Friday, August 3, 2018

Movie Review—Mission: Impossible—Fallout

MI – Fallout.jpg
Theatrical release poster

by Peter J. O'Connell

Mission: Impossible—Fallout. Released: July 2018. Runtime: 147 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.

Risky Business (1983) made Tom Cruise a star, and Top Gun (1986) made him a superstar. Now Mission: Impossible—Fallout—written, directed, and co-produced by Christopher McQuarrie—has shot Cruise's star to the top rank of action heroes. Based on this sixth installment of the M:I series, Cruise's character, Ethan Hunt, deserves to be considered the equal of Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones or Mel Gibson's Mad Max. 

Cruise's commitment to making his character feel “real” has attracted well-deserved attention and praise. Much of the stunt action in this film laden with spectacular stunts is actually performed—and clearly seen to be so performed--by Cruise himself, not by doubles or computer-generated imagery or before a green screen. For example, to get one six-minute sequence, Cruise skydived from a plane more than 100 times. In a leap from one building to another, he broke his foot but then ran on it anyway. He rides a motorcycle on a wild chase through Paris without a helmet—so we can see that it's really him. For another sequence, he earned a helicopter pilot's license and flies the chopper with a wide -visor helmet so that, again, we can see that it's really him. 

As a “string” for the stunts, the movie's plot has some familiar features. A wacko organization, here called the Apostles, wants to obtain three specially connected plutonium cores, for sale on the black market, in order to forge a new world order by killing huge numbers of people. Their manifesto reads: “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace.” The Apostles are aided by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), head of the Syndicate, the evil organization from the last M:I movie. 

Lane was spared by Hunt, which has led CIA head Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) to doubt Hunt's commitment to his role. She thinks that he is becoming soft, so she requires Hunt's boss, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), to assign August Walker (Henry Cavill), a younger, more muscle-bound, less scrupulous agent, to work with—and keep an eye on—Hunt. 

The black marketeer for the cones is a gorgeous, mysterious woman known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). The agent for the Apostles in dealing with the White Widow is supposed to be one John Lark. In a brutal fight in a men's room, Hunt and Walker slay a man (Liang Yang) believed to be Lark. Hunt then assumes the identity of Lark.

As with many thrillers today, the plot of M:I—Fallout that follows is convoluted as different characters pursue their various agendas, sometimes collaboratively, sometimes competitively—deadly competition. But McQuarrie has given the movie pacing that never lets it bog down. And the plot can be, as it were, absorbed by the audience almost subliminally as an offshoot of the set pieces. Interestingly, though spectacularly improbable, those stunts are actually, refreshingly, just this side of being definitely impossible. 

The acting throughout is excellent. Cruise makes Hunt's “softness” that the CIA director is concerned about a leavening aspect of his tough personality. He is troubled, but not rendered ineffective, by the prospect of choosing between saving a few whom he knows and loves, such as two members of his team, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and a nameless, faceless “many,” whom he does not know. 

Henry Cavill brings an effective, slightly “robotic” quality to his role. And Vanessa Kirby as the White Widow, Rebecca Ferguson as British Intelligence Agent Ilse Faust, and Michelle Monaghan as Ethan Hunt's ex-wife are as talented as they are beautiful—in roles that are not one-dimensional. Stunts and stars make Mission: Impossible—Fallout the best movie of the M:I series, the best blockbuster so far this year, and one of the best action/adventure movies ever. Run, leap, dive, or drive to the multiplex and see it!


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