Cinema Dispatch: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Is it just me, or does it feel like a REALLY long time since the last one?  I don’t remember much about Rogue Nation except that I didn’t particularly like it (mostly due to how much I DID like Ghost Protocol), but that’s all in the past!  It’s time for Ethan Hun to go on a NEW mission and prove once again that Tom Cruise is a box office draw!  Well… most of the time at least (*cough* The Mummy *cough*), but hey!  At least they brought Superman in for this adventure!  This movie by the way is the reason Henry Cavill couldn’t shave his facial hair for the Justice League reshoots which led to the weird CG face issues, so if nothing else this movie deserves SOME credit for making that movie that much more hilarious!  Does this franchise manage to keep the momentum going for one more outing, or is the impossible mission now to keep audiences interest for yet entry?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) receiving a mission that, should he choose to accept it, could save the entire world for at least the sixth time but that the US government would obviously disavow if he got caught or murdered.  You know, you’d think that there might be some underlying geopolitical issues that could use some resolving if the US Government had to constantly send this dude on impossible missions that they couldn’t POSSIBLY claim to be a party to, but I guess a stable foreign policy doesn’t make for a particularly interesting spy film.  Anyway, it turns out that Solomon Lane (Same Harris) from the LAST movie had a whole bunch of followers known as THE APOSTLES who are wreaking hell all over the world and even created an outbreak of Smallpox in Kashmir seemingly for shits and giggles.  Their biggest plan yet is to get their hands on stolen Plutonium so they can make nuclear bombs, and while Ethan gets REALLY close to recovering them he ends up dropping the ball when his teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) almost get caught in the crossfire.  Determined to fix his mistakes, he’s assigned to go after a black market merchant known as THE WHITE WIDOW (Vanessa Kirby) who can broker a deal between the Apostles and a world famous terrorist that Ethan will pretend to be for the Plutonium.  Get Solomon Lane out of jail, and he gets the Plutonium.  Complicating matters are the Director of the CIA Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) and her right hand man August (Henry Cavill) who don’t trust Ethan not to screw this up again, and even Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who’s back in the picture but is once again not easily classified as a friend or foe in this situation.  Will Ethan be able to get the Plutonium back before the Apostles blow the heck out of city and start World War III?  Can Ethan just hand over such a dangerous terrorist in order to stop nuclear war, or could Solomon be planning something even worse?  Just how many ridiculous stunts can they convince Tom Cruise to do by telling him how youthful it makes him look!?

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“Let’s get his clone on standby just in case.  YOU’RE DOING GREAT, TOM!!”

Looking back I MIGHT have been a bit too harsh on that last Mission Impossible movie because while this one is a MARKED improvement over the last one, they’re really all just the same at this point.  The problems I had with the last one are present and accounted for here, yet I just didn’t get bothered by them as much.  Yeah, Tom Cruise is the focal point to the detriment of everything else and the action scenes go on far too long.  Fine, the story is still a hodgepodge of spy clichés that fails to do much with its female characters.  All very valid points, but the formula just worked better here and the addition of Henry Cavill didn’t hurt it either.

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“MY BEARD GIVES ME STRENGTH!!”

First THING you should know before going into it is that this VERY directly follows the events of the last film for, at least as far as I can tell, no particular reason.  For someone like me who only saw the movie once when it first came out, this can be pretty darn jarring as the film goes on and on about people you don’t remember who look VERY different now, and the movie is coy with a lot of details.  I won’t harp on it too much because the solution to that problem is to simply watch the previous film and there’s no reason this film should have been any longer just to throw in some flashbacks or extra exposition scenes, but you might want to brush up on your MISSION IMPOSSIBLE LORE before going into it; especially if you don’t remember who Solomon Lane is or what Rebecca Fergusons’s deal was last time around.  Then again, does it really matter?  I don’t want to sound TOO dismissive here, but the plot has rarely been the most important aspect of these movies as they work best as spectacle set pieces linked together by a loosely connected story.  Then again, putting too much effort in things that either don’t matter or should be trimmed down significantly is more or less the bane of this franchise, so it kind of makes sense that they’re going so hard on CONTINUITY this time around.

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“Looks like I’ve been upgraded from ‘Sir Not Appearing in this Movie’ to ‘Sir SOMETIMES Appearing in this Movie’!  Take THAT, Jeremy Renner!”

