“Mission Impossible: Fallout” is one of the best installments so far in the MI franchise. An alternate title might be “See Tom Run,” not to mention “Jump and Parachute and Freefall and Hang from an Airborne Helicopter.” Yes, Tom Cruise does all his own stunts; the man, at age 55, is in great shape and a serious death-defying-danger junkie, but we’re all the better for it. Christopher McQuarrie has written and directed this tightly constructed, technically challenging film in a way that keeps us on the edge of our seats the entire time. Just when you think they can’t possibly come up with one more nail-biting challenge for our hero to go through, that there’s no way they can top the last one, they do. Again. And then again.
Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, has become disillusioned with his treatment by the U.S. Intelligence community and wants no part of any further assignments. However, this time, the stakes are really high: A zealot named Lane (Sean Harris, truly creepy) has arranged the purchase of nuclear core devices that will destroy the Vatican, Jerusalem and Mecca. He aims to thrust the world into total chaos, out of which he plans to “start over.” How can Hunt turn this down? With his usual henchmen (played by Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, who adds humor to very tense situations), he embarks on the journey that will take him to Paris, London and Kashmir. Henry Cavill—of “Superman” fame and simply not very charismatic—plays a CIA hit man whom Cruise is forced to include on the team. A few scenes really stick in my memory: a three-way fight to the death in a lavish men’s room, a nail-biting car chase through the streets and alleyways of Paris, Hunt jumping off the roof of the Tate Museum. Bravo to the technical and location directors and the fine editing. “MI: Freefall” is sheer fun and, while it’s much longer than usual at two-and-a-half hours, it’s worth every tense moment.
“Things are seldom what they seem” according to a song in one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operettas. And so it is with season one of “The Sinner” (BBC America), which I binge-watched last week in preparation for the first episode of season two. In that first season we watched a young wife and mother (Jessica Biel) seemingly out of nowhere stab a man to death. There was no question as to who did it—we witnessed it. But after that, everything else was up for grabs. In eight episodes, what the show did well was to establish a running sense of dread, set up questions that got answered—sort of—but set up new questions, until even the finest mystery buffs had to be scratching their heads in confusion. Biel was quite good as the murderer, and so was Christopher Abbott as her husband. Bill Pullman is a master at playing men who are not comfortable with themselves, so the role of the troubled detective whose marriage was falling apart was perfect for him. What the show did not do well was all the police procedural stuff—for the sake of drama, there were gaping holes and just plain errors in what the police can and cannot do. It made the believability factor bothersome to me.
Season two begins with a bang. Again we have the murder—a 13-year-old boy seems to have poisoned his parents and, again, Pullman’s detective is called in on the case. The boy is played by Elisha Henig with a studied, intriguing quirkiness. I look forward to the rest of the season.
Finally, let me recommend a subtle thriller from Scotland, now streaming on Netflix, named “Calibre.” Two long-time friends on a hunting trip make a series of small decisions that lead to cataclysmic results—marvelous actors, characters who are all-too-human and an eerie town that seems to have no leadership at all.