MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT. Whether or not we need more missions impossible remains the subject of debate. Despite the retention of stars Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames, and the audacity to weather two decades and produce six (!) installments, the franchise exists primarily to outdo the other tent-poles with stunt sequences and gadgetry. And, of course, to wring as much cash as possible from the ever-more joyless, obedient consumer marketplace. Or so I thought, partly because even as Fallout spoon-fed me some exposition, I wasn't sure if I'd seen its predecessor Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) and had to go back to the archives to confirm my recollection of a cliffside motorcycle chase. While it was the only aspect that had stood out mere hours after watching the movie, the chase stayed with me years on, so points for that. More importantly, Rogue Nation's story is an over-complicated muddle that plot-twists itself out of resonance.
A generous viewer could let it slide with the justification that, based on a television show, Mission: Impossible movies should be episodic and their vague narrative through-lines should be adequate. Fair enough, but Rogue Nation wandered so far afield that I came to Fallout needing to be completely reintroduced to the world of intrigue and defiance of death inhabited by Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the rest of his globe-trotting IMF crew.
Perhaps all the better, because this time around returning writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, while raising the bar for chase and stunt choreography, has leaned out the story, making it lithe and nimble. In spite of its many and lavish locations, Fallout moves along on a narrative as fleet and compact as its star.
Sleeping uneasily in Belfast, Hunt dreams of past mistakes. He's awakened by the delivery of a new mission, should he choose to accept it. Some weapons grade plutonium is in play and a sinister anarcho-cult called the Apostles — they use an awful lot of religious iconography, which strikes me as problematic, but no matter — want it to foment dissolution of the existing global power structure. IMF all-stars Hunt, Luther (Rhames) and the long-suffering Benji (Simon Pegg) are dispatched to wear good suits and buy the stuff from some black-market baddies. The hand-off goes sideways, Hunt refuses to sacrifice one of his team in service of the mission, and they're off and running. And jumping, and helicopter flying, and car chasing, and motorcycle crashing, etc.
As ever, the plot's not really the thing here but Fallout plays more coherently than expected. It also unifies a surprisingly well-crafted visual style (the lighting by director of photography Rob Hardy is exquisite) with perfectly paced, ever-more exciting action sequences. (In one early example, a nearly disastrous high-altitude jump transitions almost immediately into a bone-splintering fistfight in the men's room of a cavernous nightclub; action fans will have to work to suppress grins).
Low expectations aside, it's an engaging, well-executed movie, taken on its own merits, and probably the best of the franchise. PG13. 147M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT. While watching, it occurred to me that I hadn't checked in with a Gus Van Sant movie since Milk (2008) 10 years ago. The passage of time is a real bummer. But maybe that realization, along with the memory of the empathy and togetherness with which that earlier work was infused, was just the right thing. Don't Worry exists in a similar cinematic space: a warm-grained recreated past where a life examined, with its flaws and tragedies and little triumphs, becomes the stuff of art.
John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix), a self-described gomer from The Dalles, Oregon, has decamped to 1970s Los Angeles seeking sun and fun and better babes. But he's more often stuck in the bottom of a bottle, a state that before long turns him quadriplegic. Relocating to Portland, he works to establish an identity apart from booze in a world of diminished capacity. The beautiful, warm-hearted Annu (Rooney Mara) serves as a sort of savior and intimate companion, but her work takes her away for long stretches at a time. So John makes his way into "the rooms," drawn almost immediately into the sphere of Donnie (Jonah Hill), who, fey, imperious and cribbing Gregg Allman's look, makes a quasi-profession of sponsoring fellow alcoholics and hosting group meetings in his lavish ancestral home. Eventually John manages to channel all his anger and pathos and bent humor into a career as cartoonist of some renown.
Based on the real-life Callahan's autobiography, Don't Worry is equally the story of one man's navigation of his life and of the process of recovery, the growth and empathy required to face down the justifications, excuses and fallout that are all part of surviving addiction. R. 114M. MINOR.
— John J. Bennett
See listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Pooh gets real with Ewan McGregor as the boy from the books. PG. 104M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
CUSTODY. French drama about an abuser (Denis Ménochet) who gains access to the family he terrorized. Starring Léa Drucker. 93M. MINOR.
THE DARKEST MINDS. Teens with special powers revolt against the olds who want them locked up. Starring Amandla Stenberg and Mandy Moore. PG13. 105M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
EIGHTH GRADE. Elsie Fisher plays a girl hanging on in the last weeks of junior high and all its attending disasters. Warning: This looks almost as mortifying as I remember adolescence being. R. 93M. BROADWAY.
THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME. Mila Kunis lives all our dreams by running around Europe with Kate McKinnon. OK, they're also chased by spies but that would still be totally worth it. R. 116M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS. Documentary about separated triplets who meet as adults and learn of their dark family history. PG13. 147M. MINIPLEX.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1982). Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, James Hong and Victor Wong get weird in Chinatown. PG. 99M. BROADWAY.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Tiny Paul Rudd tackles big problems with his new, flying partner (Evangeline Lilly). A less portentous Marvel movie than we›ve seen of late. PG-13. 125M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
EQUALIZER 2. Denzel Washington kicks some ass in what appears to be a #MeToo inspired subplot spoiled by the trailer. We'll take it. R. 121M. FORTUNA.
HOTEL TRANSLYVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION. Dracula and his posse try to unwind with a cruise. What›s the worst that could happen? PG. 97m. BROADWAY.
THE INCREDIBLES 2. This fun, clever and funny sequel is worth the wait, with the returning cast and the right villains for our times. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter. PG. 118m. BROADWAY.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Nodding to its predecessors and balancing humor, horror and heart, this dino sequel is more than a big, dumb blockbuster. PG-13. 128m. BROADWAY.
LEAVE NO TRACE. Debra Granik, writer and director of Winter's Bone, delivers another quality indie, this one about a father and his daughter whose life living rough in the Pacific Northwest is interrupted by the mixed blessing of social services. PG. 119M. MINOR.
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN. A fun jaunt to Greece with Cher, Meryl Streep, a whopping 16 ABBA numbers, a wedding, reunited octogenarian soulmates, unplanned pregnancies and Pierce Brosnan unfortunately singing again. PG13. 114M. BROADWAY. MILL CREEK.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. Boots Riley's trippy film about a reluctant telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) dragged into corporate malfeasance is a gorgeous, imperfect, singular work of visual poetry. With Tessa Thompson and Steven Yeun. R. 105M. BROADWAY, MINOR.
TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES. DC's animated superhero B-team battles a villain for their own Hollywood feature. PG. 93M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill and Linda Stansberry