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Tag: Action

Editorials

The Matrix: Twenty Years On

September 10, 2019

It has been twenty years since the release of the hugely influentially film The Matrix. It’s hard to overstate the impact it had on its release, it was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year and its effect was felt not just in films but fashion, speech and even mobile phones. But what was once the height of cool over time can appear dated and lacklustre, how does this film hold up?

The Plot

(pinterest.com)

For those who don’t know I shall briefly explain the plot – Thomas Anderson lived in late 90s America, working as a computer programmer but is secretly the hacker “Neo”. He was approached by sinister government agents asked him to work as a spy. Neo refused and is quickly picked up by the people he was asked to spy against. Their leader Morpheus explained to Neo that what he thought was reality was actually only a computer programme, in reality AI robots were draining his energy to survive. What follows is a spectacular two hours of gunfights, fistfights and metaphysical pondering on the nature of reality and destiny.

Great Expectations

Dodging bullets ( source: vulture.com)

There was a huge amount of hype surrounding the film especially with the talk of unprecedented special effects – what became known as “bullet time”. The famous “bullet time”. The Matrix was not the first film to use this technique but undoubtedly popularised it. Bullet time is a form of slow-motion photography that will often have the camera moving around the target. In The Matrix, this was used as characters dodged bullets using what would be super-human reflexes. While the technology has moved on a lot since the effects still look great to this day.

The film wasn’t stunning just because of bullet time. The hand to hand fight scenes, such as Neo and Morpheus fighting or the climactic fight between Agent Smith and Neo were amongst the first of the extremely choreographed fights that are the mainstay amongst recent action-films (with perhaps the most relevant example of this being in the John Wick films – starring Keanu Reeves).

The Internet, Computers & Technology

Understanding computers (source: pinterest.com)

The Matrix capitalised on computers and the Internet in a way few films had before. Neo was a computer programmer by day and hacker by night and you got the feeling that not only Neo understood computers but so did the Wachowskis. The fact that Neo goes by that name, his hacker alias, seemed to reflect an understanding of the Internet, a place where you could be whatever you wanted to be.

Storytelling

Keanu Reeves as Neo (source: maxim.com)

In many ways, the storytelling aspects of The Matrix were rooted in old ideas. Robot tyranny, virtual reality, sinister but vague government agencies had all been done before. The idea of Neo being The Chosen One again is nothing new but perhaps they made it their own, in an episode of South Park there is a search for a chosen one they refer to as “The Keanu Reeves child”. By the Wachowskis’ own admission the film is heavily indebted to Japanese anime and Hong Kong action films. But I think the Wachowskis deserve huge plaudits for pulling all of these aspects into one film whilst at the same time combining an over-the-top action-sci-fi blockbuster with an intelligent hard sci-fi drama. Apparently the Wachowskis had the main actors read relevant books on philosophy and science so they could comfortably explain the ideas thrown around in the film.

Culture

Neo & Agent Smith (source: variety.com)

The cultural impact was huge. Like A New Hope or The Dark Knight The Matrix launched a thousand copycats and its influence can be felt in many more. The Simpsons and Spaced both parodied it while The Onion could write about something being “Matrix-y” and people knew what you meant. Anyone who wore a long black leather coat was imitating Neo. The term “matrix” has been used a lot in sci-fi (in Doctor Who it’s the repository of Time Lord knowledge, it’s the name of a DC superhero and is the name of a 90s fantasy tv show) but if used today would only refer to the film. The choice of red pill or blue pill has become synonymous with choosing fantasy over – an often painful – reality and people can talk about odd events and coincidences as “glitches” in the Matrix, a moment where a person can see something is not right in reality. One such glitch is that the aforementioned Matrix tv show starred Carrie-Ann Moss, one of the stars of the film The Matrix. Weird.

The Matrix 4

The world recently learned that there will be a fourth film in The Matrix franchise. After the huge success of the first film, the two sequels were not well-received but there is already a lot of interest in this new film. Crucially Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss and Lana Wachowski are all part of the film. I think the years have been kind to The Matrix, with the sequels being forgotten about and the delight of the original still has a hold over people. I recently rewatched the film and despite knowing every twist, betrayal and cliffhanger still thoroughly enjoyed it, immersed in an interesting world that was glorious to watch.

