Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, an Essay

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, an Essay by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We have written this before, but it has never been more valid: regardless of what you think of Tom Cruise as an individual, the guy makes hellaciously entertaining action movies.  Mission: Impossible - Fallout is one of the best action films you will see this year, and it is arguably the best of the M:I series.  But before we talk about his latest hit, let's take a moment to talk about spy movies as a genre and provide you with an entertaining and informative link.

Spy movies come in two flavors: "Action" and "Cerebral."  Both can be excellent, but moviegoers need to be prepared beforehand for what they are about to see, especially "action" fans who show up at a "cerebral" spy film.  It's like walking into an arena, psyched to see the Warriors, and finding Bobby Fischer methodically working a chess board.   Suddenly, one must forego the expected adrenaline rush and engage patience, concentration, and "mind" in order to get the reward.  Some undeservedly well-placed film critics seem only capable of handling action type films, and they grade them on a much more lenient scale than they do a cerebral film--unless informed beforehand that said cerebral film is based on a classic book--and for reasons we've discussed in other essays, a critical mass of the filmgoing public turns off a movie if it requires them to turn on their brains.  One of the rarest creatures is a film that succeeds on both action and cerebral levels; the Matt Damon Bourne trilogy comes to mind.  Excellent films that have skewed toward the cerebral, like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; A Most Wanted Man; and Red Sparrow have suffered at the domestic box office--although it should be mentioned that all three of those films were highly successful overseas.  Draw your own conclusions.  In fact, all domestic top-grossing spy movies have been action-oriented.  Among that group are, naturally, the Bond, the Mission: Impossible, and the aforementioned Bourne films, most deservedly so, but ranked at number four on that list is the awful, The Fate of the Furious, whose $226 million doubled the combined domestic gross of the three cerebral films mentioned above.  Collider has compiled their rating of the best spy movies of the 21st Century so rar.  Follow the link below and then return for more about Mission: Impossible - Fallout:

All right, we're back.  Mission: Impossible - Fallout is most decidedly an action-type spy movie.  Christopher McQuarrie (who also wrote the screenplay) is the first director to return for an encore engagement in the M:I series after helming Rogue Nation.  In another series first, Fallout is a direct sequel to that film.  This is good news.  Fallout brings back Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley, now Ethan's boss as head of the IMF, and Sean Harris as turncoat British Agent now terrorist Solomon Lane; even better, Rebecca Ferguson reprises her role as MI-6 operative Ilsa Faust, who provides both kickass counterpoint to Cruise's Ethan Hunt and also adds sexual tension to the mix.  They join in the fun with Ethan's core team, now winnowed down to two: Benji (Simon Pegg) a geeky tech expert, and Luther (Ving Rhames), a gruff tech expert.  Still around but pushed to the background is Ethan's erstwhile wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), whose presence provides our protagonist's inner conflict, angst, and grounding.

Since Rogue Nation ended with Solomon Lane in custody, worldwide law enforcement and intelligence agencies have depleted the numbers of his Syndicate.  What's left is a hardcore group that calls itself the Apostles and has adopted the catchy slogan, "The greater the suffering, the greater the peace."  Three plutonium cores have gone missing, and the fear is that the Apostles want to bring that slogan to fruition, prompting the "mission, should you decide to accept it" tape to Ethan.  As the IMF swings into action, they are halted by the CIA Director (Angela Bassett), who informs them that her top assassin, August Walker (Henry Cavill) will be joining them.  And so they're off, Ethan and Walker--equal parts animosity and distrust between them--jump out of a plane at 30,000 feet into a thunderstorm, dropping in on a Paris fundraiser hosted by part-time arms dealer, full-time vamp, White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).  But first, they have to dispatch the guy that's supposed to make the plutonium swap with her, John Lark (terrific stunt man Liang Yang), in the process getting their butts handed to them in the best bathroom brawl this side of Bourne. Complicating matters, Ilsa shows up, refusing to tell Ethan why she's involved and refusing to tell Walker anything at all.

All of the chess pieces are now on the board and the plot is laid out, so we can continue in a series of crosses, double-crosses, IMF-patented false identities, good guys who are bad, bad guys who are good, and tracking devices.  Everything unfolds at a breakneck pace: car and motorcycle races the wrong way on one-way streets--is there any other way--through Paris, chases across rooftops in London, dogfights in helicopters between the mountain peaks of Kashmir.  Meanwhile, Ilsa saves Ethan's bacon while simultaneously attempting to fry it, Walker skulks nefariously, White Widow confounds, and Luther and Benji display their whiz-bang technology and problem-solve acumen, various law enforcement agencies are props, and if it weren't for the White Widow's stoogish brother Zola (Frederick Schmidt) we wouldn't be able to differentiate between her associates and the Apostles.  But that doesn't matter any more than the logic behind the solutions Benji and Luther come up with or how, after a series of random events--including a vehicle accident--Ethan can fall into his partners' waiting laps.

