Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Full Review)

The Mission: Impossible franchise has been one of the best in the spy genre for over twenty years. From Ethan Hunt dangling from a wire in the 1996 film to hanging from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai for 2011’s Ghost Protocol, the character has given us some of the most intense and jaw dropping action sequences in the genre. And just when I thought Tom Cruise’s stunts couldn’t get more outrageous… he ups the ante like never before for Mission: Impossible Fallout.

MI_–_FalloutFallout begins by placing IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his usual allies Benji (Simon Pegg), and Luther (Ving Rhames) on a mission to keep the last remnants of the terrorist organization, The Sindicate, from getting plutonium for nuclear weapons. When Hunt is forced to give up the plutonium for his friend’s life, the head of the IMF (Alec Baldwin), sends his team on a mission to meet with a shady arms dealer (Vanessa Kirby), in hopes of extracting and interrogating the leader of the Sindicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). But Hunt and his team aren’t alone this time. Determined to fix Hunt’s mistake, CIA head Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) sends her top agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) along for the ride.

The story can certainly get convoluted at times, especially for anyone who isn’t familiar with the franchise. It also doesn’t help that not all of the plot twists land. But story isn’t as important to these films as the obstacles for the protagonist. And Fallout has plenty of obstacles for Ethan Hunt. Tom Cruise brings his all and seems to operate with the sole mission to bring more incredible stunts to Fallout than any action film that came before it. And he absolutely succeeds. There is hardly a dull moment, with each action sequence bringing vigor whether it be via stakes or the captivating camera angles.

Director Christopher McQuarrie also manages to bring the same touch of character charm that was felt in Rogue Nation. It helps that Fallout brings back its best character from its predecessor. Rebecca Ferguson’s returns as the English double agent, Ilsa, with the same stunning femme fatale energy. The supporting characters, both old and new, all bring charisma and well timed comedic flare. Combining that with the sheer passionate, recklessness of both Tom Cruise and his character, means that while there might be better spy films and perhaps smarter Mission: Impossible movies, you’d be hard pressed to find one more entertaining than Fallout.

FINAL GRADE: A

Advertisements

The Mummy (2017) Full Review

Welcome to the age of cinematic universes. Marvel did it. DC is doing it. Even Lego has one going. And now Universal is trying to cash in on the action by using their old monster movies. The Brendan Frasier Mummy movies weren’t the greatest, but there is a fun 90’s camp feel to them that makes them enjoyable. Looking to launch their interconnected Dark Universe, The Mummy tosses Tom Cruise into the fold to reboot the series.

The_Mummy_(2017)Cruise stars as US soldier, Nick Morton, who scrambles around the middle east with his friend and fellow soldier (Jake Johnson) recovering artifacts from insurgents to sell on the black market. After stealing a map from an archaeologist (Annabelle Wallis), he inadvertently releases Princess Ahmanet, (Sofia Boutella), an evil mummy who wants to turn him into the god of death and unleash hell on earth. Oh yeah… and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde ‘cause cinematic universe and stuff.

The movie certainly earns points for some solid special effects and a few successful jump scares, but it’s hard to ignore how out of place everything is. Tom Cruise has never been one for slapstick humor, and this movie is full of zany jokes that would work best if Brendan Frasier were the one leading the charge. Instead, this movie switches between horror and campy action adventure, never truly settling on a correct tone and fading into a failed attempt to be what it thinks audiences want to see in a summer blockbuster.

Cruise is also not the only one out of his element. Russell Crowe is useless, to both the plot and as a casting choice and Annabelle Wallis’ Dr. Halsey is dull and unoriginal. And if the meandering story and unnecessary easter eggs don’t make it completely obvious that this movie is designed to set up spinoffs and sequels, the somewhat inexplicable ending does its best to shove that concept as far down your throat as possible. There are worse films to watch, even in the Mummy franchise (Scorpion King anyone?), but this Mummy reboot is just a soulless attempt to cash in on the hottest Hollywood trend without actually doing anything to make you care about any of it.

FINAL GRADE: D

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (Full Review)

Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation_posterThere’s nothing like a good spy movie. Fist fights, car chases, gadgets, and a cool, charismatic lead to bring it all together. Since it was first adapted from a 1960’s television series in 1996, the Mission: Impossible film franchise has been one of the best in the genre thanks to great stories, greater action sequences, and a strong lead in veteran action star Tom Cruise. As one of my personal favorites genres, I was more than excited to see if the newest installment could continue the franchise’s upward momentum created by 2011’s stellar Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.