Also Read: Horror-ibly Funny Movie Titles

Editorials

The Human Brain Is Hard-Wired To Think In Genres

July 25, 2019
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When scrolling through streaming services or wandering around Blockbuster Video if you’re from the past, what are your go-to genres? Science-fiction is usually my first choice but there’s something good in every genre. But why do we have these genres, and why do they exist in the form that they do? Danish film and media professor Torben Grodal might have the answer.

Evolution

Professor Grodal makes a case for evolutionary psychology as to why we have the genres we do and why they have persisted. While The Iliad (an ancient Greek Poem) is thousands of years old and written in a culture drastically different to our own we can see that it has many elements that would overlap with modern storytelling – action, fighting, love, revenge etc. Grodal argues this is because evolution has made us susceptible to these sorts of stories and essentially we’re the same people we were when The Iliad was created – a few thousand years is nothing when compared to evolution.

For Grodal there are three basic emotional structures that help make-up, and then react to genres

  • The Reptilian Brain – fear, anger, lust, seeking
  • Caregiving – love, pair-bonding, family
  • Separation/Grief – dealing with death and loss

These three systems are not mutually exclusive and often overlap, this is particularly true of Caregiving and Separation/Grief but you can find films that hit all three systems.

Humans Are Weird Animals

The Lion King (123tix.com)

Unlike many animals, humans care for their young for years as human infants are essentially helpless and utterly dependent on caregivers. If we want our DNA to continue in future generates, which the Theory of Evolution says we do, then we must protect our children. Evolution has hammered into humans that caring for their offspring is of paramount importance, so many films also have this message. Films are full of parents making sacrifices, up to and including dying, to protect children. Sophie’s Choice is considered so heart-wrenching because the choice will lead to the death of a child.

For most animals it is only the female that bears the burden of caring for children, humans are different in that males continue to provide for them, they will protect them and hunt or gather food. Due to the huge cost of raising children in terms of resources this makes evolutionary sense. This lead to a very strong pair-bond between parents and a successful pair bond is very important. So we have romances, where finding true love is amongst the most important things in all of life. There are few films that lack any romantic component, with “love interest” being a familiar description of a character. Hot Fuzz is one of the few films I can think of that has no romantic component and with this film, there was a lot of focus on the “bromance” between the two lead characters.

Saving Private Nemo

Finding Nemo (cornel1801.com)

What is the defining moment of the film Bambi? I’m sure most people will think of the moment when Bambi’s mother dies. Finding Nemo is entirely about reuniting a parent and child. The film Aliens add a whole layer of emotion and drama by introducing a child for Ripley to bond with and then protect. Separation and loss in films can be emotionally devastating because these are terrible evolutionary outcomes. How will Nemo survive without his father? How will Marlin survive without his son? This is already after the genuinely horrific deaths of Nemo’s mother and siblings. When the two are reunited there is absolute joy. Sometimes the sacrifice of parents for children can be widened to a whole tribe, and today that could mean your country, and again, nobly sacrificing yourself for others who are part of your “tribe” is a staple of films and is the entire premise of Saving Private Ryan.

The Reptilian Brain

Then there is the influence of the “reptilian” brain, the part of the brain that developed first, that we share with reptiles. The four emotional systems we share with reptiles are anger, fear, lust and seeking – as in looking for food, for a mate, for a predator etc.. At least three of these factors are integral parts of action films – and often lust gets thrown in as well. Seeking, basically looking for what you want/need is present in action as well as crime and mysteries.

Action, crime and mysteries are also important in what Grodal calls HTTOFF Scenarios – Hiding, Tracking, to Trap, being Trapped, Observing, Fighting and Fleeing. In these scenarios, the protagonist is constantly working out the interactions between themselves and the world and other agents within it. Grodal points out that while few people watching films in the modern world will have to regularly fight, flee etc., those mental processes are still within us. A lot of children’s games involve HTTOFF scenarios, so Hide and Seek or play-fighting, it is enjoyable to recreate these situations in a safe way.

