Hunt on the edge… again.

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2015’s “MI: Rogue Nation” was one of my favourite films of that year, so of all the summer blockbusters this was the one I was most looking forward to.  Was I delighted?  It’s a slightly qualified “YES!”. 

The film neatly follows on from Rogue Nation with arch terrorist-in-need-of-a-razor Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, “Harry Brown”) being extraordinarily renditioned (probably not a valid phrase!) between multiple countries who want to torture/punish him.  But his followers – “The Apostles” – are still active and on the trail of plutonium that could devestate key sites, with religious centres being the top of the target list. Since Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, “American Made“) originally caught Lane, IMF Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin, “It’s Complicated”) despatches Hunt to intercept the plutonium.

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A smidgin of “Casino Royale”, with a brutal fight in a bathroom. Henry Cavill, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson. (Source: Paramount Pictures)

But CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett, “Black Panther“) has no faith in the IMF, or trust that the organisation has not been infiltrated, and she insists that her ‘heavy’ August Walker (Henry Cavill, “Man of Steel“, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“) goes along for the ride. But they are not the only parties in play, for Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, “The Greatest Showman“, “Life“) is also involved.  But who is she working for?

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A Faustian meeting: Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise reflect on their past relationship. (Source: Paramount Pictures)

What makes these films a cut above your average action adventure is the stunt work, with the knowledge that Cruise is at the centre of the action.  In “Skyscraper” you KNOW Dwayne Johnson is standing on the ‘edge’ in front of a big green screen.  Similarly here you KNOW Cruise is standing on the edge of the Tate Modern tower – probably without a safety line – as the camera goes 360 degrees around him.  This makes all the difference to the adrenalin count. 

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When will Cruise learn to travel on the INSIDE of flying machines? (Source: Paramount Pictures)

There are some outstanding set pieces in the film, with extraordinarily spectacular shots from a ‘halo jump’ and a dramatic helicopter finale.  But it is some of the smaller stuff that really impresses: a dramatic edge-of-the-seat car and motorbike chase through central Paris is one of the most impressive and terrifying things I’ve seen on film for many years; and Cruise’s literally bone-crunching run through London is also extremely exciting, with Simon Pegg (“Star Trek Beyond“) adding good humour in his regular role of Benji.  By the way, series regulars Ving Rhames, as Luther, and Michelle Monaghan (“Sleepless“, “Patriot’s Day“), as Hunt’s ex-wife Julia, also make welcome returns but Jeremy Renner is missing this time.

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Again, there ARE easier ways to cross Blackfriar’s bridge. (Source: Paramount Pictures)

Cruise at 56 (he’s just 15 months younger than I am, damn it!) will eventually meet a Roger Moore-like Bond cliff when his Hunt role is no longer credible.  But he’s not there yet!  Rebecca Ferguson is again outstanding as Faust and as a newcomer in a similar role Vanessa Kirby (memorable as Princess Margaret in “The Crown”) impresses as the “White Widow” – someone with a familial link to a villain from the past! 

Unusually, for a film series which has traditionally been kept fresh by changing directors and composers at each turn, Christopher McQuarrie (“Edge of Tomorrow“, “The Mummy“) returns following “Rogue Nation”, and he also writes the screenplay.  The composing baton is handed over this time though to Lorne Balfe (“Churchill“, “Terminator: Genisys“) and for me this was a bit of a step down from the “Rogue Nation” soundtrack by Joe Kraemer which I really enjoyed.

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A leap too far. Impressively, Cruise’s limp off following his much publicised leg break makes it to the final cut. (Source: Paramount Pictures)

Is it sufficiently fresh though?  Let’s be clear here, I was enormously entertained throughout, and this should be near the top of your summer watch list.  But it did ultimately feel at times a little like a light retread of “Rogue Nation”.  Some of the stunts – notably the Paris and London scenes as above – were a step up for me, but there are some annoyances in McQuarrie’s script (see the spoiler section below the trailer), so for me the rating plateaus at the same as “Rogue Nation”.  

Fad Rating: FFFF.

The trailer below has a number of the key stunt shots, so worth avoiding if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it to date.  Interestingly there is a scene in the trailer (the final one with the articulated lorry on the country road) that – unless I nodded off… unlikely! – doesn’t appear in the final film.  I’ve no idea how it would have fitted into the story! 

Spoiler section!  (Don’t read before seeing the movie!)

So there are a few elements of the plot which didn’t gel particularly well for me. 

To start with, why exactly is Hunt (as Lark) paid the HUGE sum of a third of the plutonium for merely seeming to monitor a previously fully planned extraction?  This makes no sense to me whatsoever.   And the old McGuffin of a un-defusable nuclear device (remember “Goldfinger”!) is extended by having dual-linked bombs, but REALLY – if you were an international terrorist with the world’s best brains at your beck and call, would you really leave a loophole for Benji to find?  This element of the story felt extremely weak. 

While we did witness the demise of one member of the “iron team”, it would have been braver to have delivered the jolt of a more high profile kill-off.  The script felt a little “safe” at times.  

Hats off though to the destruction of Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca:  I didn’t see that coming (after Red Square’s destruction, anything might be possible!)  or indeed fully predict the twist that followed!  

It was nice also that the reveal of the, rather obvious, ‘inside man’ was not dramatically drawn out… the audience was brought into this secret early, which was an intelligent move.  

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