Film Review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’

Tom Cruise accepts his next mission with more impossible odds…

 

MI Fallout

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt is ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (image belongs: Paramount Pictures, used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett

Directed and written by:  Christopher McQuarrie / 147 minutes

What’s it about?

Tasked with retrieving three nuclear devices stolen after a botched mission, Ethan Hunt and his team are coupled with a CIA overseer as they race to prevent the death of millions…

In review

As many critics have already cited, it’s rare for a film series to continue to go from strength to strength after so many instalments but the Mission: Impossible franchise once again proves unstoppable and relentlessly enthralling with the newly released sixth entry, Fallout.  Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie pulls out all the stops as superstar Tom Cruise performs more death defying, pulse-pounding and vertigo-inducing stunts that keep audiences coming back for more.

Serving as a direct sequel to Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout sees Impossible Mission Force Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) called upon to undertake another daring assignment, this time to recover three nuclear devices which have fallen into the hands of a terrorist group that has arisen in the wake of the capture of Solomon Lane (the ever-raspy Sean Harris).  With the mission ending in failure, Hunt and his team – Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) – are forcefully coupled with CIA chief Erica Sloan’s (Angela Bassett) top agent August Walker, played by Justice League’s Henry Cavill, in a race against the clock to prevent global chaos.

As always, the cast is great (although the absence of Jeremy Renner this time out is initially felt) – not in the least Tom Cruise who, bar his passionate and unwavering commitment to the action, also brings that human quality to the character of Ethan Hunt, a man who will stop at nothing to protect everything – and everyone – he cares about.  Mission: Impossible really is nothing without him.  As Agent Walker, Henry Cavill is a force to be reckoned with pulling no punches (often literally) in his scenes with Cruise and is quite a powerful asset to the film and the ‘interference’ of the CIA in the IMF’s operations facilitates some neat dramatic moments, between Cruise and Cavill as well as Bassett and Alec Baldwin, who reprises the role of Secretary Alan Hunley.

Hunt’s mission becomes all the more personal as he crosses paths with some old faces.  Harris’s Lane notwithstanding, we see the return of Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 spy Isla Faust and Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s ex-wife Julia.  Ferguson in particular is a highlight (as she was in Rogue Nation) and again has strong chemistry with Cruise but the inclusion of all three returning actors, coupled with call-backs to the earlier films and homages to Bruce Geller’s original television series provides a sense of history that’s rewarding for fans of the franchise.

Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay provides Mission: Impossible – Fallout with plenty of intrigue, spectacle and drama that’s enhanced by numerous twists and turns that will keep viewers on their toes and the edge of their seats.  Tonally, there’s a bit of a darker edge to Fallout that gives it a slightly different flavour from previous instalments which helps keep things fresh and ensures the tension remains high throughout.

The action is truly first class and easily meets expectations from a brutal bathroom fight to rival Casino Royale to set-pieces that range from a sky diving jump, chases on foot, by motor and by river to the incredible and prolonged helicopter pursuit that forms part of the breathlessly exciting finale.  Spread across locations including Paris, London and Kashmir, it’s all handled with relative ease and skill by director McQuarrie, deftly executed by Cruise and the rest of the cast and made all the more appealing by the exemplary cinematography.

If you’re a fan of these films and the action genre in general then it’s a no-brainer so strap yourself in for one hell of a ride.

The bottom line:  The Mission: Impossible series continues to thrill in an exciting, intelligent and arresting action blockbuster that’s a cut above the rest.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is in cinemas now.

Film Review: ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (spoiler free)

Mission accomplished?

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris

Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie / Written by:  Christopher McQuarrie (story by Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pearce) / 131 minutes

What’s it about?

With the IMF disbanded, Ethan Hunt and his teammates must evade capture by the CIA whilst they seek to thwart the plans of the mysterious rogue organisation known as The Syndicate…

In review

Rogue Nation is the fifth instalment of Tom Cruise’s popular action film franchise based on the classic television series which ran during the late sixties/early seventies (and resurrected briefly in the 1980s).  With 2011’s Ghost Protocol proving a huge critical and financial hit, the pressure was surely on to make the IMF’s latest adventure as big and good as, if not better than their previous outing.

