Thursday, July 26, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW/"Mission: Impossible - Fallout"
When The Action Is The Sex, Not Vice Versa

The Lady And Man From Shanghai: Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Christopher McQuarrie's "Mission: Impossible -Fallout". Paramount Pictures 


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Thursday, July 26, 2018
I'm so sorry but I can do this.  I'm working on it! and I'm flying by the threads of my pants leg.  That, dear reader, is Ethan-speak for "Mission: Impossible - Fallout", a fantastic, bruising, hyperkinetic dynamo that left me gaping in awe and incredulity and had me gripping my seat.  Tom Cruise is the 21st century Errol Flynn, swashbuckling his way through a hail of bullets, daunting heights and brutal boneheads like a true nine-lives maestro.

Constantly at full-throttle, Mr. Cruise does everything in "Fallout" except grow a single gray hair doing his hair-raising stunts, including one where he injured his ankle (it is included in the film, as is the actor limping away.)  During "Fallout" I exclaimed loudly, "what the fuck?!?!?"

"Fallout" is pure adrenaline and action sex.  With BIG mechanical toys being used.  Plus PG-13 action orgies.  Ladies of industry and intuition get into the thick of things.  Cue the deep vibrator sound of motorcycle engines reverberating beneath black leather-covered posteriors.  A knife is strapped to a lingerie-clad leg of one character.  There's a faintly homoerotic bathroom scene that some male characters joke about.  And oh so much mind-fuck is at play.  All that sex and those participants (with a variety of duels, chases, gunfights, jumps and climbs) and reliable IMF company man Luther (Ving Rhames) only gets to take his hat off to speak a tender line advising someone to walk away from Ethan??!!??  Brother Luther, either you're an unlucky man or you were made to look the fool here.  (Some may say that Luther makes for a great relationship counselor under pressure.)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the sensational stunts in "Fallout" are cartoonish, until you clearly see that the film's multi-million dollar investment is seriously doing every single one of them.  The cameras make a concerted effort to show you that yes, Tom Cruise is actually doing these otherworldly stunts himself.  You even see the knee-pads attached to the actor after he's been hurtled through the air at warp speed off his BMW motorcycle post-collision.  Think of the jaw-dropping (or drawer-dropping) stunts as Mr. Cruise's display of mid-life vanity or downright fearlessness.  Either way, it is one hell of a seduction play for his future girlfriend or spouse.

You can almost hear the film's producers (except Mr. Cruise) saying, "there's our life insurance policy -- on a rope!"  Alas, there are no triple XL supersized condoms in sight to protect Ethan Hunt or break his fall from the beckoning heavens.  To his credit and my respect and admiration for his unceasing, dedicated efforts Mr. Cruise definitely doesn't believe in safe stunts. 

Welcome to "Fallout", the 360-degree theatre of slam-bam-thank-you-man.

In this loud, frenetic adventure Ethan Hunt, IMF loyalist and iconoclast, finds himself and his team up against a number of formidable obstacles including uber nemesis Solomon Lane (a very good ice-cold Sean Harris), whom Ethan should have discarded in "Rogue Nation".  Lane, a grim reaper haunting Ethan's nightmares, is a bleary-eyed Riddler and doubles as priceless cargo, smacked around from pillar to post for at least five minutes before speaking his first lines.

Red light district: Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt and Henry Cavill as Walker in Christopher McQuarrie's "Mission: Impossible -Fallout". Paramount Pictures 

A CIA superman assassin named Walker (Henry Cavill) who rarely moves his jaw when he talks, partners Ethan as the latter soon becomes the least trusted name in the IMF.  Ethan for his own good, he's told, is promptly shut down by Hunley (Alec Baldwin).  Note to the uninitiated: IMF really means "International Mother Fucker", a term of endearment for "Fallout"'s phenomenally indefatigable Earth-conquering alpha male Hollywood megastar.  I expect Mr. Cruise to ballet dance in outer space in the next "Mission", should he choose to accept it.

In "Fallout" plutonium is stolen.  "The world is at risk," Hunley intones.  Everyone has a brush with death.  Lives are taken.  This is that.  That is this.  There are shifts and switches.  Gigantic needle injections put people to sleep.  Spies don't come cheap.  There's wheeling and dealing with White Widows and spying on spies who are spying on spies who aren't minding their own damn business, thank you very much.

Gilded by Lorne Balfe's authoritative music score and reworked Lalo Schifrin "Mission" theme, "Fallout" asks, "do you trust your eyes and do you believe those you are watching?"  Everyone in the film works hard to convince you that their motives and actions are for the best.  Gray areas exist, and with one distinct exception there isn't an ostensibly clear-cut villainous wretch, perhaps only oracles of someone's doom.

"Fallout", a non-stop speeding locomotive of a movie, has dueling personas: one is slick and stylish, the other blunt and rugged.  Both terrains plunge you headlong into thrills, enigmas and danger.  Elaborate labyrinthian corridors, columns, mirrors, alleys and narrow spaces form "Fallout"'s vast and picturesque visions, atmospheres and tensions, drawing the ready-for-anything Ethan and others into a suspenseful vortex of potential death.  A slip, trip or flip and it's all over.  A motorcycle chase in particular is so insistently razor's edgy -- a forceful retort to the gleaming brigade of police cars that swarm Parisian streets.  In "Fallout" there's always a fly in someone's ointment.  Ethan is a constant fly, irrepressibly unbound.

