‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ is genuinely thrilling

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“Ethan, Ethan Hunt.” Okay, it doesn’t have the same zing as James Bond, but this series is now on a similar plane as the Bond movies. The TV show debuted over fifty years ago and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the sixth movie installment. It was announced as the finale, until the next one. Cruise admitted he might do one more, ka-ching!

Off screen, Cruise can be a polarizing figure, but there has never been much doubt about his on screen persona, as he finds a way to give the audience what they came for, and then some. He is one of the few actors who performs his own stunts, without green screens or stunt doubles. So, mostly every “gag” you see is Tommy making it happen.

Christopher McQuarrie returns to write, produce and direct this breathtaking spectacle while other returning members include Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg as Luther and Benji, sidekicks of Ethan Hunt (Cruise). Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Monaghan return as Ilsa and Julia, Ethan’s love interests. Finally, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris return as Ethan’s boss Alan Hunley and villain Solomon Lane, respectively.

It’s one thing to perform a stunt, another to do the likes of these acrobatics. Cruise performs a helmet-free motorcycle chase through Paris, against traffic, a helicopter chase in which he mostly pilots himself, a low altitude parachute jump (trained for a year), and an extended foot chase across the rooftops of London (broke his ankle). Ilsa asks, “What the hell is he doing?” Benji responds, “I find it best not to look!”

The story is intriguing but somewhat convoluted. Nevertheless, it is a good excuse for the action. It has something to do with a top-secret dossier that describes some “terror for hire” Apostles, who steal plutonium for a madman who has a manifesto. After threats to Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca, the IMF must work with and without the CIA and MI6 to broker a deal with the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) to regain the plutonium at any cost.

Not much of that really matters. What we need to know is the world is in peril and only Tommy and his friends can save it, except we don’t always know who is friend and who is foe, and under what conditions. But, all of that will sort out while we watch a series of intricate, well choreographed and even better executed action stunts.

After a botched mission, CIA Commander Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) dictates, “This is now a CIA mission. You use a scalpel, I prefer a hammer.” She adds Agent August Walker (Henry Cavill, “Man of Steel”) to the team. When Ethan hopes his plan will work, Walker protests, “Hope is not a strategy!” Ilsa calmly responds, “You must be new here.”

Thirteen helicopters were used during the four weeks of aerial photography. Filming took place on three continents across two winters and was halted for almost two months while Cruise recovered from a broken ankle, on his leap across buildings in a single bound. They used the film footage of the break and him limping away in the final cut.

With so much CGI action in the endless stream of superhero movies, it’s refreshing and genuinely thrilling for an audience to see such honest action as a throwback to the days of not so long ago. In this race against time, the intensity rarely lets up for the audience to catch its breath. With the formidable storyline and perilous non-stop action scenes, it might be possible for some to suffer from “action overload.”

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is 147 minutes, which is the longest film in the series. It is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action and strong language. It is the first in the series to be filmed in 3D. No matter how impossible, we never found it to be implausible. We would say “incredible,” but Disney/Pixar already took that one.

In one scene, Luther retrains Ethan from harming a suspect, “Ethan, that’s not who we are.” Ethan responds, “Maybe we need to reconsider that.” Finally, the villain asks Ethan the question we had always wanted to know, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it. Did you ever choose not to?”

Ron’s Rating: A-
Leigh’s Rating: B

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Ron & Leigh Martel