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Mission: Impossible Fallout: Ethan Hunt and his team in a race against time

Mission: Impossible: Fallout (12A)
Running time 2hr 27min
Rating ***

OVER the past two decades, the Mission: Impossible franchise has demonstrated with each successive release a remarkable knack for reinvention. While being arguably the weakest entry in the series thus far, Mission: Impossible 2 set the tone for all
films since, disposing of nuance and character development in favour of full-throttle action theatrics; Mission: Impossible III, meanwhile, was a tonal mess that nevertheless boasted solid set pieces and a handful of standout performances (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Simon Pegg came dangerously close to outshining star Tom Cruise). Back in the ’90s, the series had pretensions to being James Bond by the way of Robert Ludlum; intriguingly, the 007 movies appear to have themselves moved in such a technothriller direction in recent years, decidedly turfing out secret agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) with their more calculated sense of grit and globe-trotting suspense.

Still, I’ve always felt there to be a place for a new Mission: Impossible flick. You could never dub these things movie events in the way their competitors are, but they’re rarely anything other than the definition of entertainment. With Fallout (the sixth in the trilogy) we’re firmly back in M:i:III territory – even the usual lashings of OTT mayhem and the presence of Pegg (a treat, as ever) cannot distract from the fact that this is a bleak, rather humourless entry in an otherwise straightforwardly escapist franchise. Forgive it that – and I have no doubt fans will – and there’s much to relish here. While flirting tepidly with reformed terrorist Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt is still mourning his dear-departed wife (Michelle Monaghan); indeed, the
absentmindedness in evidence here informs Cruise’s contribution for the duration of the film, as he phones in a performance which, though physical as ever, is rarely effective in any meaningful sense of the word.

Fortunately, this provides co-stars Henry Cavill, Sean Harris and Vanessa Kirby time to flex their own dramatic muscles – all leave quite a bit more of an impression than the main act, even if Cruise misses no opportunity to drop himself head-first into an action sequence. One among the latter (namely, a fisticuff in a restroom) is among the series’ best, and a demented helicopter chase more than raises the stakes in this most punchy, bullet-ridden summer at the cinema. This time round, the Mr Big is a shadowy figure who goes by the name of John Lark (be warned, you’re in for a twist here). Lark has recruited Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the last film’s villain, in an effort to obliterate the world (why these scoundrels would do such a self-defeating thing is never properly specified); it’s up to Ethan and his mates to stop the two knaves at their sinister, sinister game.

So commences a two-and-a-half-hour ride from France to Kashmir that frequently clatters along at a luxurious pace, but which, when it finds its own two feet, can only work as a guilty pleasure. It has all you could want from a Mission: Impossible film, and just a little bit more.

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