Mission: Impossible – Fallout movie review

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

Director : Christopher McQuarrie
Cast : Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 147 mins
Opens : 26 July 2018
Rating : PG-13

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), the Impossible Missions Force’s (IMF) greatest agent, heeds the call of duty again. He’ll do whatever it takes – be it jumping out of a plane, hanging off sheer cliff-faces, tearing through Paris on a motorbike, leaping across rooftops in London or hijacking a helicopter – to get the job done.

After the events of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the shadowy network of former spies known as the Syndicate is left without its leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). The IMF discovers that the remnants of the Syndicate, known as the Apostles, are now working for hire and plan to acquire plutonium to build three nuclear bombs. The Apostles also plan to break Lane out of prison.

It’s up to Hunt and his team to stop the Apostles and prevent worldwide devastation, but it will be an uphill task. Ethan, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and their boss Hunley (Alec Baldwin) also face opposition from within: CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) distrusts the IMF and its methods, and assigns her top agent, August Walker (Henry Cavill), to keep an eye on Hunt and company. To complicate matters, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an MI6 agent who went deep undercover as a Syndicate operative and who has a personal grudge against Lane, re-enters the fray. Threatened on all sides, Hunt and company have their work cut out for them, as the stakes reach stratospheric levels.

The Mission: Impossible film series, based on the 60s TV show of the same name, is interesting in that until now, each film has been helmed by a different director: Brian DePalma directed the first one, John Woo the regrettable second entry, J.J. Abrams made his feature film directorial debut with the third, Brad Bird his live-action debut with the fourth, and Christopher McQuarrie directed the fifth. McQuarrie, who also penned the screenplay for this film, is the franchise’s first returning director, and he hits it way out of the park.

Fallout is a muscular yet nimble film, a bravura showcase of stunning set-pieces that are strung together by a credible, propulsive plot. McQuarrie achieves a masterful tone – this is a serious film in which Hunt faces grave professional and personal consequences, but it’s never a dour or overbearing one. It runs for 147 minutes but is remarkably light on its feet. The action set pieces can stretch for 15 minutes or longer at a time, but the audience is glued to the screen throughout.

Credit must be given to second unit director/stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, who helps McQuarrie stage some of the most impressive stunts in the franchise’s storied history. Just when we thought this film couldn’t top Tom Cruise hanging off the facade of the Burj Khalifa or clinging for dear life onto the side of an Airbus A400M, this film gives us Cruise using the skids of an out-of-control helicopter as a jungle gym and performing an actual High-Altitude Low-Opening (HALO) skydive.

The motorcycle chase that criss-crosses through Paris and sees Hunt ride against traffic in the infamous Arc de Triomphe Roundabout pulls out all the stops and throws every trick in the book at the screen. The helicopter chase feels like two kids holding toys chasing each other around a room, made vivid, utterly convincing reality. Many sequences in this film are utterly insane but have a distinctly different feel to the joyously over-the-top set-pieces in something like the Fast and Furious franchise.

The plot manages to be familiar yet unpredictable and intelligent. There are the expected double-crosses and questioned allegiances, but the film stays compelling by striking an admirable balance between the end-of-the-world stakes and the personal stakes. McQuarrie takes sheer delight in teasing audiences with near-miss after near-miss. While nothing in the franchise has superseded the tension of the cable drop close call scene in the first film, several bits in Fallout come very close.

Tom Cruise might stumble here and there (*ahem*The Mummy*ahem*), as any actor is wont to, but in the recent Mission: Impossible films, he can always be counted on to be on top action hero form. This is not a man who half-asses anything, and the 56-year-old is consistently impressive, pushing himself to the absolute limit in the name of our entertainment. Cruise broke his ankle jumping across buildings in London, and that take remains in the film. Hunt displays nigh-superhuman strength and stamina that does stretch suspension of disbelief, but Cruise gives such an engaging performance that we just go along with it.

Cavill is enjoyable as Walker, an arrogant, lethal CIA agent, meant to serve as Ethan’s foil. An early sequence in which Walker’s presumptuousness nearly costs him and Ethan the entire mission establishes Walker as a risk-taker, but not one as canny as Hunt. Cavill is an actor who can sometimes be a bit boring, but he’s got enough charisma here to go toe-to-toe with Cruise.

The film succeeds in parcelling out stuff for everyone to do, meaning that both Benji and Luther do not feel side-lined – Rhames even gets to deliver one of the film’s most emotional moments. Pegg gets far more physical than in the preceding films, while still being the resident loveable goofball.

Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust felt like the ideal Bond girl, and the character continues to be capable and mesmerising. Even after all she and Hunt’s team went through in Rogue Nation, we’re questioning where her allegiance lies.

Vanessa Kirby is entertaining as the seductive black-market broker known only as the ‘White Widow’, effortlessly sexy with a dangerous gleam in her eye. Hunt’s wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) is back, and how the film works her into the plot feels at once contrived and brilliant.