We don't have time to reflect on all of that, though; as soon as we get through one roller coaster loop we're banking into another.  We buy it because we want to buy it, because it is ingenious trickery, because so many cool and/or beautiful people are performing insanely fun stunts with such good-nature, but mostly because Ethan Hunt is the can-do iteration of Tom Cruise, who puts his 56-year old body through impressive tortures just to give us two hours and twenty-seven minutes of enjoyment.  He doesn't do it alone, of course.  His supporting cast is talented, and somehow, whether they have been around for a while or are new, all seem to develop chemistry with the star.  Off-camera, Eddie Hamilton's smash-cut Editing never misses a beat.  Rob Hardy's Cinematography captures both interior and exterior settings of Paris and London that travelogues either miss or overlook for their off-kilter beauty, and the outdoor location photography from Norway, New Zealand, and Kashmir make this a must see on the big screen.  Most impressive, though, are the filming of the parachuting plummet and the helicopter chase; those scenes had to be as dangerous to film as they looked.  The cherry on top is the pulsing Lalo Schifrin score that takes us back decades even as it immediately immerses us in matters at hand.  Finally, as the Czarina observed, be sure to check out the Fellowship of the Ring-type ending.
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale

Avoiding Dogs in the Dog Days

Avoiding Dogs in the Dog Days by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We enter the second half of summer, and the list of decent movies dwindles as studios and distributors gear up for the fall and winter awards season offerings.  Still there are some good ones, along with some that will arrive with much hype but little substance (Skyscraper).

Below, we've listed 19 movies by genre.  None will be to everyone's tastes, but sift through and you're sure to find a few to your liking.  Films are in bold and italicized, with best bets in ALL CAPS, preceded by their reputed release date--remember, some of the smaller films may come to a theater near you a week or two later than the date shown.


07/13  Skyscraper - In this Die Hard/Towering Inferno mishmash, Dwayne Johnson leaps tall buildings, this time as a war vet with an amputated leg and a tough past. Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber.
07/20  Equalizer 2 - The main attraction to this revenge-porn flick is Denzel as Robert McCall, delivering very satisfying vigilante justice, but what if it's someone he loves? Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal.

07/27  MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT - All together now: Ethan and his IMF team race against time in a mission gone wrong.  Rebecca Ferguson is back, does the plot matter? Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg.


07/13 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation - Drac receives a vacation on a monster cruise so he doesn't have to serve others at his hotel.  Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi.

08/03  CHRISTOPHER ROBIN - Adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor) reunites with Pooh (Jim Cummings' voice) who helps him to enjoy simple pleasures.  Hayley Atwell; voices of Chris O'Dowd, Toby Jones, Brad Garrett..


07/13  SORRY TO BOTHER YOU - Sundance favorite, Telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) finds success using a "White voice," then things become absurd.. Tessa THompson, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer

07/20  EIGHTH GRADE - Bo Burnham story of a put-upon middle schooler toughing out the end of 8th grade before moving on to high school.

08/03  The Spy Who Dumped Me - Comedy, two best friends (Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon) become embroiled in international intrigue when one of the women discovers her former boyfriend was a spy.

08/10  BLACKkKLANSMAN - True story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer who goes undercover to infiltrate the Colorado Ku Klux Klan.  John David Washington, Adam Driver

08/10  Dog Days - Various Los Angelenos' lives are changed as they are brought together through their mutual love of dogs.  Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, Lauren Lapkus, Adam Pally, Finn Wolfhard

08/17  CRAZY RICH ASIANS - An Econ prof (Constance Wu) travels to her boyfriend's (Henry Golding) hometown of Singapore to find she is the target of an army of gold diggers who want her man.  Michelle Yeoh.


??/??  LEAVE NO TRACE - Debra Granik drama, a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (Thomasin McKenzie), living off the grid outside of Portland, OR are pulled into urban social services and fight to get back to the wilderness.

07/13  DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT - Gus Van Sant dramedy/biopic, Joaquin Phoenix as a man using art to rehab from a life-changing accident.  Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill

07/20  BLINDSPOTTING - Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in this dramedy about race and class clashing in a gentrified Oakland, CA.

08/03  THE WIFE -  A wife (Glenn Close) gives up her career aspirations to support her Nobel Laureate husband (Jonathan Pryce). Also, Elizabeth McGovern, Christian Slater.  Close finally scores an Oscar.


07/20  Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again - Against our better judgment, we mention this, and we believe they had this sequel's name before they made the original. Meryl Streep, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried.


08/03  The Darkest Minds -  Based on Alexandra Bracken's YA dystopian thriller, four teenage plague survivors develop strange skills and must escape bounty hunters. Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Gwendoline Christie.

08/10  The Meg - Guilty pleasure as Jason Statham pursues a shark that makes Jaws look like a minnow to save folks trapped in a submersible.  Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose.

08/31  Kin - Earthly and alien forces pursue an ex-con and brother, who are in possession of a strange weapon. James Franco Dennis Quaid, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon.

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