Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Fallout… a title that can’t deliver.

I have a soft spot for the Mission: Impossible franchise. They’re ridiculous, overblown excuses for Tom Cruise to do extreme stunts, sure, but they’re always a lot of fun. I love the fact that each film has a director with a radically different style, leading to action films that feel very distinct from each other, even with the same characters and plot. Tom Cruise is always game for more and more insanely dangerous stunts, which means that even if the plot can be a little uninteresting at times, we can always look forward to some breath-taking action. All in all, while I wouldn’t call these films my all-time favourites, I enjoy each movie that comes out quite a bit. With that said, this is probably the least I’ve enjoyed a Mission Impossible film in a long time.

Let me explain. I did like this movie, in fact I’d say I had an above average amount of fun with it, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at the end of it. While it has a lot of creative action scenes, it has several major flaws which I couldn’t quite ignore. Firstly, the film has a desire to become an emotional, dramatic experience. There are many scenes dedicated to the guilt Ethan Hunt feels for how he has changed his ex-wife’s life and how he affects the people around him. His ex-wife returns at the climax of the film to lend the final scenes extra stakes, and she and Luther have an emotional moment whilst defusing an actual nuclear bomb. There are so many tense scenes in which Hunt’s close friends are threatened with death. Ving Rhames’ character is held at gunpoint, Simon Pegg’s Benji is almost hanged. But what makes these attempts fail to land for me is that they don’t matter. The film loves half measures. Ethan Hunt is framed as a rogue agent, but then almost immediately exonerated. Benji and Luther are both saved at the last second, and the only character to die is Alec Baldwin’s. Baldwin is a good actor, but he had so little to do in the last movie that his development in this film feels as though it only exists to make his death impactful, and so for me it just failed to feel sad at all.

Christopher McQuarrie directs this film as though he wants it to be two things at once, and so it doesn’t quite fit either.  It is trying to be both a serious dramatic thriller, and a ridiculous action experience in which Ethan Hunt learns how to fly a helicopter in seconds, and survives three separate vehicle crashes. On the one hand he fills it with scenes in which Hunt struggles with his guilt, yet refuses to properly resolve this. His ex-wife is brought back, but unlike in Mission: Impossible 3 where there were consequences for him involving her in his life, she survives and nothing bad happens to her at all. I am not saying that this film needed to kill anyone off, or have any of the characters suffer, far from it. I loved Mission: Impossible 4 and that film is quite light hearted. But the tone of Mission: Impossible Fallout doesn’t fit the content. Even the title, Fallout implies some deep and serious ramifications for Ethan Hunts actions. But there is no fallout, just a little smoke. Hunt saves the world just in time and everything is fine yet again. That would work if this film was aiming for a more tongue in cheek tone, but unfortunate it ends up feeling like a cop out. I also could have used a lot more of Simon Pegg, who feels criminally underused. There aren’t many good lines or moments for Pegg to exercise his comedy chops, and that is what his character is for. Without them he feels a little pointless. Most of the other cast feel as though they are trying, but owing to the lack of real stakes, it all feels as though they really want you to take everything seriously, even though the plot is ridiculous, and none of the characters are in any real danger. The title writes a cheque that the movie can’t cash.

Like I said at the start, none of this makes the film bad. It is entertaining, fast paced and a full of fun action. I admire Tom Cruise for insisting on doing so many of his own stunts, and the visuals are great fun. Henry Caville, while not particularly nuanced has at least mastered the evil glare, and he’s a relatively fun villain. What isn’t so fun is the amount of time the film spends pretending he isn’t bad. Hollywood, it isn’t a twist if we all see it coming, the guy with the moustache and the thousand yard stare, as well as a fondness for killing is probably not a good guy. Who would’ve guessed? Apart from this, I can honestly say I enjoyed this far less than I thought I would. I wasn’t looking for things to dislike, or trying to find flaws, in fact I was in a forgiving mood, but I can’t look past the amount of flaws dragging this film down. It could’ve been a much better, more cohesive movie, with a steady tone, but instead it straddles a weird line between serious spy thriller and overblown action flick, without once fully committing to either. Oh and a minor point before I finish, this film needs to chill with it’s soundtrack. I swear every scene was drowning in heavy music, trying to spell out how we should be feeling, making all subtlety fly away quickly.

All in all, this a mixed bag of a film. It has plenty of fun moments, but as an overall product, it is a bit of a mess. It has solid acting, but nothing special. I would say that this is a fine film to watch on TV, or pick up in a shop for a couple of quid, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother. If you really enjoy Mission: Impossible as a franchise, this probably won’t be your favourite, but I doubt you’ll hate it either. I just hope that the next director Tom Cruise gets for the seventh film will breath new life into this series, because it needs it.

