Mission: Impossible – Fallout (12A) ****
Apostasy (15) ****
Hotel Transylvania 3 (PG) *
Nobody runs like Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible movie. The man is like a steam train at full speed, his rigid arms and legs pumping like pistons as he tears down back alleys, tears after moving vehicles or tears across rooftops, seldom pausing before leaping between hideously high buildings. Along with self-destructing analogue messages, goofy rubber masks and real-world stunts performed by the Cruiser himself, his running style has become emblematic of this now 22-year-old franchise, oddly symbolic of its durability as an ongoing blockbuster concern in an age of superhero movies. Judging from Misson: Impossible - Fallout, there’s certainly no danger of the films or Cruise running out of puff anytime soon. Indeed, this sixth outing for Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his disaster averting/disaster causing Impossible Missions Force is up there with JJ Abrams’s Mission: Impossible III as a contender for the best of the bunch.
Once again written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the new film loops back to that third outing to tie off a storyline that began with Hunt’s marriage to Michelle Monaghan’s Julia while also simultaneously picking up where the previous film, Rogue Nation left off. That does mean that the first half hour forces you to play catch-up with an overarching mythology that’s never been all that memorable. But if it’s become one of the unintentional jokes of the series that following the plots of these films can be an impossible mission in its own right, McQuarrie steps things up by transforming Fallout into an exercise in pure blockbuster cinema.
As Hunt finds himself traversing the globe on a mission to retrieve some stolen plutonium – plutonium that is now in the hands of an arms dealer because Hunt refused to sacrifice his team on an earlier mission to get it out of circulation – McQuarrie uses the expansive (and expensive) set-pieces not to distract us from the absence of great dialogue or a more nuanced narrative, but to engage us with the characters and their dilemmas. Letting the beautifully executed action dictate the story, he delights in the rug-pulling reveals the series affords him and offsets any trickery with action choreography that respects both the spatial geography of the scenes and the actual geography of the cities in which those scenes are set.
That negates the need to cut the action to ribbons in the editing room or blow things up for the sake of it. There’s a purpose to every foot or car or motorbike chase and it’s a joy to see scenes set across busy parts of London or Paris unfurl in ways that seem plausible. The action is pretty meaty too. A dust-up in a pristine Parisian nightclub toilet involving Cruise, the Chinese actor Liang Yang and Henry Cavill – cast here as a CIA assassin assigned to keep tabs on Hunt – is brutal in its proficiency and it’s a smart move to bring back Rebecca Ferguson as the British version of Hunt: she saves his bacon on more than one occasion and has an agenda of her own that adds additional intrigue to a story that flirts with the notion that all this secret undercover world-saving work might have taken its psychological toll on Hunt.
On the downside, it’s still mission impossible to watch Simon Pegg’s schtick and not groan a little, but even he’s not as annoying as he used to be (he’s effectively become the C-3PO of the series, which is a step up from being its Jar Jar Binks). What’s really surprising, though, is that the relentless spectacle never gets tiring. McQuarrie and Cruise save the best for last with a visually jaw-dropping finale set in Kashmir. Replete with nuclear bombs, a literal ticking clock and Cruise hanging off the side of a rock face, it brings the whole ludicrous race-against-time plot to a head in suitably breathless fashion. It’s the blockbuster of the summer.
The debut feature from British director Daniel Kokotajlo, Apostasy draws on Kokotajlo’s own experiences as a former Jehovah’s Witness to lend a harrowing sense of authenticity to this story about a devout mother and her teenage daughters’ conflicted relationship with their faith. Set in Oldham, the film is initially told from the perspective of youngest daughter Alex (Molly Wright), whose guilt over receiving a life-saving blood transfusion as a child has made her more committed to Jehovah than her more headstrong sister Louisa, who is at college and has already started seriously questioning their upbringing when she falls pregnant to a non-believer, a situation that results in her being “disfellowshipped”.
Little by little the film, which Kokotajlo strips free of melodrama, zeroes in on their mother, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran), whose unwavering commitment to her own beliefs are severely tested when further tragedy strikes and she finds herself increasingly isolated within the order’s patriarchal structure. Respectful yet sharply critical, the film’s specificity about a world rarely seen on screen is gripping, but it’s the silent pain of Finneran’s performance as the fissures start to appear in Ivanna’s life that linger longest.
Nothing lingers after watching Hotel Transylvania 3: Monster Vacation. Once again featuring the vocal stylings of Adam Sandler as Dracula, this one sees him going on a summer cruise with his family and falling for the great-granddaughter of age-old vampire hunter Van Helsing. There are better ways for your kids to pass the time over the school holidays.