time had passed. While we justifiably question the necessity of a TOP GUN sequel that's due out next year, FALLOUT is Cruise here and now in a series that's been on a roll, reteaming him once more with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning USUAL SUSPECTS screenwriter who emerged from an eight-year sabbatical to become Cruise's most trusted aide-de-camp in either writing (VALKYRIE, EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE MUMMY) or directing (JACK REACHER, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION) capacities in the ensuing decade. What everyone was saying about MAD MAX: FURY ROAD three years ago holds true here: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT is an instant classic in the action genre.

A direct sequel to ROGUE NATION, FALLOUT is as convoluted as you'd expect, with IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), botching a mission to intercept three weapons-grade plutonium orbs that end up in the hands of The Apostles, a splinter cell offshoot of The Syndicate, the organization run by international terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who was apprehended in the previous film. Assigned to retrieve the plutonium by IMF boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), the team is overruled by CIA chief Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), who orders her own operative and attack dog Walker (Henry Cavill) to tag along. The story moves all over the globe, as Hunt ends up posing as a mystery man named John Lark, set to buy the plutonium from the Apostles with a wealthy socialite and arms dealer known as The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) acting as a go-between. Things get even more complicated when The Apostles refuse to pay for the plutonium, instead insisting that if "Lark"/Hunt wants the plutonium, he has to help Lane escape from a military-fortified prison transport. Throw in MI-6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and her own assignment to kill Lane, Hunt being framed as a rogue agent once more, and a scheming Walker clearly up to games of his own, and the stage is set for one double-cross and jaw-dropping action set piece after another for a two-and-a-half hour stretch that's over before know it.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT is a movie that just doesn't quit. It's a preposterous delight and a rare instance of an action film that actually merits the comparison to the proverbial standby blurb of a non-stop rollercoaster ride. Though there's some conservatively-deployed CGI and visual effects, the abundance of practical stunt work and action choreography solidifies Cruise's standing as Hollywood's most death-defying madman. McQuarrie's puzzle-like story construction and recurring motif of "Who's really who?" recalls THE USUAL SUSPECTS, but there's also generous helpings of humor and warmth among the IMF characters who, to borrow a term from the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, have really become family by this point (it's Hunt's unwillingness to sacrifice Luther that causes him to lose the plutonium in the prologue, something that Sloane and Walker never stop reminding him). FAST AND THE FURIOUS fans may want to argue the point, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a big-budget franchise still creatively firing on all cylinders and running better than ever six installments deep. It's impossible to pick a best scene--the HALO jump, the bone-smashing men's room throwdown, the epic boat/car/motorcycle chase through Paris, the greatest "Tom Cruise running" sequence ever, or the nerve-wracking, INCEPTION-like cross-cutting race against time in the climax, when the team tracks Lane to a medical camp in Kashmir where a smallpox outbreak caused by The Apostles has just been contained, which involves a helicopter chase, a brawl that spills over to the side of a mountain, and the defusing of two nuclear devices. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT is crowd-pleasing, edge-of-your-seat, popcorn movie perfection, the kind of relentlessly heart-pounding, balls-to-the-wall barnburner that restores your faith in the summer blockbuster.

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