AUGUST 7, 2018
I have friends whose opinions that I trust say that they never want to see another Tom Cruise movie again and insist that they won’t go see “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” I totally understand and, to a limited degree, respect their point of view. As for me, Cruise as a human being? No comment. Cruise as an actor? Pretty good on occasion. Cruise as a movie star? One of the best we have.
With all due respect to my friends, however, they’re missing out on some terrific movies, particularly “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), and “Fallout,” which is probably the best action movie I’ve seen since “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
This is the sixth of the rebooted “Mission: Impossible” films and, say what you will about Tom Cruise, he has brought on board several of the world’s most amazing auteurs to helm this series — Brian DePalma (#1), John Woo (#2), J.J. Abrams (#3), Brad Bird (#4) and Christopher McQuarrie (#5 and this film).
McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for writing 1996’s “The Usual Suspects,” seems to be the guy whom this franchise needs. His philosophy appears to be “Let Tom be Tom,” and Cruise obliges — running, driving and jumping, not always to his own benefit. During filming, he tried to leap between rooftops and came up short, breaking his foot. (If you’re curious, the original footage is all over the internet — just don’t watch it during dinner.)
What’s “Fallout” about? Who cares? It’s a “Mission: Impossible” movie. It’s about plutonium…blah blah blah…taking over the world…blah blah blah. It’s really about Tom Cruise running, driving and jumping, for goodness sake.
For the record, however, super-spy Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has recruited back his IMF force — all-business Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), cut-up Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and the newest recruit, former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), whom we first met in the previous chapter, “Rogue Nation.”
However, Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), the new head of the CIA after Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) moved over to head the IMF force, has placed her own spy into Hunt’s group — the humorless assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill, whose beard stubble changes from shot to shot, and then there’s THAT MUSTACHE!).
Rather than talking about the plot, let’s guide you to the big set pieces. Be patient. It takes a while for “Fallout” to get going, but once you get to Paris, buckle up. There’s a motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris that will put your heart in your mouth. (If you’ve ever been to Paris, you can appreciate how difficult it must have been to close up that many streets for this sequence, but, believe me, it’s worth it.)
Despite “Fallout’s” lengthy running time, McQuarrie’s script is appropriately spare, and there are moments where you can feel that he’s having fun with the genre. There’s a bomb (of course) and a clock counting down the seconds until detonation (double of course). What wire should I cut? The red one or the green one? You know the drill, and it never gets tired.
At the same time, Ethan and August have an alpine helicopter duel at such heights that anyone with acrophobia (like me) will cower at the high-flying acrobatics. And the bomb clock continues to click down…
More about the plot I cannot tell you because I don’t really care. The main takeaway for me is that, at age 56, Cruise does all of his own stunts. I mean all of them, and McQuarrie makes sure that we see that it’s Cruise. Whether that’s wise for his family is another matter, but it makes for thrilling moviemaking.
Until there is a Stunt category at the Oscars (something for which stuntman Jack Gill has been lobbying for years), there’s little chance that “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” will be a factor at the February Oscar ceremony, but in a summer movie season filled with lots of junk, here’s a chance to put your mind on hold and roll with the expertise of movie craftsmen offering the roller coaster ride of your life.