MI:7 and 8 in 2021 and 2022

Movie Mission Impossible Fallout, Beijing, China - 29 Aug 2018Well, I really didn’t see this coming. Fallout must have been a bigger success than I had thought. Tom Cruise has announced that there will be two more outings for his Mission Impossible franchise, and that they will be shot back to back for release in summers 2021 and 2022. Not only that, but Ghost Recon Protocol, no sorry, try again–  Rogue Nation and Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie has revealed that he has signed up (presumably to both write and direct) both films.

As Fallout was my favourite film of last year this is very welcome news. I’m not sure where this leaves Bond exactly, with that franchise stuttering and floundering, finally rush-releasing (if you can call it that, after a five-year break) Bond 25 next year, with shooting to yet start. This film that will be Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond, meaning another reboot (or at least the usual casting the next Bond hysterical nonsense) beyond that. In comparison, the MI series seems to be sailing on to bigger and better things, with a creative team confidently in charge.

I assume making two MI films together will enable a really epic, two-part narrative that may very likely complete the Ethan Hunt saga (can’t imagine even the apparently indestructible Tom Cruise has too many more of those physical stunt-ridden projects ahead of him).  Mind, after all the hyperbolics of Fallout, how I would dearly love to be in on the thought-processes involved in somehow topping that film. I’d actually like to see them reign it all in and make the films low-key and more intimate, but this is blockbuster territory so that’s out the window. Maybe some villain is going to threaten to pull the moon down onto America and Hunt has to go up there into space and save the world from Lunar orbit? At this point, not even the sky’s the limit anymore, is it?

Film of the Year

Well, okay, while this may yet seem a little early to post something like this, it’s surely a foregone conclusion- I’m only confirming, afterall, something I suggested back when  I saw the film at the cinema in August. I watched the 4K UHD of Mission Impossible: Fallout the other night and can only suggest the film gets even better and more impressive on second viewing. I’d actually add that the 4K UHD is actually a better experience/presentation than the cinema screening I attended (alas, I didn’t see the film in Imax, which must have been breathtaking).  At any rate, this film is surely the best film I have seen this year. Its astonishing/riveting/thrilling/funny/surprising… its possibly the Perfect Summer Blockbuster, and God knows, that title has plenty of competition.

Whatever Bond does next, it’s going to be a fascinating thing to see.

fallAs far as Mission Impossible goes, you know, I’d love to see them now go in some other direction, maybe go small and into a low-budget, character-focused, espionage drama. I think that’s highly unlikely, but trying to top this one is so beyond risky, I’d almost suggest its foolhardy. I’m almost tempted to say they should call it a day, wait ten years and do another reboot, start afresh. But part of me really wants another Cruise flick with Ethan Hunt saving the world again whilst blowing my socks off.

Mission: Impossible- Fallout (2018)

mi6Your mission, Mr Cruise, is to make a summer blockbuster better than Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. Well, this is Mission: Impossible, after all, Mr Cruise, not Mission: Difficult.

Utterly bonkers, and yet almost ridiculously flawless, this astonishing film is surely the blockbuster of the year, possibly the best for the years since the franchise’s previous entry, Rogue Nation. As pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment, its as good as blockbusters get. Thrilling, jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing, exhilarating… word was it would be good, trailers teased something extraordinary, and early reviews seemed to be overwhelmingly positive. Well, here’s a film that lives up to the hype. Sure, there will be some who will somehow be left cold by its charms, but most cinema-goers will leave screenings with big smiles on their faces. As Hollywood entertainment goes, this film delivers a masterclass.

Its madness, really, that a franchise by its sixth entry 22 years old just continues to get better and better. True, it can be said that the last three films have largely followed the same template, but it has to be said, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Instead the production team have just upped the stakes and somehow improved and finessed with each successive effort. A series of films that started in the shadow of Bond seems to have finally beaten Bond and left it behind in the dust.

If I had to fault it, well, I’d say the Hans Zimmer-inspired music score from Lorne Balfe is just a tad overpowering and uninspired; it works okay in the film but it doesn’t really have the finesse of Joe Kraemer’s Rogue Nation score, the lightness of its touch or the sophistication of its orchestration and writing. Balfe’s score screams summer blockbuster at you in its Dark Knight/Inception-style glory and beats you over the head with it. I suppose its just continuing the trend for current Hollywood scores but I think it would have been interesting to hear something a bit more restrained and measured against the films insane visuals and energy.  In many ways Fallout clearly betters Rogue Nation but the score is where it slips up, the one bad decision in the creative process.

Other than that, though, its pretty much a perfect summer blockbuster. The script is great, the stunts and action sequences rattle away with jaw-dropping verve and the cast is pretty much spot-on. As crazy as the spectacle is, its nice to at least feel like it is grounded in some kind of reality, and while I’m sure there are plenty of erased wires and CGI tricks it never feels like a cast of animated CGI doppelgangers leaping around as it does in so  many Marvel/DC actions sequences.  I was a little concerned by some awkward plotting during the first act (when Hunt loses his three plutonium cores) but it was clearly just setting-up the spectacle to follow. I can’t really put my finger on it, but during this section I felt a little nervous that things weren’t quite right- it felt a little contrived, which might well seem an odd criticism for a franchise that is obviously hopelessly contrived. It just didn’t feel quite as smooth as I would have liked, as if a little more polish on the script was needed. But I can excuse fifteen minutes of so-so material when it sets up all the spectacular stuff that follows.

