Mission Impossible: Fallout

When I mentioned at one point that this was the film I was most looking forward too this summer, I received some verbal shrugs of the shoulder from a few fellow bloggers. An attitude that I simply cannot fathom. This series has been consistently excellent in my point of view, and the fact that Tom Cruise is the driving force behind the production seems to irritate some people. The internet is full or terrible things but most of the film sites I visit have rational people offering reasons for their love or hate of a particular film. So it was a surprise to me to see this comment on one of the blog posts I visited this week,

”  I have no interest in watching some aging dinosaur doing stupid stunts just to prove that he’s still got it. If he wants to impress me, why doesn’t he just jump off of a f#@king cliff and f#@king die?”

Does that seem a little harsh to you? It did to me. There is apparently a lot of Tom Cruise hate out there, not too far under the surface.

So before I begin my discussion of the film, let me make a brief defense of Mr. Cruise. Regardless of his personal life, he has always been a professional. He works hard at putting on screen, those things that he thinks will make a film better for the audience. To use the vernacular of the author of this note, I’d rather see an aging star who gives a damn about the quality of his film, perform a practical stunt, than watch a pretty boy flavor of the month, dangle in front of a green screen, trying to sell something that they look down on in the first place.

As a producer on these films, Cruise has been responsible for employing thousands of behind the scenes technical crafts people. The creative types from cinematographers, writers, stunt coordinators and directors, have all been given an amazing canvas to work on. Maybe the results are not always pretty to everyone. That is your prerogative and taste. I do think however dismissing it as “stupid” and assuming that the star is trying to impress you may be off target a bit. What is completely off target however is wishing death to someone because of your petulant views. OK, end of rant.

“Fallout” is the sixth film in this franchise, and I think you will find that most objective viewers will say that since the second film, they have gotten steadily better. A couple of things that help make that true are the continuing inclusions of new characters that allow conflict, humor or more emotional spark in the film. Since Simon Pegg came on board in “MI:III “, he has become more than just the comic relief and his character is more integral to the teams mission. Jeremy Renner, who made two appearances in the series, but is sadly missing here, also added some gravitas to the proceedings while providing a completely different form of humor.

The two most recent additions from the previous film to this one are Rebecca Ferguson as MI:6 operative Ilsa Faust, who provides a counterpart to Cruise for  skill, action and wits. In addition, there is a nice hint of romance that is not oversold like it is a Bond film. In this movie she represents the B plotline that is at odds with Ethan Hunt’s objective for the story. Because her character is capable, it makes the action and events seem more interesting and complicated. Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne and Tom Wilkinson all made one off appearances in the series, so it was nice to get some payoff from having Alec Baldwin return for a second episode. As a reluctant and judgmental ally and Superior to Hunt’s IMF group, Baldwin gets a chance to play both sides a bit and ultimately be played as well. I sort of enjoy the coincidence in Angela Bassett as the new C.I.A. chief, it’s as if Tina Turner is stepping into Ike’s shoes with Fishburne out of the picture. It is likely that if there are future installments in this franchise, she will return.

The plot is as complicated as these things usually get. A dangerous macguffin is out in the open and must be recovered by the team. Of course no path is straight and this plot develops an interesting twist by requiring that a previous villain be exchanged for the missing “dangerous item in a suitcase”. This puts Ethan and the team in an awkward position that ultimately creates a very ironic twist to the story.

To get though all of this, we get several incredible action sequences. There is a terrific, over the top hand to hand combat fight in a glittering white bathroom. Ethan and his team have to improvise a heist in the middle of the picture, so that he can sleep at night. The screenwriter/director Christopher McQuarrie injects some morality issues into this spy shoot em up, through a couple of nightmare sequences that visualize for us the qualms Ethan has about the choices he makes. The Tom Cruise haters will point to several chase scenes as proof that it is all about Tom as he rides a motorcycle like a bat out of hell or jumps from one building to another while doing the traditional Tom Cruise running. Those actions are not just to make Cruise look good, every spy film has chases and acts of derring do which put us in with the hero.

Henry Cavill and his mustache, take a break from the D.C. Universe to play a mysterious C.I.A. enforcer, foisted on the mission by the new DCIA. He looks good in a fight and not much effort was made to hide the fact that he is substantially taller than the star. His addition to the team suggests that not all the competent field agents have the temper for some of the delicate work that has to be done. The helicopter chase and battle that are the climax of the picture go a long way in showing that no one here is really a Superman, they all are vulnerable to a lot more than kryptonite. Ethan Hunt may have tried to bury his weakness, but it does get exploited well at the climax of the film.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout” owes most of it’s success to producer and star Tom Cruise. The film is not perfect, after all there are some plot-holes and lucky coincidences, but you never really care about that. This is a film that wants to keep you on the edge of your seat and it manages that nicely for all the two and a half hours of it’s running time. OK, maybe Cruise should be sure to send part of his profit participation to Lalo Schifrin, who created the iconic theme that sells this movie in the trailer, the titles and the end credits. I’d be willing to defend a proposition that it is the single greatest piece of theme music ever.

