Mission: Impossible – Fallout Cert: 12A 2hrs 27mins
Tom Cruise may be 56 and not look entirely like Tom Cruise any more – don’t worry, Tom, I’m sure it’s just a trick of the lighting – but he can still churn out a cracking action-thriller, as the latest instalment from the apparently endless Mission: Impossible franchise (now 22 years and six films old) shows.
With three spectacular chase sequences – the best and funniest of which takes place in London – and some top-notch female casting, it’s the best Mission: Impossible film since… well, since the last one, because that was very good too.
The masterstroke, however, is the belated introduction of some continuity to the series, each instalment of which has hitherto stood pretty much alone. Not only is Mission: Impossible – Fallout effectively a sequel to 2015’s Rogue Nation, but a key character, last seen in 2011, makes an emotional return to leaven the inevitable crash, bang, wallop and increasing silliness of the genuinely cliff-hanging finale.
Tom Cruise (above) certainly knows how to give a striking performance 22 years into the Mission: Impossible movies
Writer and director Christopher McQuarrie, who also made Rogue Nation and Jack Reacher with Cruise, has clearly established a good working relationship with the Hollywood star, who seems to be taking himself just a little less seriously these days.
It’s important not to take the plot of these things too seriously either, what with three missing spheres of weapons-grade plutonium, a shadowy group known as Apostles, the even shadowier figure of ‘John Lark’, and a woman known as the ‘White Widow’. Only Ethan Hunt (Cruise), head of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), feels at home in this sort of company.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) with Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, right) and August Walker (Henry Cavill, left)
The action is as peripatetic as ever, beginning in Berlin, where Ethan, Benji (the much improved Simon Pegg) and franchise original Luther (Ving Rhames) manage to lose the plutonium spheres, apparently because Ethan has never considered the famous philosophical dilemma: is it better to sacrifice one life if, in so doing, you save the lives of thousands of others?
I’d have thought that was basic international spy stuff. But put on the bullet-splattered spot, Ethan gets the answer wrong, which means he and the team can spend the next two-and-a-quarter hours trying to get them back and generally whizzing around Paris, London and somewhere mountainous on the India/China border.
Benji (Simon Pegg,left) and Luther (Ving Rhames,right) kick-start the action with Ethan in Berlin where they lose the plutonium spheres
Working out who the baddies and goodies are, however, has rarely been harder. Hunt, it turns out, might just be a baddie; Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), hitherto the IMF’s political nemesis, seems to have become a goodie; and as for the CIA, surely goodies to the core? Well, I don’t trust either head honcho Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) or the big muscly agent (Henry Cavill) she’s insisted comes along to keep the IMF in check.
As for Ilsa Faust (the excellent Rebecca Ferguson), the double agent who returns after Rogue Nation and who, in less enlightened times, I once described as ‘the best spy-candy since Eva Green in Casino Royale’, she changes sides more often than Benji changes facial prosthetics.
Ilsa Faust (above) makes a return from the previous Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation movie to play a double agent
But there’s no mistaking the terrorist and anarchist Solomon Lane, so splendidly played by Sean Harris. He was a villainous baddie in Rogue Nation and he stays a villainous baddie, albeit now in custody, in Fallout.
Vanessa Kirby makes an electrifying genre debut as the White Widow, managing to convey in just a few sizzling scenes that she is mad, bad and definitely dangerous to know. Yes, I know it slightly spoils things that she’s got the hots for a character played by an actor (Cruise) a mere 26 years her senior, but these things change slowly in Hollywood.
Vanessa Kirby (right) makes a great debut as White Widow, a dangerous force to be reckoned with. Despite her tough character, Widow certainly has a soft spot for Cruise’s character, Ethan
At times, McQuarrie’s plot does get a bit bogged down in the fine detail, but there’s so much to fit in. Rhames, who, along with Cruise is the only survivor from the 1996 original, is rewarded with more to do, a major character bows out and, of course, there’s that emotional return of a familiar face. But it’s the action sequences that franchise fans treasure. A motorbike chase in Paris seems to go on for ever; a rooftop London pursuit (in which Cruise broke an ankle – and, yes, that distinctly painful-looking footage is used) is both terrific and funny; and as for the helicopter chase in the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s got to be the best cinematic cliffhanger since… well, Cliffhanger in 1993. Enjoy!
Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation (U)
The Hotel Transylvania franchise has the sort of voice cast that other animated children’s films can only dream of – Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Mel Brooks, Steve Buscemi and, for the latest in the series, Kathryn Hahn – and yet it’s such a difficult franchise to warm to. I found Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation (U) ★★ loud, charmless and not very funny, although the first two films took more than $800 million at the global box office, so it’s clear not everyone agrees.
It’s easy to blame the problem on the central voice performance of Sandler as Dracula, who after centuries of evading assorted Van Helsings now runs a hotel in Transylvania and, as the new film begins, is very much in need of a holiday himself.
Count Dracula (left, voiced by Adam Sandler) and his family take a holiday on the luxurious Monster Cruise Ship
The character Sandler creates, however, is not someone you want to spend a lot of time with, and isn’t a patch on that other great mittel-European voice performance of recent cartoon years – Steve Carell’s Gru in the wonderful Despicable Me series.
But there’s another problem too, which is the essential wooliness of the basic idea. A hotel for vampires has a certain logic, and a hotel where other horror-film characters are also welcome (Frankenstein, The Mummy and Vlad the Impaler all feature) might work too.
But a hotel where all of the above are joined by a colourful but apparently random selection of spiky/blobby/tentacled monsters plucked from a child’s imagination just seems a bit lazy. It’s as if someone once told director and co-writer Genndy Tartakovsky that if he just makes it ‘zany’ it will work. But that’s not true – too zany and things simply become annoying.
Matters get complicated when Count Dracula (left) develops a crush on the ship’s captain, Ericka Van Helsing (middle, voiced by Kathryn Hahn), who repeatedly tries to assassinate Dracula
Which is what happens here as Dracula, daughter Mavis (Gomez), son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) and the rest of the Drac-pack depart on a monster cruise. The only thing I really warmed to was the visual depiction of the Bermuda Triangle, a vast three-sided hole in the ocean piled high with rusty shipwrecks. Everything else? Disappointing pretty much covers it.
The sick young patient in need of the blood transfusion that will save their life – only for it to be revealed that they have been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and cannot be given blood – has become something of a staple of television medical dramas such as Casualty. In Daniel Kokotajlo’s debut feature, Apostasy, however, this dreadful scenario gets a more thorough examination, resulting in a British drama that, while undeniably slow and bleakly awkward, is also as interesting as it is disturbing.
It also features three knockout performances from the actresses at the centre of events – the superb Siobhan Finneran, who plays the God-fearing and unbending matriarch Ivanna; Molly Wright (so good in TV’s The A Word) as Alex, who received blood as a baby and is therefore considered somehow tainted; and Sacha Parkinson, playing the elder sister whose illegitimate pregnancy will shake the family faith to its core.
What results is no fun at all but certainly leaves its mark.