Friday, July 27, 2018


Light the fuse. Cue the Lalo Schifrin. Mission: Impossible is back to show everyone how the Hollywood action movie is done. Sure, you might've gotten some competent entertainment out of the Marvel machine or found all kinds of minor pleasures in the digital frippery that beams out to multiplexes every other week. But only Tom Cruise's flagship franchise is still reliably delivering old-school thrills, pushing new technology, the height of what modern filmmaking can allow, into a tactile, analog energy played out on the biggest scale. Sure, it has special effects assists, but that so much of it plays so real, even the CG enhanced feats feel just a hair from plausible in the hurtling hurly-burly of the films' forward motion. Only the frenzied finale feels totally preposterous, but by then it's suspense whipped up so expertly into a three-layer cross-cut calamity of crises and last-second escapes that the sustained crescendo of it all carries it across. I was gripping my armrests even as I grinned at the countdown clock's elastic minutes counting down. Opening at full speed and rarely taking its foot off the gas is the sixth, and latest, in the series, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which returning writer-director Christopher McQuarrie generously treats as all climax, a victory lap of a culmination drawing in elements (skills, gadgets, gambits, and supporting characters) of every entry that's gone before. The series has earned it -- delivering a consistently high-flying excellence in spy action over 22 years now -- and so has McQuarrie, whose Rogue Nation remains the best of them all. This one's very good, too, as satisfying as you'd expect from all involved. It's so breathlessly exhilarating, broad suspense leavened with a good-natured sense of real human stakes in the slick and shaggy sequences, I was ready to cheer as early as the opening notes of the theme song topping off a clever cold open.

Fallout finds Cruise's Ethan Hunt -- "the living manifestation of destiny" -- working harder than ever after a botched mission leaves an international terrorist organization in possession of plutonium. This leads to catastrophe that sends him running around the globe looking to stop further destruction. By now he, and we, should know what to expect. When globally bad things happen, he's our last first line of defense: the equal and opposite reaction. Because Hunt's single-mindedness in pursuit of his mission so perfectly matches Cruise's star persona, there's the deep satisfaction of seeing this exquisitely tailored match on screen again. By now we know the series lives and thrills on the back of its lead's willingness to top himself stunt after stunt. But it's not enjoyable simply because Cruise does his own stunts, taking a punch, jumping out of a window or a plane, hanging from a net thousands of feet in the air. It's the not-again expression and flash of fear in his eyes before, and the doubled-over-catching-his-breath exhales of relief when it's over. Hunt isn't invincible. He winces and scoffs and rolls his eyes and bruises his ribs. But he knows he and his team are all that stand between the world and its worst dangers. Here he and a few familiar faces (Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) are in the field at the behest of their Impossible Missions Force boss (Alec Baldwin) and a skeptical CIA (personified by Angela Bassett) which sends along a prickly muscle-bound assistant (Henry Cavill, a perfect foil). To track down the missing plutonium they get involved in fast, pummeling, and gripping shootouts, double-crosses, sky-dives, fist-fights, and chases by car, boat, motorcycle, and helicopter. The sequences are gorgeously lensed, and crisply cut with pounding sound effects and a clanging score. If they're not always as witty as the even-better rubber-mask surprises , at least they're visceral, and shot with a go-go-go spirit that zooms excitingly by. The spectacular action is married to McQuarrie's typically crackling plotting -- at once incredibly complicated and totally simple -- of spycraft loop-de-loops (welcome back, Rebecca Ferguson) and a cascading escalation of dilemmas piling one on top of the other. But it all comes back to the pure thrill of Cruise taking off, desperately struggling to outrun the doubt that he'll not stop the latest calamity. Mark down another reliable thrill ride for what's become our most reliable franchise. 

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