If the goal of “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” was to deliver another summer action blockbuster that will satisfy fans of its star and series, then the words “Mission: Accomplished” apply, with some caveats. Like its predecessors, it has an incomprehensible plot interrupted by incredible stunts and action sequences, plus a couple of the trademark ripped-off-face-mask reveals that have been around since the original TV series of over 50 years ago.
Here’s all you need to know about the story: bad guys have stolen the plutonium necessary to create three nuclear weapons, and IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and colleagues Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) have to stop them. Also returning are Rebecca Ferguson as British MI6 officer Ilsa, Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s ex-wife Julia, Alec Baldwin as IMF director Alan Hunley, Angela Bassett as CIA director Erica Sloan, and Sean Harris as villain Solomon Lane. There’s even a cameo by Wolf Blitzer!
The interesting thing for me in watching “M:I” movies is trying to figure out which stunts Cruise actually did and which were performed by a stuntman or in front of a green screen with CGI effects added. Cruise is an adrenaline junkie, so it was no surprise when reports emerged about him injuring his ankle so badly while doing a rooftop-to-rooftop leap that filming had to be delayed a couple of weeks. Even if you didn’t know about Cruise’s injury, it still looks painful. When that scene came up at the screening I attended, everyone in the room moaned a collective “ohhhh…” as Hunt slammed into the side of the second roof.
Regardless, the action scenes in this sixth installment in the series are dazzling, even if they’re not original. There’s a chase through the streets of Paris and on the Seine River that’s a cross between “The Bourne Identity” and “The Italian Job” remake, and there’s a bathroom fight scene that reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger taking on suspected terrorists in a Georgetown men’s room in “True Lies.” Fortunately, director Christopher McQuarrie (who also made the fifth chapter, “Rogue Nation”) and cinematographer Rob Hardy get beautiful images of Paris and London as the chase scenes progress and don’t over-edit as so many similar productions do (e.g. “The Equalizer 2” and every James Bond movie of the last decade).
The weak spot is Henry Cavill. As in the dreadful “Man From UNCLE” and his three performances as Superman (“Man Of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman,” and “Justice League”), he’s nothing more than a good-looking hunk with absolutely no charisma. In “Fallout” he plays a CIA officer Hunt is forced to take along on the mission, a plot device that we’ve seen before in other movies like “US Marshals” (that’s my not-so-subtle spoiler for his character).
As always, the plot begins with Hunt getting a delivery of the mini tape player that contains the mission details. I can’t help but smirk every time I see that little reel-to-reel machine, technology that no one has used for over a quarter-century — certainly not with the ability to project images on a wall. I suppose the “M:I” movies use it solely for the white smoke emerging as the tape “self-destructs” after being played, an effect you can’t exactly do with an mp3 file. Still, it could be updated to a digital file that expires (“self-destructs” internally) like a movie you’ve downloaded from Netflix and can only access once on your iPad. Then The Secretary could disavow all knowledge of the file.
I have written often about how so many action movies, whether they’re about comic book superheroes or technology-equipped special agents, always come down to a fist fight. This one is no exception, with a climactic scene involving Hunt and one of the villains hitting and kicking each other repeatedly on a cliff as the 15-minute timer on the nuclear bombs counts down. Naturally, it takes every second of those fifteen minutes for the hero to win (surprise!). I’d love to see a timer in any movie that’s stopped with eleven and a half minutes to go.
Bottom line: I give “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” with its oddly punctuated title, a 7.5 out of 10.