As summer franchise movies go, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is near the top of the heap. Pretty much a sequel to the previous movie in the series, “Rogue Nation,” it features Tom Cruise as globehopping Ethan Hunt in full calisthenic mode hanging from helicopters and cliffs, motoring madly through Parisian streets with police in hot pursuit, parachuting onto the roof of the Grand Palais – you name it. Whether Cruise actually does all his own stunts is beside the point. Has any other actor in his mid-50s persisted in this kind of workout, simulated or otherwise?
The Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team is back, with Ving Rhames’s Luther and Simon Pegg’s Benji mouthing better-than-average spy movie dialogue as they attempt to track down a trio of plutonium cores before they get into the wrong hands and, you know, blow up the world. This plot, too, is kind of beside the point, which is probably just as well, since it doesn’t always make a lot of sense. The real attraction here are the players: Besides Cruise and the IMF team, there’s Henry Cavill’s appropriately named shady CIA operative August Walker; Ilsa Faust, a former MI6 operative sharply played by Rebecca Ferguson; and, best of all, the slinky black marketeer White Widow, played by Vanessa Kirby. From some angles, she resembles a sylph-like Lady Gaga.
Director Christopher McQuarrie stages some first-rate action sequences (like that Grand Palais air drop) that wouldn’t look out of place in a crackling James Bond movie, and there’s also a core of feeling to some of the hijinks: Ethan is loath to dispose of innocent people, not to mention his trusted friends, in order to service a greater good (i.e., save the world). If the film has one overriding flaw, it’s that it’s about 20 minutes too long, showcasing so many serial climaxes that it almost turns into a parody of itself. Even in a genre where over-the-top is de rigueur, sometimes less is more. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.)