Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. The IMF gets shut down, leaving Ethan Hunt on the run from the CIA whilst trying to take down an organized crime group called ‘The Syndicate’. More than in the past few movies this feels like it’s completely merged into the Bourne/Bond universes – it’s particularly Skyfall-y. IMF is outdated and up for debate (like the 00 program), ‘The Syndicate’ are a collective that trigger world events (hello SPECTRE!), and the main villain is pretty much Raoul Silva (Bardem) from Skyfall, but with no development beyond ‘he’s villainously European and wears turtlenecks’. True to the franchise the big action set-pieces are fantastic (Plane opening, Motorbikes, Opera Fight) but it digresses into foot chases and pistol fights, which are ten-a-penny these days. The opening half is everything you’d expect from an M.I. film, but the second part loses momentum with twist after twist after twist, which leaves the story feeling bloated and stretched: it’s 2hrs 10 long! A big problem for this movie is that Ethan “the living manifestation of destiny” Hunt is never on the back foot and has an air of invisibility – worse still Tom Cruise is an action star that can act, but he’s wasted here, coasting as the cocksure and invincible agent. The main female (Ferguson) – an equally kick-ass, deadly, and capable agent in her own right – is presented as a strong heroine, yet made to prance about in leggy frocks, bikinis, and even topless (from the back) for no real reason. When you think of the best scenes in the Mission Impossible franchise and I bet they’re wringing out tension and suspense during the ‘impossible’ missions – hence the name – but Rogue Nation gets tangled up with simple thrills and a flabby, tortuous plot.
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mission Impossible III (M:i:III, M:I-3): the impossible missions force’s (IMF) best agent, Ethan Hunt, is brought out of retirement when an arms dealer kills his protégé, then kidnaps his fiancé. The action set-pieces are what make this film: there’s a quality raid on Berlin building; impossibly intricate Vatican mission, Shanghai rooftops, and a sustained climactic ending – action fans can’t really ask for more. The only let-down is the lack of an ‘Impossible’ break in attempt, which is the linchpin of – and arguably best things about – the previous two films. It’s far less po faced than other contemporary spies like Bourne and rebooted Bond: moments like Cruise singing “We are family”, and a few tongue-firmly-in-cheek nods to Cocktail and Top Gun are the cherries atop a full-fat everybody-having-fun cake. Even Cruise’s running is funny to watch – perhaps his version of the Arrested Development chicken dance? Although it’s overall funnier, Seymour–Hoffman’s villain is the most callous and dangerous yet, he does well with his screen time. With a decent script, huge cast (Ving Rhames is back!) and another proficient director (JJ Abrams) putting his lens flared stamp all over it, Mission Impossible III is a great popcorn action movie with some gratuitous emotions thrown in; although it’s probably the least memorable or original entry in the franchise so far.
Mission Impossible II
Mission Impossible III
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The Tournament: every 7 years in an unsuspecting town 30 of the world’s top special forces, serial killers, athletes and assassins fight to the death for a £10M cash prize. To get it out-of-the-way, yes, this film clearly borrows from the likes of Smokin Aces, Battle Royale, Series 7 etc etc. To ensure there’s some dialogue – in what would otherwise be a speechless film – the silly priest storyline is added, although it could have been just as easily done with two underdog killers teaming up. Given that there’s 30 contestants + others watching, characterisation is obviously very thin. Boring things aside, the action in this film is intense and very frequent – the highlight being a strip-club shootout/massacre with blood, guts and limbs flying everywhere. Nothing within the frame is safe, pedestrians, buildings, animals and vehicles (cars, jeeps and tankers all flipping and exploding at some point). Every five minutes there’s a big action scene, and most of it is of a very high standard. For a £4M movie to have such a decent cast, great action scenes and well-directed action (it’s his first film!!) – it’s nothing short of a miracle. Someone please throw more money at the director, Scott Mann to kick off his next project – it’s absolutely the best in class for mindless action; a bloody schlock romp for the guys, full of explosions, guns, blood and tits.
Piranha 3DD: a year after the Lake Victoria spring break disaster the vicious prehistoric piranha threaten a newly opened water park. It feels more like a glamour model show reel as every five minutes – like clockwork – there’s an exposed, tight, perky body. Almost every girl is also a D+ cup, however the slow-mo running – read as bouncing boobs – couldn’t be more sleazy & leery, or less sexy – same goes for the waves of gratuitous, unnecessary nudity, used as a weak attempt to make you forget how bad the film is. The actual ‘actors’ here are all small-timers (see graph below for acting analysis), and the ‘famous people’ / quick-buck-cameos are beyond cringe-worthy – Hoff’s agent did him a solid: singing, quips, but too much time on-screen. There’s about 10,000 lame puns/innuendo based around the word ‘wetness’. The SFX is worse than before, and the bloodbath finale has absolutely no payoff – it’s just a series of vaguely connected CGI moments. Most annoyingly, for a 70 minute movie there’s around ten minutes of filler/establishing/scenery shots. Whereas Piranha 3D was kitsch and camp enough to counteract some of the shortcomings, this one is just terrible. Really, really terrible. I pity everyone involved because the only semi-smart and semi-funny part of Piranha 3DD is the title.