Alas, Angela Bassett doesn’t get much to do, glowering condescendingly and ordering Cavill about. This reviewer was afraid Baldwin would be distracting, given his high-profile Saturday Night Live role over the last one-and-a-half years, but he still is credible and handles the character’s dramatic scenes with ease, reminding us that he’s still a serious actor too.

Pound for pound, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is this summer’s best action extravaganza so far. A breathless thrill ride with just enough on its mind, incredible feats unfold with precision and finesse. It’s spectacle that will set pulses racing, and have audiences exiting the theatre thinking “yeah, this is what going to the movies should feel like every time”.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Boss Baby

For F*** Magazine

THE BOSS BABY 

Director : Tom McGrath
Cast : Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow
Genre : Animation/Comedy
Run Time : 1h 38min
Opens : 30 March 2017
Rating : PG

Alec Baldwin recently played the sitting President of the United States on Saturday Night Live. In this animated film, Baldwin plays a character who wears better-fitting suits, is more articulate, throws fewer tantrums, but has the same sized hands.

Virtually every review of The Boss Baby will open with or otherwise contain a passage just like the one above, but it’s just too difficult to pass up the comparison. Baldwin voices the title character, a corporate high flyer who just happens to be an infant. He is dispatched to the Templeton family by Baby Corp, after the love that babies in general are receiving is threatened by ever-cuter breeds of puppies. Mr. and Mrs. Templeton (Kimmel and Kudrow) work for Puppy Corp, so the Boss Baby attempts to infiltrate the company via his new parents. Seven-year-old Tim Templeton (Bakshi) has a feeling that something’s amiss with his new baby brother, and quickly discovers the Boss Baby’s secret. Even though they strongly dislike each other, Tim and the Boss Baby must cooperate to stop a dastardly scheme engineered by Puppy Corp’s CEO, Francis E. Francis (Buscemi).

The Boss Baby is directed by Tom McGrath, who directed Megamind, co-directed the Madagascar films and voiced Skipper the Penguin. Dreamworks Animation has built its brand as being more cynical and wiseacre than other studios that cater to children. The Shrek films were a vehicle for Dreamworks studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg to express his spite towards Disney, his former place of employment. You get the occasional oddity like Bee Movie. There’s an expectation that there will be lots of pop culture references. Big-name stars are slotted in, regardless of whether they’re capable voice actors. The best Dreamworks films, like the two How to Train Your Dragon movies, are praised as being “Pixar-like”.

The fundamental problem with The Boss Baby is that this is a premise which some suits in a boardroom found amusing. Much of the humour is derived from the incongruity of an infant spouting business jargon, and that the Boss Baby salivates at the thought of a gleaming corner office in Baby Corp. This is not stuff that kids will connect to. In the meantime, the parents will be alienated by the typical bodily function gross-out jokes. Family-aimed animated films can package challenging themes in a palatable way, the example that springs to mind being the recent Oscar winner Zootopia. The Boss Baby doesn’t do this at all. The best animated films are easy to connect and get lost in, when it’s clear that The Boss Baby was the brainchild of a bored studio exec.

Even though the premise doesn’t work as a whole, there are individual parts of The Boss Baby that are entertaining. The animation is lively, and there’s an inventive stylistic flourish in how Tim’s overactive imagination is depicted in a simpler, more colourful animation style. There’s an unexpected grandeur to the soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazarro, which is influenced by the big band style. The Tim character is likeable and has adequate personality thanks to Bakshi’s performance. Baldwin also showcases keen comic timing, even though his turn as Santa Claus in Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians was more fun.

Buscemi, replacing the initially-cast Kevin Spacey, can play ‘weaselly’ in his sleep. It’s a fine performance, but nothing we haven’t heard from him before. Kimmel and Kudrow are serviceable but unremarkable as the Templeton parents. Weirdly enough, there isn’t a scene-stealing supporting character, when Dreamworks movies can often be counted upon to provide those.

Throwing the parents a bone in the form of a pop culture reference or two is fine, and can be amusing if done right. However, The Boss Baby has entire scenes built around homages to films that its target audience will not be familiar with, including a gag spoofing the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s also the “cookies are for closers” line, a nod to “coffee is for closers” from Glengarry Glen Ross, in which Baldwin starred opposite Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon. These moments geared towards older audience members do not gel with the lowbrow humour, such that it’s not quite clear who exactly The Boss Baby is for.

While The Boss Baby can be viewed as a comically exaggerated allegory for sibling rivalry and it does get some moving moments in, cynicism is always bubbling beneath its talcum powdered skin.

Summary: An animated film with a half-clever premise, The Boss Baby’s corporate-themed plot will fly over the heads of most younger viewers, while the adults will barely tolerate the lowbrow gross-out jokes.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong