A mission I choose to accept….a review of the Mission Impossible (Tom Cruise) era franchise. (Excluding Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part 1 as I have written about this in a previous post — https://medium.com/@susan-bystryenglish/mission-impossible-dead-reckoning-part-1-4af9aae0ae0e)
Loved the grittiness of M:I (1) — and how out of his depth Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) was as everything collapsed around him, in Paris on a mission and then London, trying to pick up the pieces. Plus, were there any real Americans in the room? All the cast seemed to be National Treasure Brits and Europeans! Definitive twisty-turny who can you trust plot. Jean Reno (Krieger) I’m looking at you. Also Tom Cruise reads the Bible — a lot. (Which as a Christian I appreciated).
Then there’s the fight on the top of the bridge- ducking Eurostar!!!! and the original hanging from a wire sequence avoiding triggering all the sensors whilst downloading files scene…with floppy disks. (Whatever they are! Love the old school tech).
M:I — 2
M:I — 2 is seen as being the Quantum of Solace of the franchise. This Oz-based mission has style in spades, a score of flamenco-metal and lots of slo-mo, courtesy of John Woo. Thandie Newton (Nyah Hall) makes a terrific female lead, but her storyline is creepy as essentially she’s trafficked to the villain to gain information. Everyone impersonates everyone else and is anything real? Pure existential mode here. Dougray Scott’s villain (Sean Ambrose) takes an impossibly long time to die during the last fight, which goes in for a lot of MCU head crunching style fighting.
Not as good as I remembered, but it has its moments, and makes up for a weak plot with panache and motorbikes. Richard Roxborough makes a terrific evil sidekick (Hugh Stamp) and should be considered for Bond — he has presence every time he’s on screen. Dougray Scott’s Ambrose is unhinged, which he chooses to show with mouth agape and freezing more than anything. It’s also the one where Cruise freestyle rock climbs!
Lots of love for Luther (Ving Rhames) too, whose fashion choices result in ongoing conflict with his environment and become a recurring gag or disaster.
M:I — III
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is engaged, then married to Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and juggling more masks and dual lives than ever. This is a much more personal Mission: Impossible. Maggie Q (Zhen) blows up a Lambo in style in Rome and starts a run of great dresses for female leads in the franchise. Plus, this movie sees the introduction of Benjy (Simon Pegg) and more of a team feel. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Owen Davian) plays a repellant villain.
Everyone wants a ‘rabbit’s foot’, which is gained at the end, but the plot never really fully reveals what it is all about or for. It doesn’t matter — the villain has been dispatched, the new wife come into her own and perhaps into the squad, and my heart has recovered after a terrific careering round towerblocks sequence where Hunt’s shute won’t open properly, and he slides perilously down a building to just about end up hanging off of it, still alive.
Amazing action and pace in this one! with towering Laurence Fishburne (Theodore Brassel) dominating the screen every time he appears. Appreciation too for the fight choreography. Kerri Russell’s (Lindsey Farris) rescue and escape scene is perfection as they run away with adrenalin powered and impeccably timed finesse…. and then place helicopters in a field of wind turbines. Unexpectedly, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Declan) turns up too!
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
M:I — 4 has all the locations, extreme stunts and all the gadgets…. and then a Steve McQueen prison scene homage too. Deftly weaving sparkling lightness of touch and sense of humour, with malfunctioning tech and Benjy (Simon Pegg) in the field. (Now that he’s passed his exam!)
Whilst the stunts are jaw dropping, it’s all done with a sense of groundedness as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is more and more battered post-fight sequences. Intriguingly, the film has women centre stage as friends, co-workers, colleagues, villains — not love interests, and doesn’t even start with Ethan Hunt on a mission. Thoroughly enjoyable in itself, the well-written plot even has a villain with a reason for why they are trying to create world nuclear war — (it’s all gone Cold War, again).