Rogue Nation largely succeeds and is undoubtedly a strong and reliable addition to the series, whilst there may be a touch of the familiar the filmmakers have deftly straddled the line of delivering everything that made Ghost Protocol work so well whilst ensuring that there are enough fresh elements to complement the overall ‘package’.

Director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who has worked with Tom Cruise previously on Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow) succeeds Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird as creative master of this newest Mission: Impossible and demonstrates a talented ability to skilfully stage the adrenalin infused large scale action set-pieces audiences have come to expect from the M:I series and present a labyrinthine spy narrative that never ceases to surprise with its numerous twist and turns.

Of course, the star of the show is Tom Cruise himself bringing the same relentless drive that has aided in the success of the Mission: Impossible film series.  Cruise injects the character of Ethan Hunt with the usual charisma and skill but as always it’s his extraordinary commitment to the film’s action and stunts that makes much of Rogue Nation so exhilarating, from clinging to the side of a cargo plane as it goes airborne, to trading heavy blows with Jens Hulten’s henchman through to the intense motorbike and car chases.  Yet, it’s actually a novel twist on the computer vault-data theft plot device from the first Mission: Impossible that stands out as one of the most exciting and daring action sequences in Rogue Nation.  Once again there are beautiful and varied locations, this time including Vienna, Morocco and London with some striking imagery provided by cinematographer Robert Elswit.

Returning from duty in Ghost Protocol are Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames.  Although Renner and Rhames are a little sidelined, Pegg’s role as Benji Dunn is once again significantly larger than his cameo in J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III and, as with Ghost Protocol, Pegg proves able to play both the comedic and the dramatic (and moments of both feel well balanced and well executed in Rogue Nation) effectively.  Alec Baldwin brings some decent star power to bolster proceedings as the CIA man charged with apprehending Hunt and his team and whilst Sean Harris’s raspy-voiced main antagonist isn’t as well defined and as menacing as some of the greatest Bond villains, he’s non-the-less suitably psychotic.

Aiding Hunt is Isla Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson), a character with torn loyalties upon which much of the mystery and intrigue of Rogue Nation centres on.  The character of Faust and the manner in which she is played by Ferguson is a huge asset to the film and it would be welcome to see the series break trend and have her return for the already mooted sixth Mission: Impossible.

All in all, Rogue Nation is another mission safely and solidly accomplished.

The bottom line:  Rogue Nation is another successful big screen Mission: Impossible venture for producer/star Tom Cruise and his various collaborators with high stakes action combined with an intriguing and twisty spy plot.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is in cinemas now.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of spies return to action in Paramount Pictures' 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of spies return to action in Paramount Pictures’ ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’.

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

Words truly escaped me when the news broke yesterday of the death of Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of the iconic character of Mr. Spock in the equally iconic science fiction television series, Star Trek.

Having been a Star Trek fan for the majority of my geeky existence (so far) I cannot express how saddened I felt upon hearing the news, it felt like losing a friend – not someone I knew personally or had even met, yet, someone who was always strangely part of my life.  Nimoy’s contribution to Star Trek (and film and television in general) cannot be understated, his nuanced and introspective portrayal of Spock always captivating and effective in conveying the character’s struggles to reconcile the emotional and logical parts of his half human/half Vulcan heritage.  Nimoy shared great onscreen chemistry with co-star William Shatner’s Captain Kirk, a friendship that would filter into their personal lives with the two becoming close friends during and beyond their Star Trek years.

Aside from his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series (as well as guest starring in the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter “Unification”), Nimoy would go on to direct big screen voyages Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as well as serve as an executive producer on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country where he also worked with director Nicholas Meyer on the film’s story.

