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For a moment there, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise appeared to be getting a little long in the tooth. This was perhaps a decade ago, between the third and fourth films, when audiences weren’t sure whether they were dealing with a trilogy or an open-ended series. Its star, Tom Cruise, was being a little too emphatic about his Scientology convictions in public. He had made a brilliant, self-effacing cameo in “Tropic Thunder,” showing up in a fat suit and a bald cap, then retreated in the other direction in real life via a series of unconvincing age-defying procedures, as if refusing to let go of his image as an eternal twentysomething. All signs pointed to it being time for Impossible Mission Force operative Ethan Hunt to gracefully retire.
How lucky for us that he didn’t. Not only have the films gotten better since, with each one surpassing the last as the most exciting and ambitious of the lot, but Hunt himself has acquired a gravitas along the way that distinguishes the series from its most obvious inspiration, the James Bond movies of the 1960s, back when Sean Connery was that franchise’s first and only star. Now playing to an audience who’s forgotten (if it ever realized) that these films were inspired by a knockoff TV series from the same era, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” isn’t just another stunt-driven save-the-world bonanza. Of course, it is that, offering a whirlwind tour of Paris, London, and Kashmir this time around, but writer-director Christopher McQuarrie — on board for more, after making slick work of the previous movie, “Rogue Nation” — smartly ties this sixth installment back into what has come before. This time, it really is personal.
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