To ask the question on everyone’s mind: Are we really supposed to care about a new Mission Impossible movie without the return of Jeremy Renner as everyone’s favorite character, um, I want to say…Hawkeye? Renner jokes aside, although everyone should always stop to make those, the most ridiculous stunt involving this series is that it has somehow existed for 22 years.

Understandably, that longevity has bought the latest film, Mission Impossible: Fallout, some measure of forgiveness for its hubris in assuming we actually retain plot points after these films are over. Self-important and impossibly troubling to anyone who remembers how Tom Cruise has (allegedly) treated women in real life, Fallout is ultimately a pretty fun watch, even if it does feel like an uncomfortably long passionate kiss slurped on the lips of practical stuntwork.

Despite a distinct lack of tinkering or tailoring, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s LeCarre ambitions bloat what should have been a kinetic MacGuffin chase. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is tracking down three plutonium shotputs before bad guys can nuke stuff with them. Somehow that singular sentence is stretched into 150 minutes, the best of which see Henry Cavill, a punchable meatsack, getting walloped in his infamous mustache.

Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) are back to soak up more screen time without offering a single modicum of actual character. Over the course of a half-dozen movies, all we know is that Luther often wears hats and Benji is almost funny sometimes. The series has become this monolithic memorial to the integrity and sacrifice of Ethan Hunt, who is a lucky idiot that makes bad choices like that was his real accepted mission.

Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns from the last film and immediately betrays her country and her own well-being because she is powerless before Ethan’s puffy-faced running. The love of Ethan’s life, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), whom he abandoned because his boner belongs to freedom before all else, appears to seemingly reassure audiences that her life as a woman only has meaning through Ethan’s context.

Thankfully, the execution of preposterous stunts is feverishly meticulous, with layered components that feel like glorious Rube Goldberg machines of death. Have you seen two helicopters slap-fight before? What about fisticuffs that use bathroom plumbing parts as deadly weapons? In all seriousness, Fallout could have been a silent film and been legitimately better than the version that exists with “Oops! All Berries!” amounts of exposition.

To the franchise’s credit, it appears they are setting Angela Bassett up as Ethan’s new handler, they have wisely figured out how using a recurring bad guy saves hand-wringing villain origin screen time and the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) is exactly the sort of minor player that could help make Mission Impossible’s next 22 years more fun. Just please remember in the future that when your target demo is men who are likely keeping an eye on their prostatic lab work, maybe pare things down until it’s just the “oohs,” “ahs” and “oh nos?”

Grade = B-

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