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Thursday, July 26, 2018 12:04 am

Stunning, spectacular Fallout delivers

 The hallmark of the Mission: Impossible franchise is that it takes its title seriously, setting the bar higher and higher with each entry to show us that what might seem impossible is actually quite doable in the hands of star Tom Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. Also improbable but inexplicably true is the fact that this is the rare franchise that has managed to improve with age. After getting off to an awkward start with the first entry in 1996 (too clever for its own good) and the second in 2000 (bloated), the series began to right itself in 2006 with the third film directed by J.J. Abrams, who brought a much-needed sense of fun to these espionage shenanigans. The mantle was passed to The Incredibles director Brad Bird for 2011’s Ghost Protocol, who proved to be equally adept with live-action adventure, and then to McQuarrie for 2015’s Rogue Nation, which showed his eye for the spectacular was just as sharp as his script’s witty repartee.

He’s back for the sixth outing and, as unlikely as it may seem, he may have fashioned the best Impossible yet. Plumbing the series’ past for narrative inspiration, Fallout manages to raise the bar not only with its spectacular stunts but emotionally as well, as its main character, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, is forced to come to terms with dire decisions from his past.

The film opens with a mission Hunt decides to accept: Three plutonium cores have gone missing, and intelligence shows that a group known as The Apostles, leftover mercenary terrorists from Nation, are out to get them. Seems they want to fashion three warheads to create international mayhem; boilerplate hijinks for films of this sort. Not only are Hunt’s cohorts Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg) and his new boss Hunley (Alec Baldwin) out to stop them, but two of his former loves Ilsa and Julia (Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Monaghan) are involved, as is his arch nemesis Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the invasive head of the CIA Sloan (Angela Bassett) and her flunky Walker (Henry Cavill), who’s been assigned to keep an eye on Hunt.

There are double-crosses and switcheroos galore, all of which are part and parcel of the series. The plot, as clever and entertaining as it is, is inconsequential in these affairs. It is nothing more than a narrative clothesline upon which to hang the many action sequences, and while there’s a glut of films of this sort, the makers of this franchise pride themselves on delivering unique and genuinely dangerous moments, making this series the gold standard of the genre.

A hand-to-hand fight between Cruise, Cavill and stuntman Liang Yang is on par with anything Jackie Chan has ever done, while two separate motorcycle chases on the streets of Paris, one of which finds Hunt going against the circular traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, utilize the city’s narrow streets to harrowing claustrophobic effect. As incredible – and I am not using that word lightly – as these sequences are, they are nothing next to the finale that finds two helicopters in a mid-air duel, weaving through snow-capped mountains to a fiery conclusion. In an age in which green screen effects have become the standard in rendering magnificent action scenes, the fact that most of these are created on location in a practical manner makes them all the more impressive.

To be sure, Fallout is too long and walks the razor’s edge between drama and parody throughout. Yet, the philosophy of this series is to embrace the ridiculous and run with it and if the third act comes to resemble a Road Runner cartoon, so be it. No one will mind as Cruise and McQuarrie go out of their way to reward your suspension of disbelief and deliver a handsome, thrilling piece of escapist fare.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

For a review of Sorry to Bother You, go to the Cinemascoping blog at http://illinoistimes.com.

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