Review: "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

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You can always count on the "Mission: Impossible" franchise to deliver much-needed thrills during the summer movie season. It helps that Tom Cruise, playing IMF agent Ethan Hunt, does his own stunts, which brings an authentic feel to the set pieces that most summer blockbusters would lack due to overreliance with CGI. "Ghost Protocol" had Tom Cruise hanging on for dear life on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper. In "Rogue Nation," the Vienna State Opera House sequence, a blend of nastily rendered Hitchcockian suspense, stunned us with its risk-taking acrobatics. 

In "Mission: Impossible - Fallout," we're not really sure what the highlight, or piece-de-resistance, is because, well, there are so many contenders.  Stunts, stunts, stunts, and more stunts. That's how the series has been reinvented for the 21st century. These last three films are very much their own breed, a trilogy of action moviemaking that represents peak after peak of stunning practical effects.

I dread even explaining the overly complicated plot for this latest endeavor because, well, it's really just an excuse for Tom Cruise to showcase his fearless acrobatics. At 56, Cruise is back as IMF undercover agent Ethan Hunt – and what he does here is a damn-near franchise peak of physical prowess. Hell, production of "Fallout" even had to be suspended after Cruise broke his ankle on a failed stunt.

That's practical effects for you. Barely any computers, or CGI were used in the making of this summer blockbuster. A cause for celebration? More like a damn-near miracle.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" is the sixth film of the series, and, quite possibly, the best. Maybe only rivaled by Brad Bird's miraculous "Ghost Protocol" from 2015. Nah, you know what, I think we have a new champ in the series. "Fallout" is THAT good.

My advice is to forget about McQuarrie’s script, which is filled with plot twist after plot twist and just revel in the action. Just know that three spheres of plutonium are missing, if they get into the hands of baddie John Lark then the world is toast. Isn't that what's at stake in most of these films?  Lark believes that only real suffering can rebuild a new world order and bring lasting peace. Lark is quickly revealed as a pawn for psychopath Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the villain from "Rogue Nation." Hunt’s IMF boss (Alec Baldwin) and the head of the CIA (Angela Bassett) want Solomon captured immediately. All of this as Rebecca Ferguson’s mysterious Ilsa Faust, Hunt's old flame, lurks around, like an assassin waiting for the kill. Should she be trusted?

At least Hunt has his old crew back, Benji (comedic relief courtesy of Simon Pegg) and bomb specialist Luther (Ving Rhames in a more expanded role than usual) are back for the cause. However, trouble comes in the form of Henry Cavill's CIA agent Walker, who is tasked by Bassett's CIA chief to watch over Hunt and make sure he stays with the game plan, especially when the crew has to meet Vanessa Kirby's White Widow, a lethal and dangerous middle-woman. 

Got that? Probably not. Who cares, right?  The film, a thorough blast of suspense and action, tries to cram in as much as possible. Cruise, one of the last true movie stars left, gives it his all here. It's as if he and McQuarrie went for broke with this film because, well, Cruise isn't getting any younger and will be close to 60 if another movie does happen in the near future.

The real treat is how Cruise, as he leaps over rooftops, motorcycles against traffic in the streets of Paris, and even skydives 25,000 feet, seems to be having the time of his life. His pleasure, in putting his body on the line and delivering as many thrills for us, is contagious.  [B+]