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

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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 II (2000)

Released: May 24, 2000. Directed by: John Woo. Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton. Runtime: 2h 3 min.

This review contains a few spoilers.

In Mission: Impossible II, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is rudely called away from his rock-climbing vacation for a new mission. His mission’s in Sydney, Australia where he must destroy a genetically modified disease called the “Chimera.”

For some of the film, skilled thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) is put in the most danger. She’s an ex-girlfriend of main villain Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), a disavowed IMF agent, so she’s called upon to gain his trust. Things get complicated when Ethan also falls for Nyah.

This personal relationship makes it feel like there are more stakes than the first film. It introduces a love triangle dynamic that is interesting from Ethan’s side, but Ambrose is goofy during it. He has an inferiority complex because of the perfect agent Ethan, and he ugly cries when he learns Nyah isn’t loyal to him. I won’t shame guys who cry – I cry at everything – but it’s dumb for this movie.

The writing’s not great, but some dialogue is laughably bad enough to be memorable. Take a gem from Anthony Hopkins’ Mission Commander Swanbeck, for example: “This isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible.” It’s not a bad title for a knockoff film.

Tom Cruise is good again as Ethan, and his long hair looks good as he’s kicking in slow motion. I liked some of the plot itself and the monologue, that’s repeated a few times, about Chimera being the villain and Bellerophon being the hero.

It’s an interesting Greek myth and it’s cool how it’s brought into the story. The story itself doesn’t have a ton of substance other than just trying to destroy a deadly virus, as you can summarize the first hour of the movie about a minute.

Director John Woo tries to distract from that with a lot of slow motion. The entire third act is a lot of Ethan just doing slow-motion kicks. There’s also a whole thing of Ethan shooting a stick bomb to blow in a door and then dramatically walking past the door through the flames, staring at Ambrose.

This silliness made me laugh and was fun, and I think this needed more slow-motion doves. The style of the film in the third act just makes this feel more like a John Woo movie than a Mission: Impossible film. That’s not usually a bad thing – but a lot of this explains why this is considered the weakest of the series.

Score: 50/100

Reviews of other films in the franchise:

Mission: Impossible (1996)

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

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Source: IMDb

Source: IMDb

Released: June 6, 2014. Directed by: Doug Liman. Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton. Runtime: 1hr., 53 min.

When it comes to summer blockbusters, there are three kinds of anticipation. The ones that muster excitement and they satisfy; the movies that you get excited for but they bring disappointment; and the ones that you don’t have high expectations for, because high-concept science fiction so often just stays that way – a high concept with bad execution. I’m looking at you, Transcendence.

But sometimes, those high-concept movies get great execution and just blow you out of the water, because it actually is good. That’s the category Edge of Tomorrow falls under.

The story follows Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a man who tries to get out of duty by blackmailing a General (Brendan Gleeson). The General doesn’t like that, and he puts the untrained Cage into battle against an alien race called the Mimic. It’s a day much like D-Day, but this time the baddies have the edge.

When facing sure death, he is able to adopt the power of the Mimics: the ability to restart the day. He is given another shot to win an unbeatable war. To do so, he needs help from the poster girl of awesome soldiers, the Full Metal B**ch herself, Rita Vrataski. She also found herself in a similar situation when she led the victory at the Battle of Verdun. Rita will train Cage in an attempt to win the war, and create the perfect soldier out of him.

This film is a lot smarter than anyone might expect it to be. It handles the time loop effect perfectly in a mildly easy to follow narrative. It weaves in a great sense of humour into the superbly shot and ridiculously fun action sequences. The humour is helped out by Tom Cruise and a great Emily Blunt. Cruise offers a vulnerable, wide-eyed and charismatic performance.

The film’s helped out by great writing by Christopher McQuarrie and the Butterworth brothers, adapting the novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. McQuarrie’s humour is evident in the screenplay.

The films blends a great training movie with fun sequences, and aspects of Groundhog Day – notice the same the female protagonist name, Rita – to form a refreshingly original blockbuster. It’s surprisingly not a repetitive film, as it finds new and creative ways to re-shape every days – even if we’ve seen the dialogue before.

A bothersome aspect is why Cage is forced into combat, when he recruits a few million soldiers for the war as an apparent military marketer. He’s an average guy plunged into a crazy situation, and since he is only experienced in marketing, he has to be trained to win this war. It’s a funny aspect to the narrative.

Also bothersome is how run-of-the-mill the ending feels to the rest of the brilliant picture. Saving it is superb visual effects and a great chemistry from the cast. Even if the ending isn’t perfect, it’s still a film that can be enjoyed repeatedly.

Score: 85/100

Oblivion (2013)

OblivionOblivion

Release Date: April 19, 2013

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko

Runtime: 126 min

Tagline: Earth Is a Memory Worth Fighting For

Jack (Tom Cruise) is one of the last drone repairmen remaining on Earth. All other survivors have evacuated, after a decades-long war with an alien race, where now the only threat are the Scavs remaining on Earth. After a disturbing find, Jack begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.

At the end of it all, it remains a moderate disappointment and there’s much to be desired, especially in the story department.

