I’ve felt pretty much the same about all the “Mission: Impossible” movies. They’re great fun, filled with stunts and double-crosses and gunplay and explosions, and at least two scenes per movie of Tom Cruise running. And a week after I’ve seen one, I forget all about it. Now, they all sort of merge together in the mind.
This is apparently the sixth one in the series, and a few familiar faces are back, besides Cruise as superspy Ethan Hunt. There’s Ving Rhames as Luther, reliable wing man and munitions expert; Simon Pegg as Benji, a British tech whiz; Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa, an MI6 agent who sometimes helps Ethan and sometimes chases after him; and Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin as civilian spook leaders, always with the lip and the second-guessing.
Even the villain is recycled from the last flick: Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, a terrorist who wants to rain great suffering down upon in the world in order to bring about global peace, or something. He was captured by Ethan in the previous movie, but as we well know confinement can be a pretty temporary state in the MI series.
There’s two notable inductions of new blood. Vanessa Kirby plays the White Widow, a wealthy philanthropist who’s secretly dealing in arms and all sorts of nasty stuff on the side. She regards Ethan as a delectable snack that might or might not have something distasteful at the center, and she’s trying to decide whether to take a bite.
As the story opens, three plutonium cores have been stolen from Russia. The Widow is willing to sell them in exchange for springing Lane out of prison on behalf of his crew, the Syndicate.
The other newbie is Henry Cavill as Walker, a feared CIA assassin who’s assigned to shadow Ethan’s team and report back on any rogue activities. He’s got a sort of hulking, grim charisma -- a guy who can smile at you and then pummel you to a pulp, depending on the demands of the situation.
Early on Cavill and Cruise share a terrific fight scene in a restroom against a guy they think is buying the nukes from the Widow. The plan is to drug him, then whip up one of those cool insta-masks Ethan’s gang is known for, impersonate him and seal the deal. It doesn’t exactly go that way, and the two spies find more than their match in a dude about half Cavill’s size.
(This is the scene with the much talked-about “fist reload” move, which you can Google if you like.)
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, returning from the last go-round, gives us a cavalcade of over-the-top action scenes and daring stunts. Many of them recognizably feature Cruise doing his own stunts, which adds to the sense of peril. (He f’real broke an ankle during production, finished the shot and limped out of the frame, and you can tell he ain’t faking.)
There’s one long chase where Ethan pursues some bad guys on a motorcycle, then climbs into a car and immediately finds himself chased by somebody on another motorcycle. Plus a daring duel of helicopters -- both in the air and otherwise -- dank basement shoot-outs, foot races through Paris and London, and a whole lot of other gee-whiz candy.
The action sequences are interrupted by talkie scenes in which the characters set up the next kerblooie part. If you stop and listen to it, it’s pretty bonkers, since people start spouting minute details about things they could not possibly know about.
“We’ve managed to isolate the code on Lark’s electronic wristband so we can track him.” Oh? How did you do that without even knowing who he is, or what he looks like, or who gave him the wristband?
Whatever. These scenes blessedly do not last very long, as the last thing anybody wants to experience in a “Mission: Impossible” movie is copious dialogue. Personally I think they’d be better if they just took out all the plot and had 2½ hours of Cruise running and jumping and doing heroic stuff.
I’ll say this: at 56, he’s giving Cary Grant a run for his money as the star who aged most gracefully. It’s the same with these MI movies, which have a timeless Dorian Gray quality, never really changing much.