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Non-Review Review: Mission – Impossible: Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout has the best third act of any blockbuster in years.

To be fair, the first two acts are highly enjoyable on their own terms, with writer and director Christopher McQuarrie building and maintaining momentum across the film’s near-two-and-a-half hour runtime. As expected of the franchise, Fallout is peppered with memorable set pieces that push the plot along with an endearing commitment to in-camera action set-ups, impressive stunt choreography and ambitious imagination; skydiving through a thunderstorm, a brutal bathroom brawl, a daring mid-movie motorcade abduction, a three-dimensional topographical pursuit.

Snow escape.

While all of these elements work well, with the bathroom brawl in particular serving as a worth addition to the franchise’s set piece canon, the final act of Fallout is a masterclass in blockbuster film-making. It is a genuinely dizzying piece of spectacle, a soaring accomplishment that manages to ratchet up the suspense for the better part of forty minutes, making excellent use of an ensemble in close geographic proximity but in very different situations. McQuarrie skilfully understands the rhythm and the tempo of the scene, crosscutting beautifully between the various strands to sustain the tension.

Fallout is not the best film in the Mission: Impossible franchise; it isn’t quite the all-rounder that Mission: Impossible III was, and it lacks the gleefully demented sustained adrenaline rush of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. However, it is a testament to the remarkable and sustained quality of the franchise, and the best movie of the summer to this point.

Just dive right in…

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Non-Review Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation moves like the clappers.

The movie speeds along through a selection of impressive stunt work and setpieces, constantly ramping up the tension and raising the stakes. The threat is constantly larger, the game ever more deadly. The film escalates and escalates, to the point where foreign heads of state are nothing more than pieces on a chessboard, fodder for impressive action sequences and swift double-crosses. In a way, this is the approach that made Mission: Impossible III and Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol taken to its logical conclusion. Momentum is key.

Cruising...

Cruising…

However, there are points where it feels like Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation hits the limit of this approach – that it serves as a control case to demonstrate just how far you can push this sort of suped up storytelling without breaking the emotional tethers that hold all this together. There are several major emotional beats in Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation that simply don’t land because the film has never eased its foot off the gas long enough to develop any of its characters beyond familiar archetypes.

This is perhaps the biggest problem with the film, but writer and director Christopher McQuarrie is shrewd enough that he never lets it get entirely out of hand. If the movie’s biggest emotional moments never have the necessary punch, that is not enough to sink the film; there is always another big action setpiece or another reversal or another tense thrill ride waiting after this underwhelming character beat. Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation might move so fast that it seldom has room for its characters, but it also moves so fast that this is seldom a fatal flaw.

Winging it...

Winging it…

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Non-Review Review: Jack Reacher

Much like its eponymous leading man, Jack Reacher is efficient. That’s probably the best thing that can be said about this adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot. Coming in at two hours, the movie manages to keep everything relatively under control. Any fuzzy logic is masked by the smart decision to keep things moving at a quick enough pace, distracting from the fact we’ve seen it all before, or that the characters seem especially paper-thin. At times, Jack Reacher suffers from being a little too shallow, a little too safe, a little too predictable. While Christopher McQuarrie can be an excellent writer, he seems to be only developing as a director. He handles movement reasonably well, but the direction amps up the melodrama to almost unbearable levels at certain points in the film.

It’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not an out-and-out failure, but I’d struggle to argue that it’s a successful franchise launch. For most of its runtime, Jack Reacher succeeds at merely being inoffensive and trying not to weigh too heavily on our patience. It’s not the most convincing of victories, but it could have been a lot worse.

Gearing up for a franchise...

Gearing up for a franchise…

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Non-Review Review: The Usual Suspects

Wow. Neo-noir is a very tough genre to pull off. It really is. Think of how many dodgy movies you’ve seen about drug dealers and bent cops in the last year alone (I’ve even seen one this weekend). When it works, it works magically. It seems like the mid-nineties was the era for producing any number of classic modern noir-style tales. There’s Copland, L.A. Confidential and – of course – the movie that arguably started the whole trend. We’re looking at you, The Usual Suspects

Calvin Klein models just aren't trying anymore...

Calvin Klein models just aren't trying anymore...

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Non-Review Review: Valkyrie

We caught Valkyrie at the weekend. It’s a movie that Dad had been quite looking forward to and I’d heard good things from friends and family. I’m a big fan of Bryan Singer and was more than a bit excited to see him reteam with Christopher McQuarrie. The pair had given us one of the best neo-noir films ever in The Usual Suspects, but how do they deliver on historical epics?

Couldn't be more badass if he tried...

Couldn't be more badass if he tried...

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