July 29, 2018

Movie Review #52 Mission Impossible: Fallout

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Alec Baldwin. Directed By Christopher McQuarrie

Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to keep raising the bar on a franchise that I don’t think many people thought would survive as long as it has, while you’re at it try turning character Ethan Hunt (that did not exist on the TV show) into a modern day American James Bond…this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Director and Writer (and frequent Tom Cruise collaborator) Christopher McQuarrie (maybe best known for writing The Usual Suspects) accomplishes a lot with Mission Impossible 6, he effectively gives Ethan Hunt (Cruise in rare form) a bit more depth and motivation, he  gets the supporting cast to do a lot more (Pegg, Baldwin, Ferguson and Rhames all excellent) and serializes the franchise more than ever before (a lot of pieces from the past films are brought together in this film, anyone remember the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave character Max from the first film?). In today’s IP world that is what you want. This franchise has had an amazing eclectic group of directors all with different visions, (De Palma, John Woo, JJ Abrams) McQuarrie is the first director to do 2 films and his steady hand and (silly at times) but correct for the material writing style fits this franchise like a glove that can stick to walls. He balances giant set pieces with just enough twisty plot mechanics that you are thoroughly entertained.  I like that Cruise and McQuarrie have a fun working relationship going, (it didn’t work when they collaborated on The Mummy or Jack Reacher), but it works wonders here. Cruise has enough self-awareness (or we think he does) in his own celebrity that he pokes fun at himself a lot. They have the formula, other than maybe giving Hunt a bit more background and making him a tad more mortal, they aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, add a formative bad guy with a crazy nonsensical dooms day plot (Henry Cavill is very solid, mustache an all) and throw in enough twists that you can play the mission impossible theme beyond and boom (yea explosions also) you got yourself a crowd pleasing sequel (See: Fast and Furious um any of them after 3). I think the best thing about this Mission is that they lose a lot, they get beat up a lot, and they even have a death (no spoilers sorry) that adds a layer to the IMF that will be interesting going forward.  I would love to see the tone shift a few more times in films to come (how about a De Palma comeback with a little Oceans 11 vibe and slightly less action?) but even if it doesn’t I’m  very satisfied with this franchise. It may not feel as consequential as Marvel or DC films, it may not be as emotional as Fast and Furious films, and it isn’t as cool as Bond films (yet), but if I’m paying for DOLBY sound and a 15$ tub popcorn this is the summer movie I’d want. SEE IT!

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) So the rare franchise that seems to be getting better each time out, I gave Rogue Nation a strong 6.5 in 2015 and although it is tempting to mark this one a notch  higher I will stick with 6.5 on the Shawshank scale. A very fun summer action movie that has perhaps saved the mostly mediocre summer of 2018. 

Question: Is Ethan Hunt America’s James Bond? I’ve read some reviews heaping praise like "Mission Impossible is better than Bond" and so on and I don’t agree, to me they are apples and oranges anyway. We except Bond and his often awful behavior because of his long history on page and screen, the Hunt character has none of that to work with, only now are they giving the character Hunt some layers.  Also we are way to divided a nation to ever have the singular patriotic drive of a character like Bond and we don’t have a queen (Oprah is close yes), so I don’t think it works the same for us. I do love the suave way Hunt ironed out his ex-wife (Michelle Monaghan) drama in front of his new girlfriend (Rebecca Fergusan) what an amazing moment in MI6 (does it really go that smoothly?). I also think the Ethan Hunt character is mostly Cruise, so if you really wanted a James Bond level character you would have to make Hunt the character more than just Cruise playing Hunt and I am not sure that is possible (although impossible missions is kinda their thing so you never know). People accept new Bonds like they would never accept a new Hunt, I think if one of the Chris’s (Pine, Evans, Pratt, or Hemsworth) played Hunt it wouldn’t feel right (Renner's character William Brandt was at one time sort of in line to replace Hunt, but that never would've worked, though I want to see his character back) so my answer is no. When Cruise hangs up the mask, I think the franchise will shift or reboot entirely.  There is room out there for both Bond and Mission Impossible, they are more different than similar. Something tells me if they crossed over Bond would steal Hunt’s girlfriend and Hunt would be ok with it, then they would just go their separate ways.

Ranking the Mission Impossible films (cause why not!):

1. Mission Impossible
2. Mission Impossible 6 (Fallout)
3. Mission Impossible 5 (Rogue Nation)
4. Mission Impossible 3
5. Mission Impossible 4 (Ghost Protocol)
6. Mission Impossible 2