Star Trek Beyond


I will tell you up front, I’m a Trekker. I’m not the type to do cosplay or read every variation of the stories, official or unofficial, but I’ve been watching Star Trek since 1966 and I’m a fan of the show and much of the philosophy. I know that J.J. Abrams got a lot of s*** from fans because he emphasized the action more than the cerebral, although in the context of a two hour movie, I think that criticism is hollow, especially for Star Trek Into Darkness. I also thought the first film from 2009 was the best film of that year. There, I said it and you now can filter this post as you think fit. Star Trek Beyond is a major let down for me. I found it lacking in depth, confusing to follow, full of plot wholes and guilty of all of the criticisms that people have made about the previous two films (minus the lens flare).


As I was traveling a couple of weeks ago, the electronic poster boards were big and ubiquitous in the London area for this film. I hated that I had to wait until we got home, almost a week and a half after it opened to see it. After seeing it however, I’m satisfied to be commenting on it a day later than my usual posts would go up because there is not much here to get excited about. I’d hoped that the influence of comedy writer and actor Simon Pegg would be enough to make the film feel more humanistic and emphasize the comradeship of the crew more. My guess is that the bits that were funny, he is responsible for, but the overall structure, plot and characters are the result of multiple hands and it is a mess. As usual, no spoilers here, but what the hell did the villain need with the macguffin when his weapons systems and technology are so easily able to defeat Star Fleet  vessels as demonstrated early in the film? The backstory and transformation of the character Krall makes almost no sense. There is a seed of an idea for a philosophical discussion of the need for conflict, but it basically goes nowhere except to become cliches in the mouths of both our heroes and the villain.

When the ship met it’s end in Star Trek III, I was moved. When it has subsequently been destroyed or damaged  so substantially that they just rebuild it and move on to the next episode, there is a loss of engagement with the audience. This is one of the things that has been missing from the rebooted series, a sense of loyalty to the craft and the crew. Except for the main figures, everyone else is an extra that hardly bears mentioning much less mourning, they might as well all be wearing red shirts at the start of the story. Speaking of secondary characters, there is an explanation of the lead villain in the story, but the data on all of the other bad guys is not clear at all. A couple of them actually have names and it is not clear if they were with their leader when transformed or if they came from later groups or if they are indigenous and represent the pure form of the species. This film is in such a rush to get to the next action sequence that they don’t bother with basic explanations and the ones that they do come up with are the techno gibberish that often fills the dialog of a Trek film, only now it is delivered at warp speed.


There are a few things that work pretty well in the film. I think the relationship between Spock and Kirk continues to develop and I liked that Bones and Spock end up spending time together. Karl Urban has been a great Dr. McCoy and he has all the best lines and comic moments in the film. The character of Jaylah is potentially a good add to the character mix but her dialog is often so “you Tarzan, me Jane” that the character mostly has to be appreciated for the action scenes. Since they have come up, let’s talk about the action, it is a special effects and editing nightmare. It is often so dark you can’t see what is happening, and the constant movement of the set, while interesting, renders perspective meaningless. It is very difficult to tell what is blowing up and what is causing it to do so. Sometimes you can’t even say who is in the scene. The sequences are edited frantically, as is the style these days, which means there is almost no development of tension in any of those sequences. Everything is spectacle and narrative goes out the window. There is a long sequence with a motorcycle that was awkward and the effects shoots are not as well paired up with the live action as they need to be to sell it. This was at least one place where the quality of the visuals was not up to snuff. On the other hand, there are some solid mixes of make up and CGI effects to make some of the alien creatures seem real. I must say however that it sometimes feels like an extended version of the Cantina sequence from Star Wars.

So on the plus side you have some good visuals, and a few funny lines from Dr. McCoy and once in a while from someone else. On the negative side, you have a confusing story, a lack of character development (being gay and having a kid does not count if they are only props and not integrated into the story), plot holes that should make for some great YouTube parodies in the next few years. The movie also feels small, despite the size of the base they are ultimately trying to protect. There is no big issue except the bad guy wants to destroy things. Once again the old adage proves true, “You are only as good as the villain”, and in this case, Idris Elba can’t compensate for a poorly written antagonist. Look, it’s still Trek and you should see it, but it is closer to “Nemesis” or “The Final Frontier” than I think anybody wants to admit.