The funny thing is, after the brilliant Rogue Nation, if three years ago I had to make a wish-list  for the sixth entry, it would have been more Solomon Lane, more Ilsa Faust, more chases, more fights, more jaw-dropping stunts, and that’s pretty much what we get with Fallout. Its everything I could have hoped for. Crikey. That Cruise fella may be annoying in the real world but as a movie producer/star he’s pretty damned impressive.

Well, there’s only way to end this review. Your mission, Mr Cruise, is to make a summer blockbuster better than Mission: Impossible- Fallout. Well, this is Mission: Impossible, after all, Mr Cruise, not Mission: Difficult

Jason Bourne (2016)

jason12016.99: Jason Bourne

I’m rather a fan of the Bourne films- certainly the first three, and the fourth (and first non-Matt Damon outing) The Bourne Legacy had its moments, but it’s now clear that the problems with that flawed fourth entry in the franchise were not unique to itself. This latest film, simply titled Jason Bourne, sees the welcome return of both Matt Damon in the title role and also celebrated director Paul Greengrass, but alas it carries many of the problems of that fourth film which at the time were perhaps shrugged aside as simply being the by-product of not having Damon or Greengrass involved.

Sadly, this film has none of the energy and freshness of the first three films, with few surprises (and some of those unwelcome). Instead its a tired and surprisingly unimaginative retread of so much that has gone before, to the degree that it almost feels like a reboot rather than a continuation of the saga. Perhaps thats simply another indication of safety-concious Hollywood and its unwillingness sometimes to really stretch a franchise away from the familiar – a criticism that could well be laid at the feet of the rival series of James Bond films.

Perhaps its due to the length of time between the previous Greenhouse-helmed and Damon-starring entry, but  there’s certainly an element of doubt and lack of conviction about this effort. Dare I say it almost feels like a cash-grab? To fans such as myself, that’s the worst thing of all regards this film- in anycase, its woefully overfamiliar: Jason Bourne is living a life ‘under the radar’ until he is again brought under the gaze of the CIA and factions within it that need Bourne silenced/terminated, an ensuing chase around the world with Bourne at odds with elaborate high-tech surveillance tech in his search for a hidden truth about his past (in this case, the particularly awkward introduction of his dead father and Bourne’s search for justice/revenge).  It almost feels like a ‘Greatest Hits’ package of elements from each of first three films: Bourne resurfaces, he’s abetted by ‘honest’ CIA staff, he has to avenge the death of his wife (father here), the head of the CIA is corrupt, the odds are against him but Bourne stays one step ahead, the tech fails in the face of the human element, Bourne goes back under the radar. I’m sure I’m not spoiling anything- you really have seen it all before.

Worse, the execution itself feels rather uninspired, with action scenes and stunts all sadly inferior to those of the first three films. Its a frankly disappointing effort and while some fans will enjoy the familiarity of the returning characters and themes, I’m sure that most, like me, will feel rather let-down by the distinct lack of originality. The Bourne films have been a welcome alternative (and some would argue a needed kick in the teeth) to the Bond films, and it’s odd to see the Bourne films in something of a creative crisis at the same time as the Bond films seem to be suffering from one.Maybe its a general issue with the spy-thriller genre in the wake of the spectacles of the superhero films that dominate the screen these days. Or maybe the recent Mission: Impossible films are having an impact on Bourne as clearly as they are the Bond films. I do hope the Bourne films can continue, particularly with Damon as he’s clearly a great action hero in these, but perhaps with the next film a fresh approach can revitalise it. It certainly needs something.

 

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

Say what you like about Tom Cruise, he knows how to fashion an audience-friendly blockbuster. Rogue Nation is a great summer movie, delivering everything anybody could possibly want from a Mission Impossible film. Even more remarkably, for a series nearly twenty years old now and into its fifth outing, it all somehow still seems fresh and exciting with some remarkable action sequences and a welcome return to spycraft and espionage. No small part of this is the presence of rising star Rebecca Ferguson as British Intelligence agent Ilsa Faust. Ferguson damn near steals the film from Cruise with a warm and affecting performance with a surprising physicality (I’ve seen her on tv before and this performance is a big surprise). No doubt many viewers will marvel at her performance and wonder where this new female action star has come from (it’s been a great summer for female action roles, with this, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow). Cruise has hinted at launching a sixth Mission Impossible film as early as next year and I hope thats an indication that it will be a follow-up to this one with Ferguson returning.

A follow-up would also be a welcome opportunity to bring back the Syndicate and its leader Solomon Lane (the name a riff on REH’s Solomon Kane, perhaps, or am I looking too far?) cooly played with real menace by Sean Harris. If Rogue Nation has any possible fault its the nagging feeling of anti-climax that hangs over a final confrontation that dispenses with the high-flying stunts and explosions, but that would be ably solved by it only being, in hindsight, a prelude to the next film. Who knows, as it is the finale might be considered a pleasant change from the usual OTT blockbuster theatrics, but I was left with a feeling there is more to be seen of Solomon Lane, in just the same way as the last few James Bond movies have had a more serial feel than the more individual Bond films of old.

rogue2So a great summer movie then, and one that has demonstrated the viability of its franchise just as much as Fury Road revitalised the Mad Max series (Fury Road is still my favourite film of the summer though). I’m not a great fan of endless sequels but I have to say, looking at the Mission Impossible series as a whole, its a pretty damn fine series of movies that delivers what its audience expects. Certainly it has been far more consistent than the Die Hard series. Tom Cruise seems to know what he’s doing with these Mission Impossible films, and I’m quite excited to see what he comes up with next.

Oh, and while I’m in gushing mode, the score by Joe Kraemer is fantastic action stuff too and no small part of the film’s success. Great film; roll on the blu-ray- that release may be the ideal time to get a Mission Impossible boxset to while away the Winter Blues.