Rituals

Films can act as shared, ritualistic experiences, so that seeing death, grief etc on screen prepares us for when they happen in real-life. This can also be true of comedy, a lot of comedy consists of bad or embarrassing things happening but in a film that’s okay, we know it’s not real, and in a sense is a form of playing and pretending.

An Alternative View…

The Godfather (padrino.fandom.com)

A little while ago on this site was published an article “The Formula of a Successful Film“, which looked at a different study which analysed thousands of films and found that they tend to fall into distinct categories like Rags to Riches, Cinderella and Icarus, describing how they handle emotion and the protagonist’s journey. So an Icarus film builds to high positive emotion and then drops down with a sad, or sort of sad ending. The most successful financially was found to be Man In A Hole. This is where a person falls at the beginning, leading to success/triumph at the end, the classic example being The Godfather. Michael starts happy, faces disaster and ends up winning. This research suggests something different going on to Grodal’s, here it is the journey of the character(s) that is crucial and evidently seeing someone triumph over adversity is very satisfying.

Taken (Empire.com)

Looking at all of this research I think potentially the film that should have been the most successful and critically acclaimed was Liam Neeson’s Taken. For Grodal it satisfies all three emotional systems – action, caregiving and separation and matches The Man In A Hole dynamic. While successful enough to spawn two sequels and a whole genre of older action hero films I don’t think Taken managed those heights.

Also Read: The Formula For A Successful Film

Editorials

(Some Of) The Best Fights in Film Franchises

June 5, 2019

As an avid fan of film fights here are a selection of some of the best fights from film franchises – everything from gun battles to slugfests to martial arts extravaganzas.

The Matrix – Subway Fight

  • Combatants – Neo Vs Agent Smith
  • Setting: Subway Station
  • Weapons – Briefly guns, then fists

Watching The Matrix again now and you see just how influential it was. So many action films since have similar balletic fight scenes, highly choreographed and done with precision and care but I don’t know if The Matrix has ever been topped. As good as Keanu Reeves is in The Matrix Hugo Weaving is better and in many ways a far more interesting character. Everything about Agent Smith from the way he talks to the way he moves seems like it has been very carefully chosen. Youtube has videos that consist entirely of Agent Smith saying “Mr Anderson”.

Depending on how much you buy into into Neo being The One at this point really effects how likely it is that you think he’ll win. It is specifically said that every person who has tried to fight an agent has died. The fight starts with the infamous bullet-time but quickly becomes a martial arts master class. Agent Smith has a curious conservation of movement and energy and rarely looks like he’s actually trying whereas Neo is battered and bloody and clearly putting his all into it.

The climatic moment of the fight when we think Agent Smith is dead but then steps off the train is genius and also means that in one of the best fights in the history of cinema no one is actually killed.

Body Count – 0

John Wick – Club Fight

  • Combatants: John Wick Vs A Lot Of Russian Gangsters
  • Setting: A Night Club
  • Weapons: Guns and fists

Yes, Keanu Reeves gets two. Obviously, the fight scenes in John Wick are the most important parts of the film and they don’t disappoint – arguably setting the bar for all future action films. There are number I could pick but I often come back to the fight in the night club. This is genuinely a blood bath and I had the body count at around 29 over the space of seven minutes and it showcases all of Wick’s skills – hand-to-hand fighting, shooting, weird kung-fu, all of it. Wick’s prowess at killing people almost seems supernatural but never quite strays over that line. Interestingly despite cutting through so many people Wick doesn’t even win the fight, his target escapes and he ends up being thrown over over a barrier to the floor below. But really with John Wick if he’s not dead you haven’t really won.

Body Count – I counted 29 but I’m not confident in that number.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Elevator Fight

  • Combatants : Captain America Vs Various S.H.I.E.L.D Agents
  • Setting – A lift (AKA an elevator)
  • Weapons – Electric shock weapons, fists.