The movie has a lot of good going for it. The characters are intriguing, where they make us ask who some of them really are. The characters of Julia and also Beech, portrayed by Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman, respectively, are the charcters wrapped in the most mystery. Sally (Melissa Leo) is the head honcho up in space at the station, the Tet, who basically delivers and authenticates orders. Victoria (Andrea Risenborough) is on the mission with Jack, and she monitors him while he’s on missions to fix drones. Her philosophy is strictly business during the day, and fun in the evening. Jack often maintains that business mindset while on missions, even though he tends to go off monitor and do his own thing because he is very curious and is searching for meaning. He still believes Earth is his home, while Victoria cannot wait to go to the Tet and join the others. Jack’s search for meaning gives the film a solid narrative and makes it an effective character sci-fi drama, where all the dots are connected in the end. He has to find his way through basic man vs. man conflicts, man vs. technology conflicts, and most of all, man vs. self conflicts, as he is haunted by his own memories. The cast that portrays these characters is also top-notch.

The other highlight of the movie are the solid action sequences, the breathtaking landscapes and fantastic cinematography. This will be one of the most beautiful science fiction films to hit theatres this year, and is the nicest sci-fi to look at since last year’s Prometheus. It’s stunning when the camera is sailing over Iceland or when Cruise is just flying about; and that magnificent cinematography is the film’s strongest aspect. It’s one of the most gorgeous post-apocalyptic films you might ever see. The film also has a great score, and the technological gadgets are sh-weet.

The concept of Jack not really knowing his true self is portrayed well because sometimes we all lose our real sense of identity. It’s very frustrating when we really don’t know, so it’s realistic because he really has no idea of it, and it’s made even harder as he’s trying to hang onto any of his own humanity that remains.

The movie’s main problem is the storyline. The narrative all makes an admirable U-turn by the end of it all, but its road there can be hard to follow. Especially if you over-think it during. (You’d be thinking about the previous scene when a new, sometimes more complex scene is going on.) It’s also one of those sci-fi flicks that’ll be easier to understand on second or third viewing. The story also makes us question who the true villains are: Those on Earth (the Scavs, who look a bit too much like the antagonists from Predator), or whoever else is keeping secrets?

The story is intriguing but it loses its pacing and its initial great spark in the middle act. It aspires to be something grandiose in scale with its complex storyline, but comes out to be not as original as it could be and quite familiar because of all of its homages. The writers’ ambitions get in the film’s own way. The thing is, with all of its plot twists and turns, it feels like it’s striving to be something out of an M. Night Shyamalan or Christopher Nolan handbook. The twists aren’t as magnificent as something Nolan or Shyamalan could think of, because it feels like it’s striving to find the next new masterful twist that will never be forgotten. You might not be able to see them coming from the beginning of the movie, but many times during, you might be able to predict the basics of what will happen next a minute in advance.

This disappointing sci-fi feature will only receive a half-hearted recommendation; there’s just too much to be desired. There are effectively thrilling action sequences, breathtakingly beautiful cinematography, intriguing characters; but because of the highly ambitious storyline, the end product is an entertaining action movie, an intriguing sci-fi character drama, but a thinly-written mystery.

67/100

Jack Reacher (2012)

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins

Runtime: 130 min

Tagline: The law has limits. He does not.

A homicide investigator, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.

Yes, the plot is as simple as it sounds. But it’s effectively simple. It seems that McQuarrie adapts the novel, ‘One Shot’ by Lee Child, very well. While the story is as simple as mystery/thrillers get, it is exciting, and it’s a mystery that often keeps you guessing who is innocent, and who is guilty.

Unfortunately, the simple plot can get silly, and there are a few holes in the story telling. The motive of the baddies is stated, but it is never explored or even fully explained. They’re just up against Mr. Reacher.

Initially, there was some skepticism behind the casting of Tom Cruise, a miniature 5-foot-7 man, playing the 6-foot-5 brute from the novels. There’s a pretty large difference between the two statures. Because, hell, if Reacher is 6-foot-5, I’m Michael Jordan playing basketball poorly. It’s just not something you’re going to believe. Anyway, the end product is superb. Cruise kicks major ass, and after seeing him do it so well, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the shoes of a not-so-over-bearing Reacher.

This is a mystery/thriller that should be treasured during this century. It’s an incredible simple mystery that has some real old-fashioned action sequences that hold you by the throat. Cruise’s undeniable charisma and the helpings of funny lines make it that much more enjoyable, and it holds one’s attention even more. If you ever start to find yourself uninterested, don’t worry, there’s probably a chase scene or a fight scene just around the bend. Hang in there!

The supporting cast help out with carrying the flick, too. Pike is just mighty sexy, and she’s a great British actress to watch. Richard Jenkins is great in just about everything he does, also. Robert Duvall offers more than a few funny lines, and his role is great for that. There are many other performers there, but this is very much Cruise’s show – and no one steals that from him.

If there’s anything better than Cruise himself, it is probably the interesting cinematography or the more-than-unsettling opening scene. The camerawork and there are some nice angles worked into the feature. In the opening scene, the viewer sees all the victims get shot. Right through the scope of the man’s sniper rifle. It goes over everyone the man is planning to kill, and it does it to the sound of his heavy breathing. It is mostly suspenseful because you do not know who he is going to choose. It is one of the most grippingly suspenseful scenes of the feature, and there are only a few other scenes that are better than it.

In a nutshell: Jack Reacher is a very fun mystery action/thriller that offers solid entertainment and more than a few memorable action scenes. The plot is effective and there may be some holes in its story, but that really doesn’t get in the way of enjoyment during. The surprising bites of humour make it that much more and enjoyable, and I am pleased to welcome this old-fashioned-lives-by-his-own-rules investigator to action cinema.

75/100