Mission: Impossible reviews – Ghost Protocol (2011), Rogue Nation (2015)

Released: December 21, 2011. Directed by: Brad Bird. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg. Runtime: 2h 12 min.

Brad Bird directs his first-live action film with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol after doing the great film The Incredibles.

I think his sense of humour is one of the reasons this entry has so many funny moments, and another reason is Simon Pegg getting a bigger role as Benji, who’s been newly promoted to field agent. Bird’s humour is shown when Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets a mission to find files identifying a person of interest called “Cobalt,” from the Moscow Kremlin archives.

It’s the usual when Ethan gets the message, but the phone says it’s going to self destruct but it doesn’t, so Ethan goes back and hits it with his hand.

The plot itself is good as “Ghost Protocol” is put in place by the President that disavows the entire IMF team because Ethan and his team, including Benji and Jane Carter (Paula Patton), are implicated in the bombing at the Kremlin. Also helping them is intelligence analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and his character’s super interesting. The villain played by Michael Nyqvist is good.

The action’s thrilling, too, especially the stunt outside of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalif. The film’s prison break at the beginning is also such a great opening.

Score: 85/100

 

Released: July 31, 2015. Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie. Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner. Runtime: 2h 11 min.

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

The idea of a shadow organization like the IMF is such a cool idea. It’s awesome watching Ethan try to take them down, and there are a lot of cool plot twists throughout.

Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is also a good villain, and his speaking voice is so damn cool. New character Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) has a great dynamic with Hunt, and she keeps us guessing throughout.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is just so bonkers it starts with Tom Cruise hanging off an airplane. It’s one of the best stunts but the film is very entertaining. The film’s set pieces really continue to astound, especially the car chases. One notable scene at an opera makes the opera look like a lot of fun, so that’s a mission it also accomplishes.

Score: 90/100

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Released: May 5, 2006. Directed by: J.J. Abrams. Starring: Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames. Runtime: 2h 5 min.

I don’t remember a lot of films I saw in theatres when I was a kid but I remember seeing Mission: Impossible III. It might be because this is the first film I remember seeing that started at the mid-way point in the story, when Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) threatens to kill Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) fiancé Julia (Michelle Monaghan).

The stakes are immediately the highest they’ve felt in the series, as I never felt like they were consistently high in Mission: Impossible or Mission: Impossible II. This was also the first time I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman and the sadism of his character is memorable and threatening.

It’s also just a good film in general and not only because of my nostalgia for it. J.J. Abrams directs the action well and the stunts are great, especially when Ethan leaps off a skyscraper in Shanghai onto another one. Anyway, Davian is the most memorable villain of the series upp to this point. Davian’s a sadistic arms dealer after something called the Rabbit’s Foot.

We don’t really know what it is and that vagueness isn’t great. Though, Davian’s willing to pay $875 million for it, so it’s a pretty big deal. Davian’s just interested in power and tormenting Ethan. In the first film, IMF director Kittredge says to find something that’s personally important to Ethan “and squeeze.” A villain finally takes that advice, as evidenced by the film’s opening scene.

The action scenes are good, and the film’s first big set piece of trying to rescue Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), after she went to investigate Davian, sets the film’s events up perfectly. At the beginning of the film, Ethan’s settled down with Julia, played well by Michelle Monaghan, and he’s training IMF agents to be ready for the field instead of being in the field himself. But he trained Farris and that’s one of the reasons that Hunt goes back out in the field. This time, the characters are interesting enough that the very personal conflicts feel well-written.

Tom Cruise also runs a lot more in this one. He has such a great chemistry with Monaghan as Julia, as well as his IMF team including franchise mainstay Ving Rhames as Luther and Maggie Q as Zhen. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a team member named Declan, but he’s easily the most forgettable of all the IMF agents that have come and gone in the franchise.

Score: 80/100

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Released: May 22, 1996. Directed by: Brian de Palma. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart. Runtime: 1h 50 min.

Based on the hit TV show from the 1960s, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tries to clear his name when he’s suspected for disloyalty to the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) after a mission goes wrong and he’s left as the only survivor.

The script’s mediocre as Ethan must deliver the second half of a non-official cover (NOC) list, a list of covert agents in Eastern Europe, to an arms dealer named “Max” to discover the identity of the actual spy. I watched this three days ago and I barely remembered the NOC list. Out of the first three films, Brian de Palma’s direction and style are easily the least forgettable, as well.

The script does have some surprises and the cast helps keep it interesting, especially Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. He’s charming and great here and “Mission: Impossible” serves as a solid introduction to Ethan.

For the rest of the cast, I’m sure it was surprising when the film came out in 1996 that Emilio Estevez gets killed off in the first 25 minutes. For me, watching this for the first time in 2018, I was just surprised seeing him in this. Jon Voight’s also good as Jim Phelps – the only character from the original TV series.

