“Mission: Impossible— Fallout” (PG-13)
The newest “Mission: Impossible” film is full of espionage-thriller tropes and clichés, it’s hard to believe the story is told in a mere two and a half hours. Here’s a short list of ingredients: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) sleeps with a gun in his hand. Spies use secret passwords. There are two romantic interests; let’s call them “Hunt girls.” Bad guys are out to destroy the world. The script has dialogue including: “Don’t let them get the plutonium” and “I’m gonna get the detonator.” Location shooting (at least as suggested in titles on the screen) jumps from Belfast to Berlin to Paris to London to Kashmir. There are chases on land and in the air (but surprisingly not at sea). Agencies caught up in the fray are the CIA, the FBI, the IMF (c’mon, people, that’s the Impossible Missions Force), and MI6. That last one is of most interest because “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the sixth “Mission: Impossible” film or, in sequels parlance, “MI6.”
But despite its flaws (if they can be considered flaws), “MI6” is wildly entertaining. It may be a little too long, and Tom Cruise is probably getting a little too long in the tooth to be playing the part — this is amusingly pointed out when, in the midst of an extended rooftop foot chase, Ethan is huffing and puffing — but the audience I saw it with was enthusiastically cheering and, at the end, applauding.
After one of those good, old-fashioned “Mission: Impossible” pre-credits introductions, in which Ethan patiently listens to an absurdly complicated self-destructing reel-to-reel tape recording, the story begins. No, make that the stories begin. There’s so much going on here, you need to take notes to keep up. Luckily, I always take notes at movies.
Looking at them after the screening, I discovered that the CIA and MI6 (the organization, not the movie) and apparently many other groups (both governments and outlaw outfits), are trying to get their hands on international bad guy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who was caught by Ethan in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (or “MI5,” the movie, not the organization). Yes, he’s in custody, but everybody wants a piece of him. Besides, his outlaw band of followers, The Apostles, are still at large and causing havoc. Into this mix comes “unidentified extremist” John Lark, insisting that world peace will only come after much devastation (the aforementioned plutonium).
So, it’s Ethan’s responsibility to find John Lark— even though nobody knows what he looks like— get the plutonium, try to work together with CIA guy August Walker (Henry Cavill, looking much beefier than he does when he’s playing Superman), keep his bosses (Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin) off his back, and stay both close enough to and far enough away from three other women: His ex-wife (Michelle Monaghan), a former co-spy and flame (Rebecca Ferguson), and an adversary, the vicious White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).
Cruise has owned this role since the first film in 1996, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Simon Pegg as Benji, once again gets to make great use of some well-delivered comedy lines, with assistance from big Ving Rhames as Luther. Though the general pacing is slower than usual in the first half, that all changes in the second half, and the entire film is peppered with crazy action set pieces — you’ve gotta love the motorcycle-car chase through the side streets of Paris and the helicopter chase through the mountains of Kashmir (or wherever it was actually shot), and the fistfights are among the best in the series, especially the three-man melee in a large white bathroom.
Longtime fans of the franchise, and the old TV show, will be happy to know that there are masks aplenty. Newshounds will enjoy a cameo by Wolf Blitzer. Those who appreciate a nice twist on a familiar line of dialogue will smile when they hear Ethan say, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” Are there too many espionage-thriller tropes and clichés? Nope. Bring ’em on!