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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: The World’s End

The World’s End feels curiously nostalgic. Not just in the way that lead character Gary King tries to recapture his old youth by roping four childhood friends into revisiting their old home town to complete a pub crawl they started upon leaving school, nor in the way the sound track includes such hits of yesteryear as Loaded by Primal Scream and Kylie Minogue’s Step Back in Time, and not even in the fact that the school reunion includes a trip to a literal school disco.

Instead, it feels like a belated criticism of a recent chapter in British history, a reflection on the era of “the special relationship”, and mournful retrospective on what might be perceived as the erosion of British culture by the relentless assault of American influence. The World’s End is an invasion story, but it’s a conscious reversal of the second wave “Britpop” invasion of the nineties (an era the movie evokes nostalgically). This isn’t a hostile occupation. It is, to quote one of the characters, “peaceful indoctrination.”

They've got him Pegged...

They’ve got him Pegged…

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Non-Review Review: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol reminds me – and, I feel the need to specify this, in a good way – of one of the Bond films from before Casino Royale made them all grittier and edgier. No disrespect to that fantastic film, but the relatively serious remodelling of Britain’s most famous secret agent left a bit of a gap in the market for an espionage thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And while Ghost Protocol takes a great deal of pride in doing what it sets out to do with a great deal of skill, it certainly never takes itself too seriously. And that proves to be a very good thing, indeed.

Keeping me on edge...

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Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald (Review)

In the lead-up to the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I’m going to be taking a look at Hergé’s celebrated comic book character, from his humble beginnings through to the incomplete post-modern finale. I hope you enjoy the ride.

The Castafiore Emerald is famous as an example of Hergé playing with the reader’s expectations of a Tintin book. It’s essentially an exercise in creating suspense out of nothing, with the mystery of the eponymous jewel ultimately turning out to be a rather mundane affair, and instead allowing for all sorts of hilariously mundane hijinks to befall Hergé’s cast with relatively little point to it all. Then, after all, this is fiction, as Tintin seems coyly aware of on the cover, staring our at us with his finger on his lips, smiling like he knows something none of his castmates do. If you can embrace the central pointlessness of it all, and enjoy it as a collection of wryly observed scenes, The Castafiore Emerald is another rewarding addition to a series growing gradually more experimental.

That engagement's news to Haddock!

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Non-Review Review: Burke & Hare

I quite like black comedy. There’s definitely a place for the more bitter strain of humour on the big screen, and there’s no denying that the British do black comedy wonderfully – it’s like a national trait of some kind. However, there’s something even deeper and more unpleasant than the black comedy at the heart of Burke & Hare. As I watched it, I couldn’t quite get the fact that it was based on two very real serial killers who (to this very day) have made a lasting impact on Scotland’s political and social history. There’s something very trite about turning their story into a black romantic comedy with a soundtrack from The Proclaimers.

They haven't a leg to stand on...

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Non-Review Review: Hot Fuzz

“You haven’t seen Bad Boys II?” a character states in complete disbelief to police man officer Nicolas Angel. I’m fairly sure that Hot Fuzz is consistently clever and entertaining even if you’re never seen a testosterone-laden big-budget explosive action cop movie, but Edgar Wright’s parody/homage is absolutely ingenious to anyone remotely familiar with the concept. At its most basic, the movie asks what would happen if you asked Michael Bay to make a balls-to-the-wall action movie in a small English village. The result might look a little bit like this, but I bet it wouldn’t be half as charming.

Timothy Dalton takes the biscuit...

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Non-Review Review: Shaun of the Dead

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

Ah, facing down a herd of zombies with nothing but a Cricket Bat. Is there a more British response possible to the fall of civilisation?

And that's my cue...

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