See Ethan Hunt battle malfunctioning climbing gloves, time, gravity, a pursuing Russian secret policeman. See him run through sand storms! There are terrific stunts in Dubai, (climbing ‘163’ floors up on the Burj Khalifa); smoke and mirrors in the Kremlin and a desperate fight on the moving levels of a car showroom/factory. Love his support of a colleague when she has to honey trap a sleazy guy too.
The ending is a bit weak and slow, but ties in nicely to all that’s gone before and brings Luther (Ving Rhames) back into the team.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation
For M:I — 5 Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on a plane…outside of it as it leaves the runway! This movie sees the introduction of the mysterious but deadly Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) from MI6! and her iconic opera dress. The style, the humour and the stunts are all, as the focus moves onto Anglo-American relations as all the governments and terrorists try to cross, double and triple cross one another. Mission Impossible meets Smiley’s People.
Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt has less to do in this one apart from flap about and break protocol. Benjy (Simon Pegg) gets more to do, even his own personal Bond moment — in a dinner jacket at the opera, being shot at! Ditto his catch phrase of ‘masks!’ Blenheim Palace looks amazing, as does the opera house, where location, set and score during a performance of Turandot are utilised really effectively. Stunning too are the Moroccan landscapes and motorbike chases.
Unlike Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning: Part 1, pedestrians and locals are pretty much absent during the chase scenes and don’t seem bothered about their vehicles, homes, roads and everyday peace being trashed. There is also the enjoyment of Hunt and Faust being pursued around the Inns of Court, with Hunt trashing every historic window there — and basement car parks. Then there’s an epic car chase, including a very tight turn in a Landy.
Throughout the locations and cinematography look impressive — the Tower of London and Southbank are in there too. Benjy in peril at the end adds to the pathos of events against this scenic backdrop. Notably, Tom Hollander makes a far better Prime Minister than anyone we’ve voted in in modern times — he even tells the truth!
High in flirting but again, no love interest as such, which makes for a unique spin on things and continues the franchise’s run of great female characters. Sean Harris makes an effectively sinister villain as Solomon Lane.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout
The most ambitious of the films in terms of scale, location and complex plotting. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faces deep ethical choices about working with terrorists and criminals to get some stolen plutonium back as well as an ongoing threat to his ex-wife Julia and keeping all his friends safe. He also faces uneasy working relationships with an increasingly chippy and duplicitous August Walker (Henry Cavill), who is magnificent even whilst sporting a horrible moustache; political maneuverings from Erika Stone (Angela Bassett) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), as well as risking Benjy’s (Simon Pegg) life. All in a day’s work. (Although I wish Angela Bassett had been given a bit more to do than the Judi Dench M moments of appearing on interfaces and in brief meetings. When she does appear on screen, she’s a force to be reckoned with).
Some spectacular, audacious even, stunts here — a chase in a lorry through the streets and into the waterways of Paris; running through, around and across St Paul’s Cathedral; in and out of the offices and rooftops of London. Sean Harris plays a truly horrid, menacing villain in a return as Solomon Lane. Vanessa Kirby makes a wonderfully dramatic appearance as the arms dealing White Widow with her wonderfully over-protective sidekick and brother Zola (Frederick Schmidt). Even Alec Baldwin (Alan Hunley) gets in on the action — for a brief moment.
Overall, a terrific character driven thriller which looks gorgeous, has a great accompanying score and considers the long-term human costs of pulling off missions impossible. Humour is also well-worked in too such as in Benjy’s impatient and critical monitoring of Ethan’s progress across the beautiful London cityscape — Southbank looks beautiful as Ethan Hunt sprints across it. But he had reckoned without Tate Modern!
Additionally, it has the most stomach churning finale, with only fifteen minutes to save the world, as Hunt battles to get a detonator back from Walker — whilst learning to fly a helicopter in a Kashmiri river valley. At the same time, Isla Faust and Benjy try to locate and disarm a nuclear device and fight off evil Sean Harris, and Luther and Julia try to stop another nuclear device (which is also in the process of counting down). And it’s all taking place in a medical camp next to a major water source! Fantastic series of action set-pieces! and ultimate peril as Cruise hangs off a helicopter and then off a cliff, and time ticks on…
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