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Cruise is dashing, battle-ready in ‘M:I-6’

August 4, 2018

Now 22 years after its initial release, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is on its sixth cinematic assignment. Tom Cruise, the driving force behind the series, has been increasingly cautious about whom he entrusts to direct, especially after allowing John Woo to put his own ill-fitting flourishes on the second film. (If you have not seen “M:I-2,” this is what it sounds like when doves cry.)

When “Alias” was at the height of its popularity, Cruise, who plays protagonist Ethan Hunt, plucked young upstart J.J. Abrams to tackle the third M:I outing. Abrams deepened Hunt’s personal life, introducing us to his wife and giving his gadget guru, Luther (played by Ving Rhames) a comedic buddy in the form of Benji (played by Simon Pegg). The following outing, “Ghost Protocol,” was guided with precision by “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird, and gave Benji and Luther even more interaction, as the former was elevated to field agent. This fourth film also allowed the audience to chuckle between episodes of holding their breath for Hunt’s next death-defying stunt.

However, there were some slight missteps with new characters that tended to regress the film’s mission.

Then, in 2015, it seemed all the elements were in place, and the franchise hit its peak stride with “Rogue Nation.” Director Christopher McQuarrie brought back romantic tension (with agent Ilsa Faust, played by Rebecca Ferguson), cranked up the volume on the now-iconic stunt sequences, and seemed to mine the series for what the audiences loved most.

McQuarrie returns for “Fallout,” which can easily stand on its own, but is also a successful carryover from “Ghost Protocol” and “Rogue Nation,” further allowing the inter-team banter and cooperation as well as Hunt’s past and present romantic entanglements to take center stage, along with dizzying stunts and exotic locales.

This is the first time a director has returned for a sequel, but it seems Cruise has found someone as driven by and dedicated to the series as he has been.

Plot is typically secondary in “Mission: Impossible” films, and it’s really no different here, with each twist in place merely to bring the gang to a different locale and set up yet another sequence in which Hunt throws his body into harm’s way. McQuarrie stops long enough to allow us to connect with Luther, Benji, Ilsa and other newer faces (such as Angela Bassett as a CIA chief and Henry Cavill as her heaviest-hitting operative), but also allows them to connect with one another emotionally, and, quite frequently, physically.

It also brings back “Rogue’s” main bad guy, Solomon Lane (played by Sean Harris), who, even while in shackles and under heavy guard, is still pulling strings to ensure his doomsday plan soldiers forth.

And even though this film is bursting its seams at almost 2.5 hours, it feels more sleek and polished than its immediate predecessor. Cinematographer Rod Hardy manages to capture every white-knuckled minute, often placing us on or near the driver’s seat for all the fireworks.

He also manages to make Cavill more Superman than DC ever could, and even though the actor’s dramatic range is still limited, his bulk and dexterity are on full display.

At the center of it all is Cruise, who, at 56, has never looked more dashing and battle-ready.

His spy remains human despite the stunts that suggest he’s made of Silly Putty. When he tells his team he’ll find a way, he looks concerned and unsure, but we know he will find a way.

And with McQuarrie providing the franchise with its two strongest entries to date, we can rest assured he will find a way, too.

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.