Mission: Impossible has become a de facto American James Bond franchise with every film offering up a different female lead and sinister villain. But Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is always the glue that holds the films together. Hunt is no James Bond and his recklessness and unpolished nature are always what add tension to these films. This time around his chaotic methods have caught up to him and he and the rest of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). While CIA head Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) seeks to find him and shut him down, Ethan goes rogue and searches for a secret terrorist organization that seems to know his every move.

From a narrative standpoint, Director Christopher McQuarrie’s film doesn’t quite flow as well as Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol or reach the tension of J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III. But in McQuarrie’s defense, the plot of Rogue Nation isn’t as interesting as Ghost Protocol’s nor are the stakes as high as they are in M:I 3. Where this film tops its predecessors however, is in its characters. As always, Simon Pegg is witty, comedic gold as tech expert, Benji. Other returning characters, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) are at their suave, snarky best throughout. Sean Harris also provides a worthy adversary as Solomon Lane, although that is probably attributed to the script rather than Harris’ actual performance.

But the character who undoubtedly steals the show is Rebecca Ferguoson as double agent, Ilsa Foust. There are femme fatales, and then there’s Ilsa. Ferguson caries out each scene with a calm, collected swagger that is both sexy and menacing. She not only holds her own around Cruise, but after the credits role you may find yourself wishing for her character to get her own set of on-screen adventures. Ilsa is not only the best female role in a Mission: Impossible movie, she may very well be the most exhilarating female lead in any spy movie to date.

The fights, chases, and gadgets are all incredible although the action sequences in the film never top the Burj Khalifa scene in Ghost Protocol. Several scenes, including a motorcycle chase and an underwater heist, certainly come close. It’s amazing that almost 20 years after the film franchise began, the films are getting more and more interesting. Sure, the spy genre can certainly be a bit monotonous and their stories convoluted, but Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is proof that as long as you’ve got good action and interesting characters, we don’t mind sequel after sequel. You’re move 007.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Edge of Tomorrow Full Review

Have you ever played a fun video game that is really difficult? It makes you frustrated, so much so, that you almost think about giving up on it. But as soon as you turn away, it pulls you back, because it’s simply that exhilarating. That, my friends, is Edge of Tomorrow.

edge-tomorrow-bannerIf there’s one thing we know about Tom Cruise, it’s that he is capable of pulling off the action/sci-fi film (see Oblivion), sometimes with flying colors (see Minority Report). Cruise has a way of portraying genuine valor in characters that few actors can match. So he is the perfect fit to play Major William Cage, a weasely coward who must become a masterfully heroic soldier after he is unexpectedly thrust into a battle front against an invading alien race.

But Edge of Tomorrow (based off of the Japanese graphic novel All You Need is Kill) is not your average man vs. aliens war epic. In this film, the hero is forced to live the same day over and over again following his death on the battlefield. Think Groundhog’s Day meets Independence Day. Emily Blunt plays Rita aka “The Angel of Verdun” or the “Full Metal Bitch”, a worldwide heroine who used the same power to capture a previous victory over the invading alien race known as mimics. Once discovering Cage’s power, the two must join forces, and experience a LOT of deaths, in order to learn from mistakes and turn the tides against the time shifting alien enemy.

The unique plot of course leads to a unique narrative, where scenes are lived over and over again. Early on, the redundancy can be as annoying to the audience as it is to Cruise’s William Cage, because it feels as if the story isn’t progressing. But where the film gets most interesting is when, following a montage of Cage’s deaths and redo’s, we no longer can tell if he’s been through the events or not. Cruise and Blunt make everything work. She is earnest, tough, and noble. Cruise soundly exhibits the fear and utter hopelessness that comes with the sense of an inevitable fate.

But their performances aren’t the only reason the film triumphs. The supporting soldiers, named the ‘J’ Squad by Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton), is colorful and humorous. The Mimics themselves, massive metallic octopus-like creatures that move like rapid spiders, are perhaps the most visually daunting aliens I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi battle film. Some of it may be confusing, the beginning may be a bit clustered and rushed, and the ending may be a bit too happily ever after (at least for my taste). But the meat of the movie, aka the main course, is as vibrant and invigorating as any science fiction film.

FINAL GRADE: B+