I’m sure there are plenty of viewers out there who can just sit back and enjoy this movie’s egregiously long run time from beginning to end, but I just couldn’t get over how flabby the whole thing was.  Now sure the movies have always taken REALLY long and elaborate routes in order to accomplish seemingly simple tasks, but this time around they just didn’t know when to quit.  There are three big action scenes in this movie that could have been cut down considerably; not because any given shot in them is BAD, but because they don’t really escalate or evolve past a certain point and just feel repetitive by the time we’re only halfway done with them.  The scene in Paris with Tom Cruise on the motorcycle is FANTASTIC and I wish that it stopped right there, but we get another ten minutes of very similar set pieces that just bring the whole movie to a screeching halt; and that’s not even getting into the ridiculously extended and helicopter scene which felt like it would never end!  And the thing is that all this bloat takes up time that should have been used to flesh out the story!  The movie keeps referencing THE APOSTLES (who are TOTALLY not THE SYNDICATE!), yet as far as I can tell they never ACTUALLY show up in the movie.  I think the TWIST bad guy might be one (because there’s ALWAYS one of those), but you’d think that the kind of scheme they and Solomon Lane are running should have had a few dozen more henchmen on hand to make sure it runs smoothly; especially when the first half of the movie painstaking sets them up over and over again!  Vanessa Kirby is in this for a good chunk of the movie and even sets up a major conflict between Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson, but that just ends up going nowhere and she’s out of the movie without any resolution; neither is her brother who gets plenty of those menacing stare close ups that all amount to nothing.  But sure, Ethan needs to fly a helicopter that’s on fire for another twenty minutes.  You know what else would have been nice?  If Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames had something to do in this other than admire Ethan Hunt’s ability to run towards things.  Okay fine, Simon Pegg is probably not hitting the gym every day for six hours and I’m sure Ving Rhames had it in his contract that he would only be required to sit or stand during the production (the dude crosses maybe two rooms in the entire film), but it’s starting to get old just how much of this is the TOM CRUISE SHOW STARRING TOM CRUISE AND MAYBE HIS FRIENDS BUT MOSTLY TOM CRUISE.  It has the same problem that John “The Dwayne” Johnson had in Skyscraper where there are HINTS of character depth but they pull back from it to make our hero unambiguously good.  The scene at the beginning where Ethan loses the Plutonium would have been a PERFECT opportunity to see what it would take for him to intentionally make a bad call, but then he doesn’t and the loss of the Plutonium is pretty much outside of his control or at least outside of what he intended.  Heck, there’s a dream sequence in here that shows the kind of spy thriller edginess that this movie wouldn’t dare actually go towards which kind of makes it funny that they literally make it a fantasy in this; though it still only calls to attention how toothless so much of the spy work in this movie ultimately is.  I don’t need Ethan Hunt to turn into Jack Bauer or for him to be the blunt instrument of destruction that characterizes Craig’s run as James Bond, but it’d be nice if there was SOMETHING there to make him feel the least bit human!  For crying out loud, the dude STILL looks the same age when this franchise started back in the nineties!  You couldn’t even FAKE giving him some gray hairs to make him the tiniest bit breakable!?

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“Death can’t catch me if I keep running!  Death can’t catch me if I keep running!  Death can’t catch me if I keep running!”

Now despite my issues with this film, I do genuinely like it much more than Rogue Nation (even if it’s not quite up there with Ghost Protocol), and honestly a lot of that has to do with Henry Cavill as THE NEW GUY; replacing Jeremy Renner as the last NEW GUY.  Seriously, can we just get that guy to play in spy movies from now on?  With this and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it REALLY seems like he’s wasting his potential trying to play Superman and the sooner he gets put in a James Bond movie, the better!  He’s got so much charm in this movie and the film does a good job of giving him a genuinely menacing presence as he knows how to mess a guy up REALLY efficiently which makes for some rather hilarious moments throughout.  I thought the movie played its hand a bit too early with this guy considering certain actions he takes early on; not so much story clues as they are heavy handed attempts to frame this guy a certain way to prepare you EMOTIONALLY for what happens later, like how someone saying they’re two days from retirement doesn’t mean in the story, but it prepares you for the dramatic irony when something bad happens anyway.  Even so, he manages to be a great addition to this franchise and does a fair job of stealing a smidge of the spotlight away from Greatest Human Specimen Tom CruiseTM.  Other than that, everything that’s good about this movie is stuff that’s been good about the franchise up to this point.  Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, despite having diminished roles here, are still fun to watch, and the action set pieces are really great before they start to wear out their welcome.  I wish Rebecca Ferguson didn’t basically play the same role she did last time (there’s ONE woman here and she JUST SO HAPPENS to be the one we constantly question the loyalty of) but she’s solid when she’s in this, and Sean Harris is hamming it up so much in here that you can’t help but enjoy it whenever he starts rambling his li-bro-tarian manifesto that would have gotten him kicked out of a 101 philosophy class.

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“There can be no peace… without great suffering…”     “Wow.  That’s deep, man.  Almost as insightful as ‘You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs!’  Truly the voice of a generation right here!”

There’s a REALLY great spy movie in this that just got buried under too much money; either thrown at the action scenes which go on for too long or at their main star that they paid a crap load for and by god they will SHOW his ass whenever they can.  It manages to get creative in the action scenes and they have a very solid grasp on how to build tension, but there’s still a ways to go in order to bring this franchise up to the level that Brad Bird left it at.  Hopefully we don’t have to wait TOO long for someone to finally figure out what’s not working and find a way to fix it, but for now this at least manages to tweak things just enough so that it feels like a solid continuation rather than a sharp drop in quality.  True my standards a bit lower since this Ghost Protocol is getting that much further away in terms of relevance, but I’ll still recommend checking it out if you wanted one more big summer blockbuster before we get to Prestige Season.  Now stop reading this review because it’s gonna self-destruct in five seconds!  No, just kidding.  That would be a REALLY inconvenient way to communicate with people.  What are secure e-mails not good enough for the IMF!?

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