By the time the sixth entry in a popular franchise rolls around, you’d be forgiven for expecting things to get a bit lazy. Tom Cruise has now cemented himself as the biggest action star since Schwarzeneggar with a does-his-own-stunts calling card to rival Jackie Chan, but can another outing keep on upping the anti? Let’s see… Cruise returns as super agent Ethan Hunt who this time is given the job of tracking down three nuclear bombs that have fallen into the hands of black market dealers. He must stop them falling into the hands of The Apostles, what remains of Rogue Nation’s The Syndicate to prevent a global catastrophe. However when a mission takes an unexpected turn, Hunt and his team (including series regulars Simon Pegg & Ving Rhames) find the odds stacked against them – just how it should be.
Ok so having to stop nuclear bombs falling into the wrong hands is probably as generic a plot as it gets and with the return of Rogue Nation’s sleepy-talking villain, this initially felt like it was going through the motions. Yet it soon dawned on me that this time it was less about the mission and more about Ethan Hunt; the man, his methods and his dilemmas, constantly haunted by that fateful decision he made three movies back to send his wife (Michelle Monaghan) into hiding. The story handles this aspect that’s only ever been hinted at in previous movies, very well indeed and proves the movie’s beating heart in place of set piece after set piece. Yet along with the return of Rebecca Ferguson’s assassin ‘Elsa’ we still get tons of action, car chases, roof top chases, fights and a helicopter chase sequence that has to be seen to be believed.
The pacing stumbles occasionally, not helped by some copy and paste sequences that aren’t quite as good as we’ve seen before (another bike chase?), yet the movie makes up for this in strong performances and memorable character moments that made me love the camaraderie between Hunt and his agents. Six movies into the franchise this may be a different kind of Mission Impossible but by this stage that’s a good thing.
Few can argue the versatility and sheer talent of actress Julianne Moore who I think has come on leaps and bounds over the years to become the new Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren. This award winning drama could also be the pinnacle of her career so far.
Moore plays Alice, a college professor who is diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease, a rare onset of the illness considering she’s only 50. With her husband and two daughters around for support we watch as the symptoms gradually get worse and worse and she struggles to cope in her life as the person she’s always been gradually slips away. It’s a hard hitting subject make no mistake, and is portrayed well if you know anything about the disease. My mother used to work with elderly patients suffering from the disease so as I watched the film with her she marvelled at how accurate it all was. Moore is simply amazing and heart-breaking, expressing every little detail of frustration and bewilderment as she starts to forget things or lose track of what she’s doing or where she is. Alec Baldwin is decent as her husband but the casting of two of the blandest actresses currently working (Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart) as Alice’s daughters let’s the side down somewhat as they struggle to convey such strong emotions on expression-free, personality-free faces. Honestly, does Stewart only have one look no matter what she is saying?
Above all else though this is Julianne Moore’s gig and she’s every bit worthy of those Oscar and Golden Globe nods. The movie portrays a very cruel disease intelligently, finding room for humour amongst the despair and I came away surprised at how much the story moved me.
There is something immediately comforting about siting down to a Woody Allen movie. As a long time fan of this celebrated, iconic director what was presented to me was very familiar … minimalist opening credits, a collection of characters discussing relationships, art, interior design with enthusiasm and intelligence … that gentle jazz background music. Classic Allen harking back to Manhattan. Then of course we get Cate Blanchet as a stuck up New York socialite brought crashing down to earth after her wealthy husband (Alec Baldwin) is found out to be a crook, and she has to slum it with her ghetto sister Ginger and Ginger’s Italian boyfriends…
Blanchet, one of the finest actors of her generation shines as the neurotic, troubled, egocentric forced to start again, but seemingly unable to accept that her life is very different now. A character study of a woman with seemingly everything handed to her on a plate, who reluctantly has to actually work to make something of herself. Good support comes from Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale as one of Ginger’s boyfriends, and Sally Hawkins as Ginger is suitably likable and the polar opposite to Blanchet. Allen’s direction can not be sniffed at either, with his camera work really casting a beautiful glow on Blanchet, arguably one of the most uniquely attractive actresses around. Swapping his usual New York setting for San Francisco gives the movie plenty of character, even if this isn’t as with other movie’s in the director’s back catalogue … a love letter to the city.
Perhaps Allen at his lightest, it lacks the genuine wit and charm of something like Annie Hall or even the more recent Midnight In Paris, but with a strong, complex central performance I still came away with a smile.
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