This photo released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” (Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures)

This photo released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” (Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures)

‘Mission: Impossible–Fallout’ is annoyingly good, by the book

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout”

One has got to wonder — and I realize I’m not exactly unique in this observation — whether or not Tom Cruise has an actual death wish.

For a good part of his career, the obsessive actor has enjoyed doing many of his own stunts, but that quirk has taken on a life of its own with the “Mission: Impossible” movies. Last year he strapped himself on to the side of a plane. The year before that he climbed outside on the world’s tallest building. This year he takes a stratospheric sky dive and flies a helicopter after climbing a rope to the cockpit while airborne. That’s not to mention the motorcycle riding and roof jumping he does, one of which actually caused him a broken leg. The guy is over 50 and is in far better shape than I am. Maybe he uses $100 bills as a cushion every time he jumps out a window.

His latest effort, the sixth installment of the series, “Fallout” is undeniably entertaining and hits the marks perfectly. In fact, by this time, Cruise and co. — including returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie — hit the nail on the head so many times it almost feels calculated. This film really feels like someone in a pitch meeting said, “Let’s go back and look at all the other ‘Mission: Impossibles’ and James Bond movies and pick out the specific moments that people really like and just make a movie out of those.” And as much as I want to be annoyed at yet another car chase down a wrong way street or a bomb deactivation that goes down to the last second, these guys obviously know what they’re doing because it works.

In this film, Cruise, as über-agent Ethan Hunt, is tasked with taking down the remains of the Syndicate (from the last movie, now calling themselves The Apostles) before they can use some rogue plutonium to blow up three of the world’s major religious sites. In doing so, he has to rely on his old team and cross paths with a couple of characters he never thought he’d see again. One, Ilsa (played by Rebecca Ferguson) is on his side — he hopes — and the other, the nefarious Solomon Lane, is decidedly not.

Also joining the cast is CIA brawler and assassin August Walker, played by Superman himself — Henry Cavill. I like Cavill quite a bit and am glad he is getting rave reviews for this film, considering the hate directed toward “Justice League” and “Batman v Superman.” Those are not great movies, but its certainly not his fault. Here he cuts quite an imposing figure, especially considering how much taller he is than Cruise.

As usual, the plot in these films is convoluted, complicated and largely unnecessary at least, if quality action set-pieces is all you came for. “Fallout” does not disappoint. The aforementioned sky diving sequence is amazing, especially considering the cameraman is also sky diving and has to remain relatively close to Cruise the entire time. McQuarrie has a good sense as to how an action sequence should be put together, and Cruise — who produces these films — has had plenty of experience. Between them, “Fallout” is a pretty thrilling ride.

There’s no question that this movie is entertaining. And it’s not dumb entertaining, the kind where you’ll have a great time as long as you turn off your brain. No, the plot may be convoluted, but it’s thought out. It’s funny, it has heart — all the pieces come together.

I guess I’m just a little concerned by how absolutely by the numbers it is. There are no real surprises here. Simon Pegg reliably brings the funny, just as teddy bear Ving Rhames brings the heart. You can guess how the story’s going to go, even if you don’t know all the twists and turns it’ll take to get there. And by now, even the characters in the film are starting to look at Ethan Hunt as some sort of unbreakable Superman. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with all that, especially considering how much I like the Marvel movies, which have been accused of the same kind of “sameness,” but a part of me wants this series to take some risks. No, I don’t need an R-rated, gritty “Mission: Impossible,” but I don’t want to be spoon-fed, either. Ethan Hunt is much more interesting when he’s grappling with the weight of his impetuosity, doubting, instead of having nearly every character telling him that he will always be there to protect the world. There used to be other IMF teams — it was a large organization with world-wide resources. In this film you get the idea that Hunt and his rag tag bunch are it.

I liked this movie. I did. I’ll probably even see it again. It’s going to make plenty of money and probably fund even more interesting Tom Cruise projects in the future. But let’s shake it up a little for the next one, which, let’s face it, will probably feature Cruise landing on the actual moon. Grade: A-

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” is rated PG-13 for action violence and brief language.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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