Outside of Star Trek, Nimoy appeared in numerous other films and television series including a two year stint as ‘Paris’, the enigmatic master of disguise and deception on Mission: Impossible, a memorable guest role as a murderous surgeon in Columbo, both the 1960s and 1990s versions of The Outer Limits and even parodied himself in The Simpsons.  He would also go on to direct the smash hit 1980s comedy Three Men and a Baby.  He was also a writer having penned memoirs I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock and a talented photographer – there was even a singing career, perhaps not his finest hour, yet he managed to release seven albums!  Nimoy’s final onscreen appearances as an actor were guest roles in Fringe and the 2009 big screen Star Trek reboot and its 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness.

Although Star Trek brought Nimoy fame and fortune it did lead to some personal troubles with the actor enduring a struggle with alcohol which he sought as a release, allowing him to ‘break away’ from the often cold and emotionless Mr. Spock.  He also smoked heavily and despite quitting over twenty years ago Nimoy was last year diagnosed with obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition related to smoking and which ultimately lead to his death.

Leonard Nimoy died on Friday 27th February 2015, aged 83.  Those closing scenes of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan have become all the more poignant and emotional and made a legendary screen actor truly unforgettable…

Leonard Nimoy found fame in the iconic role of Mr. Spock in 'Star Trek' - a character loved by millions all over the globe.

Leonard Nimoy found fame in the iconic role of Mr. Spock in ‘Star Trek’ – a character loved by millions all over the globe.

Have you seen…’Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’?

The films you may not have seen that are definitely worth a look…

Year: 2011

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist

Director:  Brad Bird

What’s it about?

On a mission to prevent the terrorist Kurt Hendricks from acquiring Russian nuclear launch codes, Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team are framed for the bombing of the Kremlin.  Disavowed by the U.S. government, Hunt and his team must rely on their own resourcefulness and stop Hendricks from launching a nuclear attack against the United States.

In review

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth and most recent entry (and certainly not the last – a fifth instalment is currently slated for a 2015 release) in the blockbuster Tom Cruise ‘Spy-Fi’ action franchise (based on the classic television series created by Bruce Geller) and safely qualifies as the best.

The plot is relatively uncomplicated yet smart with some neat twists and turns and allows for a number of exciting and tense action sequences, the obvious highlight being Hunt’s vertigo-inducing excursion outside the 830m high, 163 floor Burj Khalifa (all the more effective given Tom Cruise’s commitment to doing most of his own stunts) as well as the final face off with Hendricks (played with appropriate villainy by Nyqvist) in an automatic high rise car park.

Cruise, like him or loathe him (forgetting issues of his personal life, I happen to think he’s a good actor and a top action star), puts in another reliable performance as Ethan Hunt and is joined by new teammates Agent Jane Carter (the beautiful Patton) and Brandt (Renner, star of The Hurt Locker) and re-unites with pal Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, enjoying a rightfully enlarged part following his cameo in Mission Impossible III).  The group have great chemistry and is a key part of the film’s success.

Brad Bird, director of Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille makes his live action feature film debut here and it doesn’t show as he handles proceedings with skill and expertise.  Bird keeps things flowing at an appropriate pace, never becoming overwhelmed with the big scale action set-pieces.

Tying things together nicely is another exciting score from Michael Giacchino (who also scored Mission: Impossible III), incorporating Lalo Schifrin’s original themes from the television series.

Why you should watch it

Ghost Protocol is the best in the Mission: Impossible film series, it features engaging characters, edge of the seat thrills and even a measure of humour.  Seeing it is a mission you should definitely choose to accept.

Standout moment

Planning to intercept the launch codes from Hendricks the IMF team arrive at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  Part of their plan requires access to the building’s servers which they can only reach undetected from the outside – the team volunteer Hunt as the man for the job…

Did you know?

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is not only the most financially (as well as critically) successful in the series but is Tom Cruise’s biggest hit, grossing almost $700 million world-wide.

Watch it if you like…

Mission: Impossible III, The Bourne Legacy

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Tom Cruise's commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.

Tom Cruise’s commitment to his own stunt work adds to the excitement of the Mission: Impossible film series.