A brief fight to be sure but perhaps my favourite in all of the Marvel films. I like a fight scene that happens in a place that rather restricts the fighting and makes directors think outside the box and this definitely qualifies. Captain America is set upon by eleven (I think, it’s a little hard to count) men and then for most of the fight has one hand stuck to the wall. So often with fight scenes you feel like you’ve seen it before but I can’t think of another scene quite like this.

Body Count – Nobody dies but I count 11 people on the floor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Church Fight

Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Combatants – Superspy Harry Hart and various fundamentalist Christians.
  • Setting – Church in America.
  • Weapons- Guns, knives, grenades, an axe, whatever you can put your hands on

I would go so far as to say this isn’t a good film. This one scene, however, makes it worth watching. Colin Firth is not your typical action hero but he really pulls this off. As all inside the church are essentially brainwashed into an orgy of violence a massive fight breaks out which leaves only one person standing – Harry Hart. Everyone in the church is fighting everyone else with nearly five minutes of utter mayhem in what becomes the Where’s Wally of fight scenes as you search the screen picking out individual confrontations.

Body Count – I have no idea and didn’t even try to count.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – Plane Fight

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Combatants – Indiana Jones Vs A Big Nazi (with assistance from Marion and assorted Nazis respectively)
  • Setting Air Strip in Egypt
  • Weapons: Fists, machine gun, propeller

Indiana Jones does not like a fair fight. Not when he’s fighting someone bigger, tougher and stronger than he is. And is a Nazi. In this fight Indy tries every underhand trick he can think of and in the end he doesn’t really win as much the other guy loses. While certainly not played for laughs there are a couple of moments of real humour, the first time Indy is punched by the Nazi soldier he doesn’t just get knocked over but his legs just give way leaving him dazed and on the ground.

Much of the fight in Indy actually trying to avoid his opponent quickly realising there was no way he was going to win and the legendary moment when his opponent does meet his end is surely one of the best conclusions to a film fight.

Body Count – One of the main combatants and a number of other German soldiers who showed up and got on the wrong side of a machine gun.

The Dark Knight Returns – Batman Fights Superman

Batman Vs Superman Part 1 (Part 2 at end of article)
  • Combatants – Batman Vs Superman (each with a few helpful assistants)
  • Setting – A deserted section of Gotham.
  • Weapons – Superman’s superpowers & Batman’s gadgets

In writing this article I did some reading around “great” fights and I was surprised to see Batman Vs Superman from Batman Vs Superman, in my view a terrible fight. So instead I have included the Batman Vs Superman fight from The Dark Knight Returns, animation but certainly one of my all time favourite fights and a vastly superior movie. This film handles the idea of why the two are fighting so much better than Zack Synder’s film and you also think that Superman might actually kill Batman, something we all knew wasn’t going to happen in Synder’s film.

Weakened from the detonation of a nuclear missile – just go with it – Superman is not at his best already and Wayne brings everything from sonic weapons to a super-strong batsuit to try and defeat him and in the end, well, he wins. A victory of ingenuity and admittedly billions of dollars over the the near-invincibility of Superman.

Body Count – 0

Also Read: Superhero Standoff: Superheros Vs Art

Reviews

Review: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

May 21, 2019

Keanu Reeves’ action franchise returns for its third instalment and this time it has Latin in the title.

What’s Going On?

Super-assassin John Wick has a $14,000,000 bounty placed on his head after breaking one of the cardinal rules of the Continental Hotel – no business is conducted on hotel grounds. As this is a hotel for assassins, “business” means killing people. In the world of this film, assassins lurk around every corner and John is set upon by an endless array of killers. Eager to get out from under this death sentence, John delves deeper into the mysterious world of assassins to find a solution to his problem.

Behind The Scenes

John Wick was directed by Chad Stahelski who, famously, before that film had been a stunt co-ordinator and as such was incredibly focused on the fight scenes. Stahelski stayed on to direct Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 and the fight scenes are still amazing, at times truly dazzling and clearly directed by a world-class expert. I am something of a connoisseur of good fight scenes and I still winced at how real some of the blows felt while marvelling at the technical capabilities of all involved.

