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Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE -- FALLOUT Is A Relentless Joyride

Super spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) knows something has gone wrong. The world is falling apart quicker than he can put it together. When he teamed up with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and took out the head of rogue spy network the Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), he thought that threat was over. Little did he know that Lane's network would just get more aggressive and less controlled. Now facing a team of rogue agents intent on nuclear war, Hunt and his team - Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) - are in a race against the clock, and against (in grand Mission: Impossible tradition) their own government, to find the missing nukes and stop Lane's former network from using them to create a global catastrophe.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is, in a single word, amazing.

Mission: Impossible used to feel a bit like the odd man out when it came to American blockbusters. It was unusually filmmaker friendly - rather than each Mission: Impossible movie feeling like the one before it, each felt like an extension of its director's style and obsessions, for better (M:I & M:I IV) or worse (M:I II & M:I III), and each one brought in a new director. They were very nearly continuity free, a rarity in a landscape dominated by Cinematic Universes. And they depended heavily on relatively practical stunt. Ghost Protocol's Burj Khalifa stunt was the stuff of legend almost as soon as the film came out, and while the Vienna Opera House sequence in Rogue Nation was less technically demanding, it was one of 2015's most memorably tense, gorgeous set pieces. Rather than depending on brand recognition to coast by, Mission: Impossible has done, well, the impossible, and upped the ante on its stunts and set pieces in every single outing.

The trend continues here. Whether it's the breathtaking Halo Jump sequence, a motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, or a frankly bananas sequence involving a helicopter boarding and chase, Mission: Impossible -- Fallout has some of that will almost certainly go down as the best action set pieces of the decade. And the action in Fallout is relentless; after an exposition-heavy first minute or two, Fallout takes off and rarely, if ever, takes a moment to let you catch your breath. The film runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it feels crisp and controlled for damn near every second of it.

It's impossible to talk about what makes Mission: Impossible work without talking about Tom Cruise, and it's irresponsible to talk about Tom Cruise without at least mentioning that he is 1) a noted figurehead for a dangerous cult, and 2) famously kind of a piece of shit to some of the women in his life. He's also, and with good reason, one of the most iconic action actors of all time. I totally understand people who avoid his work, and I equally understand people who are drawn to the film in part because of Cruise's charisma. Just know that this, like every Mission: Impossible movie is very much the Tom Cruise show, and while it is the best possible iteration of that particular kind of programming, it is still, ultimately, a vehicle for Cruise's particular talents.

That is not to say that he doesn't have a stellar supporting cast behind him. Henry Cavill is perfectly cast as the stone cold CIA assassin shadowing Ethan and waiting for him to step out of line, while Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg remain excellent mission support, with Rhames' chill charisma bouncing off of Pegg's nerdy neuroticism. But they can't match Cruise.

One person may be able to, however: Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson was the standout new character of Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation as a seemingly reluctant member of Lane's Syndicate, and she returns here with a vengeance. Ferguson's kinetic charisma is similar to Cruise's, someone who looks great and feels honest whenever she's in motion, and the movie makes damn sure she's in motion as often as possible. Once again, her role in the film is nebulous, part confidant and part fly in the ointment, letting Ferguson go toe-to-toe with Cruise while still maintaining audience sympathy. Ferguson's turn in Rogue Nation was star-making; in Fallout, the wattage is no less dim but the roll is dialed back just a bit, sadly. Still, even with a slightly less front-and-center roll, Ferguson shines.

Mission: Impossible -- Fallout is, to reiterate, amazing. It's one of the best blockbusters of the year. Hell, it's one of the best blockbusters of the 2010s. Alongside the similarly excellent (though admittedly superior) Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie has cracked the code on why we love these movies and, in doing so, created two damn near perfect blockbusters. This is M:I's Skyfall, a big gorgeous burst of an action film with an abiding love for the history of the franchise and its characters -- but where Skyfall often faltered to incorporate Bond's history comfortably next to Craig's more minimalist take, Fallout is nearly note perfect.

Mission: Impossible -- Fallout is out now in theaters everywhere. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible -- Fallout stars Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, and Sean Harris.
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