It’s interesting seeing who Ethan aligns with to try to clear his name, since he can’t exactly get help from the agency. Claire (Emmanuelle Béart) has a decent chemistry with Ethan, but she’s the most forgettable out of the female leads of the first three films. Luther (Ving Rhames) is great and so is Jean Reno as Krieger.

The film itself though only has a few great action scenes, especially the dangling wire scene – which is so tense and the whole sequence is so entertaining – and the train finale is also great.

Throughout the film, Ethan is trying to evade director of the IMF Eugene Kittredge (Henry Czerny). Kittredge wants Ethan to come to them, saying “You find something that’s personally important to him and you squeeze.” The thing is, he doesn’t execute on this line because it doesn’t feel like Ethan has anything to lose. The stakes for this film simply don’t feel high enough, making the non-action scenes dull.

Score: 65/100

The Other Woman (2014)

The Other WomanReleased: April 25, 2014. Directed by: Nick Cassavetes. Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton. Runtime: 109 min. 

The Other Woman is a story about strange friendships and adultery. It raises ideas that monogamy just never works out, and one character is legitimately surprised that Carly (Cameron Diaz), is sticking to one man. Nicki Minaj is occupying one of those secretary roles who are moral compasses for their boss even though this one has questionable morals. She doesn’t consider it cheating if the partner is a fat Canadian with no sexual charisma. Minaj’s character Lydia isn’t featured prominently (she’s present for three or four scenes) so we should count our blessings for that. Minaj’s comedic delivery needs work. I might be treating her unfairly because I hate her. I must admit that she’s a talented rapper, though. Anyway, the film follows Lydia’s employer Carly who is dating a great guy named Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is good at playing the falsely charming douchebag), or at least she thinks he’s a great guy. When she finds out he’s married to Kate (Leslie Mann), they become friends, even though Diaz says they better not braid each other’s hair and drink cosmos. Don’t they know tequila is a gateway drink to that sort-of bonding? They set out on a slow-moving plan to put Mark in his place, in traditional ways – sometimes to the sound of the Mission: Impossible theme.

nicki-the-other-woman

My response to the humour that REALLY missed

This is a chick flick through and through, one that firmly believes men suck. On paper this could be some decent entertainment, because I like movies like this once in awhile – and I think the director, Nick Cassavetes, is talented. But this is his worst film to date. He’s no stranger to the so-called chick flick – director of My Sister’s Keeper, which could be tagged as one – but he is a stranger to comedy. He directed it well enough to get a counted six laughs from me, but half of those are because I’m a sucker for poop jokes. It also relies on other gross-out “gags” which are more gross than funny at all. That’s most notably the fact that Kate’s huge dog (who, in a running gag, has huge balls) is shown taking a shit on Carly’s carpet. (This is not the poop joke that got a big laugh from me, I assure you.)

That’s just a little taste of the grossness. There’s different comedy styles for everyone – gross-out-jokes, tame raunchy jokes, slapstick humour and jokes that just aren’t funny. In the test screenings, one would think they would have checked which one the audiences reacted the most to – and leaned towards one style, or at least tried to make all of those styles funny. This might be funnier if it got an R-rating. It’s essentially an awful version of John Tucker Must Die, where the cheating monster is married instead of just a guy in high school – and the victims are mid-20s to middle age. If it were made to be an update just with older stars – wouldn’t it make more sense to make it with an R-rating? A better writer than first-timer Melissa Stack would help, too. Too often the humour misses, and the film is too often extremely boring and predictable. The film’s also bereft of any romance that feels natural, which I think is odd for Cassavetes, director of The Notebook.

Haha nope, he won't notice us...

Haha nope, he won’t notice us…

The “comedy” that gets tailored for Mann’s talents is unfunny crying (because her husband is cheating on her) a nonsensical bit of why her husband shouldn’t eat bacon, and a thing where she wants to go to brain camp to become smarter. She really needs it since she doesn’t know it’s called college. Mann does get one big laugh. A cast member that is enjoyable is Don Johnson, even if his presence feels random. Cameron Diaz is here because of her charming smile, but she doesn’t muster any big laughs. She’s sexy but the sex appeal is more-so Kate Upton’s boobs. Upton comes into the film a bit late, and that’s really when they start sabotaging Mark; which makes the pacing issues more obvious, as she doesn’t appear until at least an hour in.

This is a brutal attempt at comedy with characters that you just won’t care about. Mann’s character is a somehow more whiny version of her character in Knocked Up, but at least that film is funny. Diaz’s Carly is a bit too unlikable at times, even with that lovely smile, as she practices tough love. It’s sometimes nice to see the plain lawyer, who seems to dedicate all of her time to this operation, open up to these people, though. Upton’s Amber is cute, she says cute things like “Let’s kick him in the balls!” It just seems to me that she doesn’t have many brain cells in her pretty little head. She can join Kate at “brain camp.” And while they’re there, Cassavetes and writer Melissa Stack can go to comedy camp.

Score: 38/100