In Front Of The Camera

Keanu Reeves obviously dominates the film as he plays John Wick and continues to bring an almost stoic sensibility to non-stop life and death fights. Alongside Reeves’ acting talent is sheer ability to be in this film, I am unaware exactly how much of Reeves’ fighting is done by a double but he certainly seems to be taking on a lot. Ian McShane reprises his role as Winston, manager of the Continental Hotel (the assassin hotel that has placed the bounty on Wick for breaking their rules) and with him also returns Lance Riddick as the ever helpful concierge, Charon. Lawrence Fishburne is also back as the unnamed Bowery King – the ruler of another mysterious group of criminals who pose as homeless New Yorkers. There are newcomers – the primary antagonist is the Adjuciator, a representative of the High Table, the rulers of this world of assassins played by Asia Kate Dillon, who not only wants Wick dead also wants New York shaken up a bit. Perhaps more important is the addition of Mark Dacascos, an assassin and sushi chef billed as someone actually capable of taking on John Wick. Real star power is brought by Oscar winner Halle Berry, who operates a similar hotel as that managed by Winston but in Casablanca. Angelica Houston pops up playing The Director, who doubles as ballet director and crimelord whose help John Wick seeks and provides a little more backstory to the character of John Wick.

Does It Work?

I consider John Wick a great action film, a twist on a simple revenge story, driven by Keanu Reeves’ performance and some of the best fight choreography ever. John Wick 2 was entertaining, and again, had amazing fight scenes, but it wasn’t quite the same and I feel much the same with John Wick 3. It’s certainly an enjoyable film and I was never bored but the more it’s delved into this world the less I get out of it. It somehow lacked the magic of the original and this might be as simple as I knew what to expect, whereas Chapter 1 was a surprise. I do think that there is a problem with John Wick’s motivation, in the first film it was revenge but in the other two there is something more complicated going on – debts owed, rules broken and the schemes of powerful people.

The more that is revealed about the Continental, the High Table, the Bowery and so on the more convoluted and less satisfying it becomes. The sheer number of assassins that exists not just in New York but seemingly any spot on the globe is astounding and stretches credulity. The thing that seems most unbelievable is that surely there aren’t this many assassinations to support such a huge number of assassins.

Whereas the first chapter was based entirely in New York, Chapter 2 took us to Rome and Chapter 3 continues with this international perspective. John Wick [Chapter 1] felt very contained, everything happened in a couple of days in a couple of locations but increasingly the franchise is eager to spread its wings. Doing this does allow for a bit of variety but personally, I would have preferred a more claustrophobic setting.

There was a cool touch in John Wick where after one fight scene early in the movie the police turn up. They know John who is, simply ask if he’s working again and then stay out of his way but you can’t help but think the level of carnage caused in this film would warrant some kind of police response. There are even suggestions of supernatural powers or mystical techniques possessed by some of the assassins, that to me, make John Wick’s phenomenal killing abilities less impressive.

Of course, John Wick was never supposed to be set in the real world, this hyper-violent world of secret assassins and globe-spanning criminal syndicates was supposed to be escapist fun but I think after the first film the balance between reality and fantasy has moved too far to the latter.

But really most of these complaints and minor gripes and is just what separates a good film from being a great film. If you enjoyed the previous John Wick films you will almost certainly love this. The fight scenes continue to offer something new, whether it’s drafting in Boban Marjanovic, a seven foot three inches tall basketball star, to serve as an early opponent or adding horses and dogs to the weapons John Wick utilises. While I feel the story has become a little bogged down with secret organisations the core of the film remains the same- John Wick having to fight a seemingly impossible number of people.

The biggest plus in the film is certainly Mark Dacascos. In the two previous chapters, there was no one who, individually, was thought to be John Wick’s equal when it came to killing people. There wasn’t one bad guy for him to fight there would be a couple of dozen. Of course, John Wick still has to fight through dozens of opponents but it all leads to a showdown with Dacascos.

