The artifice on which the “Mission Impossible” movies are based is the wearing of the latex masks. Scan someone’s face—bang—a hyper-realistic mask with perfect hair follicles materializes. Slap a Band-Aid tech thingy over your vocal chords—Shazam!—you sound exactly like whomever the Band-Aid translates your voice to sound like.
If you can live with this nonsense (and we all can and do), “Mission” movies provide endless amounts of foolish fun, because the masks are the hair and makeup equivalent of the double-reverse play in football: many fake-out possibilities.
Put that together with Energizer-Bunny Tom Cruise, who enjoys doing insane stunts to keep life interesting (outside of his Scientology responsibilities), and you’ve got quite a satisfying summer blockbuster.
The Sixth One
Christopher McQuarrie, who directed “Jack Reacher” (also starring Cruise), directs Cruise in this latest installment as the ninja-like, motorcycle-enthusiast, rock-climbing, hurling-himself-off-everything agent, who’s the only one in the known universe who aces missions that are just not possible.
You must know by now how these things kick off, with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) being presented with the most impossible mission, ever, should he choose to accept it.
I’m still waiting for the tape-recorded message that says: “You will be given a bleeding leg wound and must then swim 200 miles in shark-infested waters to an island where you will free-solo climb a vertical, 3-mile high, live volcano and then BASE-jump into it. That’s your mission, should you choose to accept it.” And Hunt says, “I’m not doing that.”
The second order of business is to scramble together his usual backup team of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames).
Somebody stole some plutonium balls. You know what that means: Nuke manufacturing is about to happen. Who’s responsible? A terrorist group called The Apostles. They want to blow up planet Earth because, “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace.” They’re do-gooders, obviously.
Ethan and crew get after that plutonium and follow it to France, where they enlist the help of the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), a black market arms broker. Her clients have the plutonium.
At this time, CIA higher-up (Angela Bassett) assigns agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Hunt and see that he does his job. If he doesn’t, shoot him. Why? She doesn’t trust Hunt.
Enter Hunt’s flame from the last movie (with whom he had remarkable chemistry, it must be said) is ex-British MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She wants the nuke balls too.
Your Mission Is to Figure It Out
There are many double reverses, mask-enhanced and otherwise. You will not know who is who. But in broad strokes, Hunt et al must apprehend head-Apostle Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and trade him for balls.
Late in the game, Hunt crosses paths with his ex-wife (Michelle Monaghan) and her new husband (Wes Bentley), when the team arrives in Kashmir. Operatives like Hunt are better off not married, and so he had cut her loose to have a nice life with a doctor husband, but he finds that his heart still aches a little bit for her, even though it aches quite a bit for Miss MI6, too. They have more in common, after all.
It’s a bit sad. Still, these are first-world problems. Hunt could choose to, say, be a farmer and go sky-diving on the weekends to get his adrenaline fix. Keep his woman happier.
That said, if you want action, you’ve come to the right place: There are scrabbling, no-rope cliff climbs; fights galore (the best of these is a bathroom brawl utilizing a curvy section of sink pipe); oxygenated HALO jumps (high-altitude, low-opening parachuting); jet-setting to London, Paris, and Kashmir; kidnapping; jumping out of a very, very high window onto concrete; climbing up a rope to an already flying chopper, falling back down, and very, very stubbornly climbing back up again, while being shot at. And of course, Cruise’s favorite thing—fast alley-way and stair-step motorcycling.
What else? We’ve discussed the role of latex masks. Then, there are some double-crosses and the obligatory nuke-ball disarming, with wires going everywhere, and two seconds on the clock, and do you cut the red wire or the green one.
Cruise seems a little tired, this time out. He takes on a lot. Maybe too much. He should rest more. Everybody else is workaday fine, except Angela Bassett, who’s getting dangerously close to playing a caricature of herself. And Henry Cavill, who is simply not believable as a complicated person. Superman was a good role for him. It was exactly one note, and he looked good as the nice Man of Steel. Here he plays this complicated agent very one-note too. With all the good actors-who-play-villains out there, why pick Superman?
The only other problem here is that this MI is getting slightly too predictable in that Cruise is the Teflon agent who gets a bit banged up but is never in any danger of dying. The series needs to get that tension and unpredictability back in there.
But, Tom Cruise has definitely cornered the market on a stunt-driven franchise where he gets to do exactly what he loves, spending his time mastering things like helicopter flying, motorcycling, and other type-A adrenaline junkie things. All well and good. But stunts are a young man’s game and he’s 56 already. He needs to sleep more between movies.
‘Mission Impossible’: Fallout’
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley
Running time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Release Date: July 27
Rated 3.5 stars out of 5