Mission Impossible 2 (or M:i-2 – if you like maths!). Ethan Hunt is sent to Sydney by the IMF to find and destroy the mysterious “Chrimera”. This film totally reeks of John Woo’s direction: there’s at least one slow-mo shot in most scenes, sparks everywhere, superhuman sliding, birds, white dove… and some crazy, crazy action. Unfortunately, there’s a ridiculous level of focus on the love story / personal angle – which is riddled with clichés and makes you doubt how professional a spy Mr Hunt really is – not to mention it feels forced and cheesy. Despite a fairly average spy story clunking along for the most part, the final half hour is absolutely beautiful (other than the love interest and random shots of the sea), and undoubtedly the best part of the film. There’s a few bizarre lines in the script such as “This is not missions difficult, it’s mission impossible; difficult should be a walk in the park” (Hopkins) – and the seemingly accidentally left in “put a sock in it”, a Scottish-ism by Dougray. Other than a stupid emo haircut, lots of face masks and flamenco guitar (so you know you’re in Spain) there’s not a lot to write home about. Mission Impossible II has plenty of stand-alone memorable and ‘cool’ bits to enjoy, but as a whole film, it’s average at best.
Mission Impossible: when his mission in Prague goes FUBAR Ethan Hunt must prove his innocence and figure out who the real traitor is without the help of the CIA/IMF. This contains pretty much everything that’s cool about spying & espionage, from the high-tech gadgets (hacking/security) to the low-brow survival tricks (cracked light bulb on floor). Brian De Palma is on top form; the complex story is well told, and the moments of drama/tension are just perfect – the NOC list Langley break-in in particular is a beautiful, yet almost unwatchable, set piece – more generally, the film is like a masterclass in ambiance and tension. The director slaps a heavy streak of throwback Noir style: camera angles, soft focus, clothes, hats, music overcoats – not to mention the mystery story. Being a 90s film some of the technology is horrifically outdated, e-mail in particular is laugh-out-loud bad. While Ethan Hunt is no James Bond, the team behind Mission impossible did a great job of lifting from the Bond Blueprint and re-inventing a modern super-spy.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: the IMF’s best agent Ethan Hunt is back again; his team go off the grid as they’re blamed for bombing the Kremlin – they must also stop an unfolding global Nuclear War – instigated by a madman! This film sticks to what the franchise does best; action and tension. The tension is wrung out and maximised like a boss; the Kremlin corridor and double-meeting in particular are proper edge-of-your-seat scenes. The action is also well above par, bone-crunching fist-fights and well-handled/edited camera work (other than the sloppy sandstorm chase). This story is typical of the other three films, with more newfangled espionage in various hyper-photogenic locations. Pegg comes out on top of the cast, providing a bit more comic relief than usual, but avoids becoming the clown – everyone else is solid. There’s some awesome gadgets and technical details for your inner-geek, the fastest-booting servers in the world and an onslaught of Apple products. On the downside, it definitely needed more Ving Rhames quips & ass-kicking, and Nyqvist as the ‘main’ bad guy could have done with more screen time and evil development. M:I-4 is another slick instalment of the winning James Bond formula cranked up to 11.
Con Air: a released prisoner (former U.S. Ranger) gets caught up in a plane hijacking carried out by the criminal cargo. This is one of the best examples of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films (homage to 80s). There’s something about the huge fiery explosions, big loud action and epic weeping / heroic guitar licks that plunges me right into these films. Cage, despite being laughably shit and doing THE worst accent in the history of cinema, holds the film together surprisingly well. Malk is the perfect villain – whose calmness only makes him more terrifying – and his band of crazy henchmen are all gratuitously evil. Cusack is good, but his dashing young looks always make him feel miscast as an authority figure. Everything towards the end of the film (In Vegas) is beyond excessive, ludicrous, and poorly cut – but I guess that’s Vegas for you! Held together by the supercast this is a solid, big action, big entertainment, film that still holds up well.
Piranha: (Piranha 3D – 2010) Spring break is ruined as an earthquake releases a massive school of 2 million year old cannibal super-piranhas into a party-lake!! The movie’s divided in to two parts: set up (nudity-fest and just enough gore) and bloodbath (gore-fest and just enough nudity). The cast is a who’s who of B-movie stars, all typecast and wafer thin characters; in saying that, Christopher Lloyd’s great fun, Ving Rhames is Ving Rames, Kelly Brook is ball-tighteningly hot and porn stars Gianna Michaels / Riley Steele also get their 3D lungs out – no complaints with any of that! The gore‘s decent enough; most of it is real effects so looks pretty good but the CGI is a bit rubbish and the underwater scenes look very dark with the 3D glasses on. The 3D itself is generally good if a tad sloppy – they clearly spent the most time on the buxom booty and a few cheap ‘poke outs’ and not enough time on the piranhas themselves, but on the whole it was decent. There’s a bunch of nice nods to Jaws, from the poster through to ‘the dolly shot’, when Brody realises what’s happening, and even the casting of Dreyfuss. My biggest complaint is that for the robbery extra cost of seeing a 3D flick it’s very short – although given that Piranha barely sustains itself for 75-80 minutes this may be a godsend! All-in Piranha’s everything you expect it to be: shallow and camp, but bulging with entertaining gore, red dye and constant nudity… what more could you want from a B-movie? Guilty pleasure of the summer.