Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Alec Baldwin
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language
Running Time: 147
Date: 07/25/2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Falling for 'Fallout'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's sixth collaboration with star Tom Cruise, and, duds like The Mummy notwithstanding, it's shaping up to be the most fruitful partnership of the star's career.

The new movie follows Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow — which McQuarrie co-wrote — and his own films Jack Reacher and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation as a smart, action-based story, with a little bit of world-traveling.

And, unlike the early days of Cruise's one-man star turns, this one is a heartfelt ensemble piece, made up of team players that have been around the block and know each other well.

As this sixth entry in the series begins (see also Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible II, and Mission: Impossible III), Ethan Hunt (Cruise), Luther (Ving Rhames), and Benji (Simon Pegg) are charged with retrieving three stolen balls of plutonium, which a terrorist group known as "The Apostles" plans to make into nuclear bombs.

The meet goes badly, and the plutonium is lost. Ethan must head to Paris to intercept a dealer before he sells the stuff to an international broker, the White Widow (a prickly, bewitching Vanessa Kirby). A burly, mustached watchdog, August Walker (Henry Cavill), is sent along with him.

Then, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), from Rogue Nation, turns up with a secret mission of her own.

Our team learns that they must get their hands on captured bad guy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), also from Rogue Nation, and trade him for the plutonium.

But of course, in these kinds of movies, everyone is after everything for different reasons. And there's no way that plutonium is going to stay in its stable form. It will indeed be transformed into nuclear bombs, whose timers will tick terrifyingly toward armageddon.

The silly old Mission: Impossible masks return, of course, as well as an astounding series of gripping, heart-pounding set pieces. Early on, a fight in an all-white Paris men's room features some ripping choreography and a few harrowing twists.

That leads to chases, a daring abduction, betrayals, and all the way up to the expected mountaintop fight with fruitless grabs for the precariously dangling detonator, which could either save the world or blow it up.

Both 2011's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation had their one big set piece, the one everyone left talking about, but Fallout has an equal number of high-level suspense sequences throughout.

McQuarrie mixes things up, often staging sequences without music, or pulling his camera way back to show that, yes, somebody is actually doing this. There's no evidence of panicky, amateur camera shaking amongst the visceral, clear visuals.

As a storyteller, McQuarrie's complex spy story is layered and puzzling, like his Oscar-winning screenplay The Usual Suspects, but ultimately makes some kind of logical sense. It's not impossible to follow.

Better still, his handling of character has grown. The interactions here are more touching than ever before. Characters feel comfortable together, like old friends, and their shorthand looks and comments imply a welcome trust.

Moreover, the women here can handle their own business, and do not need rescuing.

Based on a TV series that ran from 1966 to 1973, the new movie can't be entirely fresh; it has one or two predictable turns, or at least moments that aren't quite as sharp as they could be.

But it's still one of the summer's best popcorn films, ranking as high as the superhero films Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, but feeling more grown-up.

These characters have lived lives, and when Ethan sprints across rooftops, jumps through windows, leaps aboard helicopters, or clings from the edges of cliffs, it's easy to feel the long history behind his movements. It's not just action for action's sake; it's very human.

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