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Antman and the Wasp: Decent yet Forgettable…

I am probably very late to review this film if you’re reading this from the USA, where the movie has been out for months. However, in the UK we only recently got this film, and so because it is the only new movie I have seen in the last month, I’m reviewing it. Not that I have nothing to say about it, after all, I’m a fan of the superhero genre, although I am starting to finally feel that apathy that has been arising from a lot of movie-goers. It can be hard to be excited about the genre these days, as we are so spoiled for choice and that can lead to the market being dominated by big superhero blockbusters. Some films, like Infinity War, rise above it and manage to be fresh new takes that breathe new life into the genre. Antman and the Wasp is not one of them.

Let me begin by saying that I did not hate this film. It is for the most part competently directed and I was never terribly bored watching it. It keeps up a good pace, better than the first Antman, which dragged at times. The characters and story are more memorable than the previous film too, which helped me forget a little of the wasted opportunity of Edgar Wright’s Antman. The cast mostly deliver strong performances, and the size shifting powers feel even better integrated into the action than in Civil War.

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The visuals have been upgraded from the last movie, meaning that a lot more of the film uses contrasting size shots, which is something only the train fight scene from Antman managed to pull off. At the end of the day, it’s a film that knows what it is; a palette cleanser from the dour ending of Infinity War. A light-hearted romp with likeable actors and smaller stakes. Those are the film’s strengths. But in a bizarre way they are also its weaknesses.

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The film never excels. There were no moments that stood out to me as incredible or exceptional. I realise it’s not a requirement that every film has outstanding moments and there is nothing wrong with popcorn movies. However, the shadow of Edgar Wright looms large even over the sequel. Peyton Reed clearly knows what he is doing. He understands these characters and knows how to direct them. But it feels as though this is just a job to him. I never feel any passion behind the movie.

I actually liked the film a lot more after having just seen it. Now, a week later, it has faded quickly from my memory and I find myself a lot less keen on it. It leaves no impression. The actors do well, and there are several scenes which did make me laugh, such as when Paul Rudd portrays Michelle Pfeiffer reuniting with her husband and daughter using his body. It was very well acted and emotional yet humorous at the same time, which is tricky to pull off. There just weren’t enough scenes like this.

The movie felt in retrospect like it was on autopilot. Set up the hero’s situation, reintroduce the characters from the previous film, set up the villain, conflict, resolution etc, rinse repeat. There was not really any spark for me. Don’t misunderstand me; I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a complete waste of time but at the end of the day it hasn’t resonated with me and it’s hard to defend a movie like this to someone with superhero fatigue. Almost everything in it is something we’ve seen already in other Marvel movies. It improves on the previous film in almost every way, but the previous film was painfully average. As a result, the sequel is elevated to simply decent.

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But maybe that’s enough. Although I didn’t get much out of it, it hasn’t failed at what it set out to achieve. I may talk on about how the story is very predictable and the film hasn’t much to offer that’s new, but that isn’t really this film’s goal. Not every Marvel movie has to be deeply emotional or breath-taking. Sometimes they can be simple pleasures. I may not have enjoyed this film that much, but I did enjoy it. I watched it and laughed and had fun. The film seems constructed for this reaction. It’s a pleasant film that doesn’t rock the boat, and although there is an abundance of movies like it, I can’t bring myself to be too critical. At the end of the day, with the current fraught political climate, and the dark ending of Infinity War, there is nothing wrong with people wanting a simple entertaining film to provide some escapism. Although if that is why you watch this, I suggest leaving before the post credits scene.

Writing Fiction

As much as I enjoy writing for this blog, taking time to organise my opinions and examine them carefully before I share them with you, my real passion has always been fiction. For a long time now I have been writing in my spare time, and growing up I read many different books; more even than I watched movies. Recently I have been trying to turn my writing into a proper career, which is part of the reason I have been neglecting this blog for a while. Sorry about that! To make up for it I am releasing the new review at the same time as a link to my debut novelette.

It is a historical fiction set during the day before the Battle of Hastings, from the point of view of one of William the Conqueror’s soldiers. It was originally written as a screenplay for my final project at university, and I have since adapted it into novel format and released on amazon as both a paperback and a kindle version. If you’re curious about what my fictional writing is like please consider downloading the book or ordering a physical copy. I could really use your support and it’s a story I worked very hard on. Thank you all.

Ebook version.

Paperback version.