Overall this is a very enjoyable action film that doesn’t quite capture the magic of the first instalment but compared to other franchises on their second sequel this is amazing stuff.

Verdict 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

John Wick 3 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Ten Movies Turning 20 in 2019!

Reviews

Review: Outlaw King

November 19, 2018
Warning – there are minor spoilers in this review but as it’s history I don’t think these will surprise anyone.

 

David Mckenzie’s new historical drama about how Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland

What’s Going On?

The film starts with Edward I, King of England, forgiving Scottish lords for rebelling against him. Edward I claimed the Scottish crown after they asked him to decide on should be king and he picked himself (he had no claim to the throne). Not surprisingly many Scottish lords rebelled but were soundly defeated by Edward I. Robert the Bruce, son of a Scottish lord, was one of the leading rebels but he too makes his peace with Edward, possibly only because his father is one of the strongest claimants and they think Edward will make him king. English rule on Scotland is hard with Edward I brutalising Scotland; at one point he refuses to accept surrender from one lord until he’s had a chance to try out his new catapult (this really happened). Eventually, the injustices prove too much to bear and Robert the Bruce rebels despite being hugely outnumbered.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by David Mackenzie, who I knew mainly from Hell Or High Water, which is perhaps best described as a modern western, a film I enjoyed a lot. This is a Netflix production and I would say does manage to feel like a “proper” film and not some made-for-tv second rate movie. Obviously, this is based on history and while taking some liberties does a good job of setting the scene and showing how utterly outmatched Robert the Bruce is.

In Front Of The Camera

The film stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce and he very much carries the film, it is his story from start to finish. Stephen Dillane is King Edward, probably best known as Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones, and it is in many ways a similar performance, certainly not a likeable man but extremely capable. Billy Howle gives a great performance as Prince Edward; an arrogant fool, constantly shoving his exalted status in other people’s face while having mountains of father issues to work through. Florence Pugh takes on the difficult role of Robert’s wife, an Englishwoman who is married to Robert (neither seemed to have much say in it) and displayed the strained circumstances and mixed loyalties she has when her husband rebels.

The Elephant In The Cinema

Inevitably there are going to be comparisons with the hugely successful and Oscar-winning Braveheart. Three of the central characters also appear in that film and it is telling much of the same story but from a different perspective. Braveheart focused on William Wallace who is never actually seen in Outlaw King but his existence is referenced a lot. There are many similarities between the two portrayals of Edward I, both are old but fierce men, with Braveheart’s king being crueller and crazier, seemingly going out of his way to be evil. The big difference is with Prince Edward, in Braveheart a weak and ineffectual man whereas in Outlaw King he is a far more aggressive and warlike man but still was glaring deficits. This change seems to make Prince Edward a more compelling adversary to Robert.

Does It Work?

The film is certainly enjoyable and is a grimmer, less elegant portrayal than many similar films, it feels like 50% of the film is people fighting or walking through mud. Everything and everyone is dirty; even kings. Unavoidably it suffers from the problem that we know what is going to happen but it does as well as it can at maintaining the jeopardy. Certainly, some people will not know the ending or how it all happened. At times Robert is asked specifically how many soldiers he has and you could fit them all on one bus, hardly an army, and it is hard to conceive how he can possibly win. The real problem is one of scale. There is only one large scale battle in the film which is quite possibly the smallest battle in this whole war, with Robert having around 500 men. While this is historically accurate you can’t help but think they chose this battle over, say, the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert had at least ten times that number because the smaller battle would be cheaper. Considering Game of Thrones has battles that feel on a bigger scale this is a real failing with the film. Indeed the film ends with text explaining what happened next and it really feels like they have only told half of Robert’s story.

