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Movie Review: ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ is a blast of green-light action

Movie Review: ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ is a blast of green-light action

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie; Bruce Geller (TV series)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby

Synopsis: Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

This far along the M:I track, we should, at least subconsciously, feel like Rogue Nation‘s Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, field status remains questionable): well-aware that the declared impossibility is a ruse. Sure, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, enjoyment apparent and series’ hair rule broken again) can react with the “Dude…” expression and struggle come action time, but we know how things will play out. Fool once, shame you, twice me, et cetera. It’s the sixth turn now.

So why do we stay seated? Maybe it’s because, after 2, each installment accomplishes in being finer than the one before, like white-knuckled cheese and high-octane wine. J.J. Abrams’ gusto makes the agent’s domestic life one worth saving. Brad Bird’s realization of Pixar-tinged ingenuity brings glee into the usual doomsday plot. Christopher McQuarrie matures the whole supply with dives into intrigues and consequences. In other words, it’s the directors rather than the characters, the engineers instead of the passengers, who face the can-be-unwinnable trial of raising the bar. Fortunately, victory has never been out of stock, and Fallout turns what it nabs into a feet-off-ground, fireworks-all-around kind of actioner. ­Your mission, the only one, is to be onboard and avoid the bunker at all costs.

It helps that McQuarrie is again the helmer and the scribe (franchise’s first!), rendering Fallout both a challenge and a possible upgrade. Or a greater challenge as it can become an upgrade. For those believing that Rogue Nation was sluggish, slightly or wholly, Fallout hears you, and in response it moves with the fast-forward button held down. See the effect right from the start: Only single-digit minutes (four?) have passed and then Ethan is given the briefer, which prior to self-destruction outlines two items — the rising of The Apostles, aka what’s left of in-custody MI6 turncoat Solomon Lane (Sean Harris)’s Syndicate, and their need to snatch three plutonium Poké Balls for an imminent “great suffering.” The usual suspects of close-calls, country-hopping, mask-making, infiltrations and stunts abound. Downright great callbacks to every previous Mission and satisfying payoffs for every department are also in the cargo hold.

The latter is why Fallout is the same bullet-train on a different track, one where the only stopping point is at the end of the line. It’s a setting where a radioactive midnight is one minute away — why thanks, Ethan, for losing the bombs! — so such velocity is justified. We might feel like the Road Runner trying to keep up with the proceedings — an arms-dealing scioness (Vanessa Kirby, seductive through diction) knows where the WMDs are, Lane is returning, loyalty again forcing Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, fashionably chilly) to complicate the mission, a frustrated CIA assigning its own deadly angel (Henry Cavill, engaging) for support, and nightmares with Julia (Michelle Monaghan, kindness galore) — but McQuarrie always has us oriented and, amazingly, whiplash-free. With riveting concision in the penning, he guarantees that the prerequisite, adeptly built espionage-y webs won’t entangle us; once the details are communicated it’s all about perfecting the ensuing sensation. An M:I film with an emotional thread that bears as much impact as the explosions? It’s here, and that’s a mighty-fine bonus on top of the franchise’s bread-and-butter aspects that Fallout have either elevated or sharpened.

Though everyone’s in a hurry, production designer Peter Wenham doesn’t use that as an excuse to take shortcuts; the conversion of Paris’ Grand Palais into a classy rave at the front and a jazz club in the back is a definite highlight. A new world is yet nigh, though composer Lorne Balfe’s hymnic-then-catastrophic orchestrations, editor Eddie Hamilton’s patient cutting and d.p. Rob Hardy’s steadfast framing suggest it has been the state of things after the production logos. “The impossibility is real,” the trio’s work, combined with McQuarrie’s direction, declared, and you’ll believe it, willingly, too, as Ethan HALO-jumped into Paris, burns rubber on a bike and later a car in something straight out of “Ronin 2.0,” and bends physics while piloting a heli to a cliffside boxing ring at the home stretch. Oof, the adrenaline just rises upon typing this.

Still, we shouldn’t ignore that it is in the leading man that M:I finds its existence. There will come a point where Cruise has to refuse the mission, and most of us believed it arrived last August. Intentional or not, narrative purposes or otherwise, for Ethan or his vessel Cruise, the sense of an ending is suffocating in Fallout, letting actually uncomfortable sweat beads to mingle with those engineered by the big-screen thrills. “I won’t let you down,” IMF’s poster agent uttered at one point, and afterward it’d be wise to believe that you will hear the statement echoing for as long as the team stays in commission.

Overall Grade: A

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