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MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6: Another win for Tom Terrific

“Mission: Impossible - Fallout” has three things going for it: Chris McQuarrie’s script, and Tom Cruise’s testicles.

Mind you, those last two items do not make an actual appearance in the film; no, I refer instead to Cruise’s jaw-dropping guts and testosterone, so boldly on display throughout this terrific new thriller.

I doubt any other actor has ever undertaken so many of his own stunts -- or such appallingly dangerous ones. At the ripe old age of 55, no less.

Hanging from a helicopter. Piloting a helicopter. Climbing a vertiginous granite cliff -- bare-handed. Flying through the air. Running like a World Cup soccer star. Racing a motorcycle against traffic in one of those crazy London roundabouts.

Cruise does it all -- with very little apparent help. And there’s much to be said for the visceral reality of these scenes, where backdrops leap off the screen with bracing clarity -- rather than the frequent fuzzy fakeness of computer-generated images.

Many of these stunts come together in one of the finest action finales ever filmed; yet most of “Fallout” is not especially over the top. Rather than the usual constant chaos, noise and debris -- in which every new blockbuster seeks to outdo predecessors in defying physics and assaulting viewers -- “Fallout” focuses on snappy dialog, cagey relationships and a smart, twisty plot. Among other things, McQuarrie frontlines the question of how much loyalty is owed to individual friends when millions of other lives are at stake.

Indeed, McQuarrie -- who also directed this film -- seems equally adept at fast, crisp action and solid scripting, with twists so slick that you just keep smiling and thinking, “I really should have seen that coming!”

For this well-reviewed sixth entry in the long-running franchise, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Missions Force are racing terrorists to a plutonium cache. The ever-capable Cruise is well supported by IMF cohorts Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Rebecca Ferguson, with similarly excellent work from franchise newcomer Henry Cavill as a CIA operative. I feel that Cavill -- the current screen Superman -- really comes into his own in this film, finally getting a role he can sink his teeth into.

As for that climax: It deftly interweaves three or four parallel plots as our gang works to defuse a fiendishly designed pair of nuclear bombs; it’s wild and hairy, yet somehow never gets totally out of hand. Maybe Eddie Hamilton’s sensational editing will finally end the drought of Oscar noms for this popular 22-year-old series. And if there were an award for onscreen courage and cojones, Cruise would get it hands-down.

I often scan closing credits, and this time the name Mick Hurrell caught my eye -- a fellow listed as “health and safety supervisor” on this film.

I strongly suspect he was underpaid.

“Mission: Impossible - Fallout,”

written & directed by Christopher McQuarrie

* * * 1/2 (out of four)

Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language

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