Ethan Hunt never makes things look easy. Whether he's dangling in a hardness from a cord, catching his beads of sweat, leaping across skyscraper tops or jump-kicking his way through helicopter windows, he tends to take the tougher route whenever possible.
Like a wide receiver who stutter-steps just so he can dive to catch a pass or a baserunner who unnecessarily dives into a base, the iconic agent played countless times by Tom Cruise would rather make things look good than easy.
Cruise certainly puts the "fall" into "Mission: Impossible Fallout," tumbling through the overly complicated globe-skipping action flick as though he's collecting punches on the Break A Bone On Every Continent Rewards Card. Outrageous, dumb and silly at every turn, it's just the breezy summer romp that fans of this sort of stuff desire.
What's most important is that Cruise and his fellow castmembers seem to be having fun, even though the stuff that they're dealing with is purportedly serious.
Sure, Ethan, his reluctant partner, Superman With a Mustache (Henry Cavill) and sidekicks played by Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg are tenaciously trying to stop terrorists from nuking Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca, but they go at it with the joyful vigor of buddies working a shopping mall escape room.
As they shout at one another, tear off latex masks, shoot faceless baddies and track down stolen equipment, they eye one another with the understanding that afterward they will go pick up a lemonade and Cinnabon.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, who has become Cruise's go-to director over the period of two films each in the "Mission: Impossible" and "Jack Reacher" franchises, orders his actors and effects maestros around with the whimsy of an 8-year-old playing Legos. No moment is dull, neither is one comprehensible.
The point is not to solve the problems the characters face, but to add more and more excuses for them to race around in exotic locales and punch enemies through bathroom walls.
Comparing the new movie to the others in the "Mission: Impossible" oeuvre is impossible, because they are collectively such a blur that the truly impossible mission is to remember who did what in which film. That's just as well, because the formula remains static.
Ethan is always double-crossed by his bosses and those he considers allies, but always smarter and tougher enough than those who wrong them so he can end up with the upper hand. You get the feeling that if Ethan wasn't betrayed, he would sulk in the corner, disappointed that he has nothing to do other than play Candy Crush.
Like agents who cash paychecks from both the black and white hats, "Mission: Impossible Fallout" works double duty. Those who take it deadly serious will flinch and lean forward when called upon to do so. Those who want to laugh at the absurdity of it all will go with friends and chuckle their way through.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep going to these things until Cruise gets tired of making them. Judging from the exuberance in this outing, that day isn't coming any time soon.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4