Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 10, 2018

Critic's Corner: Their mission, turn government agent into a superhero

In “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” Tom Cruise does an excellent impression of an impervious superhero. As Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt, he outruns deadly sprays of automatic gunfire, motorcycles through busy intersections at just the right moment and walks away from brutal fistfights looking no worse for the wear.

As I watched an indulgent shot of Cruise running across a rooftop at full tilt and then leaping between two buildings, I marveled that he’s two years older than me and felt ashamed for complaining to my wife about having to walk from the back of the parking lot to the theater.

But that’s Cruise, who must have risked life, or at least limb, to make “Fallout.” Before the movie is over, he clambers across the bottom of an airborne helicopter, saves Superman (actor Henry Cavill in the role of a CIA assassin) after a skydiving accident and clings to the side of a mountainous cliff with only a few fingers – all without using common movie magic crutches like blue screens and safety wires.

The intention of Cruise and “Fallout” writer-director Christopher McQuarrie was to give the action in the film as much veracity as possible. And, as I watched each stunt unfold on an IMAX screen, I bought into the illusion and forgot I was watching a superhero film masquerading as a modern spy thriller.

But then McQuarrie would undermine Cruise’s hard work by having more bullets implausibly miss their target, or by allowing Hunt to breeze through more fisticuffs without suffering so much as a scratch.

Comic book action movies are known for their generally outlandish plots, but McQuarrie cloaks “Fallout” with a dead serious storyline about a terrorist attempting to detonate a pair of nuclear weapons strategically placed to ensure the highest number of casualties. “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace,” Solomon Lane hisses at Hunt while in custody.

McQuarrie’s writing is exceptionally good; the plot is thick but also easy to follow, which allows the writer-director to alternate between grim conversations and breathless action sequences without confusing viewers.

McQuarrie also infuses the storyline with a palpable sense of tragedy. Hunt has accepted the role of savior at great personal cost.

He can’t be with his ex-wife, Julia, without risking her life, and he’s reluctant to pursue a new romantic interest for the same reason.

So, Hunt deals with his inner demons in dreams in which he tries to use his body to shield Julia from a nuclear blast, then wakes up and continues his never-ending quest to save the world.

McQuarrie never lets Hunt forget the harsh realities of his life, either, as both women are integral to the storyline in “Fallout.”

But McQuarrie also fills the gap in Hunt’s life with a surrogate family that includes Benji, an IMF technical agent and the film’s comedy relief, and Luther, another fellow agent and friend.

I like that McQuarrie took the time to make Ethan an emotionally complex character; that couldn’t have been easy to do while also feeding viewers the action they crave.

But, sadly, for all the intense plotting, and despite some truly awesome stunts (including a spectacular motorcycle chase through the busy streets of Paris), I never felt as though Hunt, let alone the world, was at risk.

McQuarrie even concocts what should be a nail-biting finale and weakens the moment by letting Hunt not only survive a helicopter crash that would kill any mortal being but also walk away from it ready for a boxing match with his nemesis.

Still, when “Fallout” was over, I couldn’t help but admire the sheer bravado of the stunts and of Cruise’s commitment to doing things the hard way.

If you can keep from rolling your eyes at Hunt’s invulnerability, see “Fallout” on the biggest possible screen, with the best possible sound, while you can.

But if you can’t stomach the absurdity of a Marvel superhero flick, think twice before buying a ticket to “Fallout.”