The Summer of Echoes continues in surprising fashion: who woulda thunk that the much-lauded Mission: Impossible series would trot out so many of the same elements as the rather less-lauded Fast & Furious franchise — specifically, Fast X? Where to start, besides a lengthy runtime and a half-finished story? How about the return of a villain from our hero’s past, a villain who delights in causing suffering even more than he delights in killing? And in both cases, he’s portentously presented as the satanic opposite to our sainted hero — Fast X’s baddie gets called “the Devil” and taunts his opposite, “Saint Dominic,” while MI:DR:P1 gives us a “Dark Messiah” going up against Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, who must not only save the world, but must do while "bearing his particular cross." Then there’s the extended car chase through Rome — but perhaps that’s just de rigueur at this point. And the climactic explosion isn’t quite the same; just similar. What’s perhaps most troublesome is the dramatic fatigue indicated by going meta: Fast X acknowledged the series' cheerful rejection of the laws of physics, while here, we get an extended exchange on the absurdity of a rogue super-agent who is offered missions that he may or may not choose to accept. (All because he was once a bad boy who was offered “a choice” — make sure you pronounce it with sufficient gravitas and grandeur!) Cruise the stuntman is reliably spectacular here, but Cruise the actor seems a bit scattered, perhaps because he has two women to care about this time ‘round, and an enemy who is more machine than man. And Hunt the character? He fails personally when it counts, but suffers not a single consequence because of it. Sigh. As for director Christopher McQuarrie, he relies a bit too much on hey presto sleight of hand, and the pleasing jolt of watching marbles in a maze careen off one another in precise fashion to reach the desired end. (2023) — Matthew Lickona
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