It's a little hard to believe that it's been twenty-two years since Tom Cruise resurrected the old "Mission: Impossible" TV series from the 1960's and 70's and created a new, big-screen franchise. It was a highly successful decision with the 6th installment - "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" now hitting the theatres amidst the usual barrage of publicity. I always fear that franchises can start to wear out their welcome, as was the case with last Jason Bourne effort that seemed to be a rerun of previous efforts. Certainly there's a lot of returning talent here as Cruise once again tackles the role of super-spy Ethan Hunt. The film was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (once known only as "McQ") who also did the highly-entertaining "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" from 2015. McQuarrie's writing credits include some very successful films such as "The Usual Suspects" and "Edge of Tomorrow," but he's also penned some real clunkers like "The Tourist" starring Johnny Depp and more recently, "The Mummy," featuring Cruise.
Also returning are an assortment of faces from past films, including Impossible Mission Force teammates Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg - both of whom are always fun to watch. Rebecca Ferguson who played a British agent with unclear loyalties in the last film, returns as does a surprisingly disappointing Alec Baldwin as the former CIA director and now is leader of the IMF. Baldwin's main task seems to be reciting long stretches of dialogue to help clarify some complex plot points in the first part of the movie.
"Fallout" reaches back to previous films in the "Mission: Impossible" series so it would be helpful to have seen those movies. The main villain is played by Sean Harris, who returns as the criminal genius Solomon Lane who was last seen in "Rogue Nation," imprisoned in a glass cage. Did anyone really think that he would stay captured for long?
New faces include Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") who is forced on Ethan by the new CIA director, Angela Bassett. Cavill's character is known as "the Hammer" and also for not playing by the rules. Their uneasy alliance kicks off with one of the most brutal fight scenes every shot in a restroom. Also making a notable appearance (although much too-brief) is a blonde Vanessa Kirby who you might know for playing Princess Margaret in "The Crown" Netflix series. She's a criminal broker who can also handle herself in a fight.
The Mission: Impossible films always utilize a wide variety of international locations and "Fall Out" doesn't disappoint in that regard. The first half of the movie bounces between London, Paris and other exotic locales and features some intense action scenes involving car and motorcycle chases, a rooftop foot pursuit and a jumping-out-of-an-airplane stunt. They are all impressive but don't feel wildly original. There's a growing feeling of , "Been there, done that," even as you admire Cruise for putting his 56-year-old body through a whole lot of strenuous stunt work. The first part of the story does suffer from an over-abundance of plot twists that come one after another and start to seem like a lazy way to keep the audience off balance. However… the last third of the film takes the bar for action movies and cranks it up through the roof. First, there's a very unexpected plot twist which makes the story really interesting. That leads to a simply incredible helicopter chase that becomes even more impressive since you can see Cruise clearly flying one of the choppers. (A fixed-wing pilot, he took lessons to become qualified on a helicopter) This wild sequence builds and builds to such a dramatic level that people in the theatre where I saw the movie were gasping. (And these folks were almost all critics) The exciting climax is amped up even more by the other IMF team members who are engaged in their own struggles at the same.
"Mission: Impossible - Fallout" is long - 147 minutes - but it proves to be wildly entertaining. The reported budget was a whopping 250 million dollars, but you see most of that money up on the screen. Hats off to Cruise and team for delivering another wild ride and a great popcorn movie.
4 ½ popcorn boxes out of 5
Review by Mark Greczmiel
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