Early in "Fallout" Mr. Cruise looks better-threaded than OO7, impeccably coutured in a gray suit and black shirt.  But Ethan, who has time to repeatedly say "I'm sorry" like a punchline after inflicting emotional damage and detritus, has no time for martinis or massages.  Any would-be "Bond Girls" in "Fallout" are bold presences who save men from certain peril.  Meanwhile, Cruise and Cavill, unconventional "pretty boys", are a circus double act in "Fallout".  They are a Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck duo who co-exist uneasily on a mission to find the aforementioned plutonium that has vanished under Ethan's usually unerring watch.

Between the wailing enginesd and whirring rotor blades is a torrent of moral and emotional turmoil.  Morally, is one any less a hero for saving one life instead of the world entire?  "I don't trust anyone outide this room," Ethan declares to a trio.  But why trust anyone in the room?  Or in the film overall?  Each charcter on this opulent, volatile world stage wears a furrowed, skeptical brow.  Even Benji (Simon Pegg) jokes less in this "Mission".  Some (as if fresh from a euphoric creme-de-la-creme sexual experience) are on the verge of weeping.  Well, what else are you supposed to do for relief or an encore after globetrotting, rock-climbing and breathtaking halo-jumping from 25,000 feet?  Ethan's relief or threapy is to keep running and improvising.  Surely Mr. Cruise's therapy is to address the death wish he seems to have?  Someone must put that question to him in an interview.

"Fallout" sees Ethan trying to prove himself and his true identity to the IMF, just as Mr. Cruise re-certifies his bona fide action credentials with the out-of-this-world sutnts he performs.  The stunts are a character all their own, a testament to the actor's live-fullest-or-die-hard way.  "Why won't you just die?", one character snarls in the throes of a tussle.

The need for speed: Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Christopher McQuarrie's "Mission: Impossible -Fallout". Paramount Pictures 

So gloomy and intense are some of the players that Ethan Hunt doesn't appear to enjoy this worldwide rodeo anymore.  The stubble on Ethan's face is nearly five o'clock shadow.  The lights on him and in the film are hasher, the darkness deeper, the stakes higher.  There are many close-ups (Rob Hardy's well-rendered cinematorgraphy.)  The cumulative effect is claustrophobia.  Ethan's closest associates think he's lost the plot.  They can barely look as he tries death wish stunt number five.  Ethan is exasperated during an episode of audience-winking and self-deprecating humor: "I'm jumping out a window!"  Sure enough, whaddya know?, there's literally a jaded audience (us??) in an office space pausing to watch Ethan's next hire-wire act.  The scene is comical flying circus theatre.  Mr. Cruise's stunt work in "Fallout" should earn him an awards.  The actor's stunts are of the gonzo money-shot variety.

The hallmark of the "Mission" series has always been illusion, something Ethan Hunt literally breaks through a wall of.  Think of Jackie Chan as endlessly elastic and energetic.  Think of Tom Cruise as a human missile or cannonball.  Mr. Cruise seems to defy himself as much as he does gravity.  "Fallout" is the ultimate magic trick of a movie: sleight of hand, shadowy shadows and operative dissolving in smoke.  Some of this film is confounding, head-swiveling did-you-just-see-that? fare, at times exhilarating, exaustive and exceptional.

The musculature and scale of the "Mission" franchise has grown exponentially after "M:i:III".  From Brad Bird's "Ghost Protocol" to "Rogue Nation" to "Fallout", the quality of the signature stunts have been a certifying staple that have bolstered the films' amusement park ride entertainment value.

Christopher McQuarrie (directing his second consecutive "Mission") has as much ambition and derring-do as Mr. Cruise does, upping the ante and pitch of discrete grand death-defying actiona blocks, interrupted by mind-twisting espionage that somehow holds together in the director's rarely meandering script.  The writer-director just about keeps up with his 1000-mph action man.  Special praise to Mr. McQuarrie and his team who filmed Mr. Cruise's halo jump and constructed his stunts.  Mr. Cruise is the first actor ever to do a filmed halo jump ("high altitude, low open" of the parachute).

"Fallout" is an staggering definitive triumph for Mr. Cruise and an evolving evergreen film career that is 40 years young.  In life and in escapism every clown and film hero needs an audience, and every audience in a movie needs someone to save the day, especially in these times.  Mr. Cruise more than proves he can save the day for movie audiences -- and "Fallout" provides a coda less for Ethan Hunt than for the actor himself.  If anyone can save the day in the Mission: Incredible! stunt world it is Mr. Cruise, and "Fallout", a sometimes excellent film, proves this conclusively.  Years after the end of the TV series, this never-ending "Mission" is more exciting, dazzling and daring than ever before.

Or, maybe, just maybe, "Fallout" is a greatly thrilling and terrifying example of what happens when poor Ethan Hunt hasn't been laid in three years.

Also with: Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley.

"Mission: Impossible - Fallout" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.  The film's running time is two hours and 27 minutes.  "Fallout" opens tonight in the U.S. and Canada before expanding across North America on Friday, while continuing on in numerous countries.

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