The viewer’s sympathies do lie with Robert but there is an incident early in the film which does muddy the water a lot. To the filmmaker’s credit, this is something that really happened and permanently tarnished Robert’s reputation and damaged his standing with a lot of people. An equivalent action today would probably be committing a war crime. Robert is portrayed as wanting to act not out of personal ambition but for the good of Scotland and it’s people. In part, though the film makes less of a case for Robert being the good guy but in clearly demonstrating that King Edward and Prince Edward are clearly the bad guys. A good point about the film is I don’t think every English person is shown as thoroughly evil (a problem I think Braveheart has), more than the people in charge have tried to steal Scotland and the foot soldiers are just caught up in it.

Overall I’d say if you like historical dramas you will enjoy this but it certainly isn’t the cultural touchstone something like Braveheart or Gladiator are but in Outlaw King’s defence the film is far more historically accurate than either of those. It’s a two-hour film that was always interesting and enjoyable and a lot of its faults come from comparing it to other films.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Reviews

Review: Mission Impossible Fallout [Spoiler Free]

August 15, 2018
Mission Impossible Fallout

Mission Impossible Fallout is the best film in the series, and one of Tom Cruise’s best movies to date.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Cruise is famed for his unrelenting desire to perform many of his own stunts on set, most of which would be highly dangerous for even the most capable stuntman. The Mission Impossible series has seen the American actor free-climb a cliff face in Utah, scale the tallest building in the world, and cling to the outside of a plane during takeoff. And Fallout is no exception, featuring (among others) a halo jump from 25,000 feet and a breathtaking motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris.

The scale of these stunts, along with the general cinematic ambition displayed throughout the series, have catapulted almost all of the MI films to the top of the must-see action movie list (almost all, because MI:2 isn’t great). And they simply keep getting better.

Another impossible mission

 

Fallout picks up two years after the events of Rogue Nation and the capture of antagonist Solomon Lane. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is tasked with intercepting three stolen plutonium cores before the ‘Apostles’ (a new terrorist organisation reformed from Lane’s ‘Syndicate’) can sell them to the mysterious fundamentalist John Lark. However, things don’t go according to plan, and Hunt is forced to team up with the CIA to retrieve the plutonium before it can be used to power nuclear weaponry in the hands of the Apostles.

Plot-wise, that’s all you need to know, from this review anyway. The resulting narrative takes Hunt and fellow long-standing agents Benji and Luther (Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) on a non-stop thrill ride from Paris to London and eventually to Kashmir, where the dramatic finale takes place. For me, the most interesting location used in the film is Belfast (more of a cameo that was probably shot on a sound stage, in all honesty) as I live just outside of it, though I doubt anyone else will be quite as impressed!

Keeping pace with Tom Cruise

 

The film is directed impeccably by Christopher McQuarrie (also responsible for Rogue Nation) and he does an astounding job here. I was struck by how effectively McQuarrie balances the pace of the film with its huge action sequences – at no point do you find yourself glancing at your watch wondering when a section of dialogue will pass, or puzzling over a missed plot point in a confusingly-overstuffed action scene. Hunt is on a journey – a very fast one with bullets, fist-fights and explosions – but the audience is right there with him every step of the way, even as Tom Cruise, a man in his mid-fifties, sprints across London rooftops and leaps over gaps between buildings (yes, he did it for real, and yes, he did break his ankle doing it, for real). It has a 147-minute runtime and it feels like half that.

Familiar faces

 

The casting in the movie is solid. It’s great to see Pegg and Rhames back in their supporting comedic roles (very measured, of course), as well as Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin. Henry Cavill is a suitable if a slightly-wooden-at-times addition to the cast and Sean Harris is a thoroughly sinister foil to Cruise’s protagonist. Cruise is, of course, charismatic in the extreme, and continues to be the reason why these movies endure. Mission Impossible wouldn’t be the same without him, and will certainly lack some appeal when a studio inevitably reboots it sometime down the line.

The bottom line

 

I’ve very little to say about Fallout that isn’t positive. I loved every second of it, more so than all of the previous instalments, which were themselves fantastic. I don’t know if Cruise will want to carry on for a seventh movie in the franchise, or if McQuarrie will return for a third go, but I’ll be first in line at the box office if they do.

Go see Mission Impossible Fallout on the biggest screen available while you still can.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)