Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Viewed – 31 July 2018  Cinema

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.

Mission Impossible Fallout

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.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Black Panther

Viewed – 21 February 2018  Cinema

Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda.  However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.

Black Panther

This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc.  For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast.  Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now.  Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks.  Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.

As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else.  I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.

Verdict:  3 /5

Strange Days

Viewed – 02 February 2012  Blu-ray

German import review

Kathryn Bigelow may be more known these days for her Oscar-winning war movie The Hurt Locker, but once upon a time, she was one of the coolest directors around, responsible for the likes of vampire classic Near Dark, Keanu Reeves & Patrick Swayze thriller Point Break, and also this much underrated techno-thriller.  Based on a story by her then husband James Cameron (Terminator 2, Avatar) this tells the story of former cop turned dealer Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) who instead of pedaling drugs, peddles ‘clips’; fragments of other people’s experiences recorded by a black market device known as the squib, and sold in clubs to rich business men.  He offers people the chance to experience things they would not normally experience, such as sex or armed robbery.  He’s the santa clause of the subconscious.  However, when a famous politically-themed rapper is murdered, events spiral out of control as a desperate hooker and two psychotic cops become involved and soon Lenny is racing against time to piece together the clues, as the clock ticks ever closer to the millennium.

At the time this was released (1995), there was much speculation about what the new century would bring, what would change, the millennium bug and everything that came with it.  Several other movies followed similar themes, but none did it in such a stylish, controversial and accomplished way as this.  The story tackles themes of racial tension, sex, violence, technology and love with intelligence.  At times some of the dialogue is a little too cool sounding to be convincing, and it does get quite complicated during its 2hr 20 minute running time.  Also some of the more controversial moments, like a first-person-perspective rape sequence, sit uneasily within the otherwise ‘cool’ vibe.  Yet the performances from not only Ralph Fiennes (playing against type), but also Angela Bassett, Tom Sizemore and a wonderfully sleazy Juliette Lewis (showing off a powerful rock chick persona) impress regardless.  Yet above all this is Bigelow’s show, and her direction is classy and confident.  She’s an incredible action director and with a daring but brilliantly written script to bounce her (ahead of its time) camera-trickery and booming soundtrack off, this remains one of those movies, that for me … made the nineties.

Strange Days hasn’t always been treated the best, with an almost bare-bones DVD version previously, boasting a pointless 40 minute commentary from the director and a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer … and at the time of writing, has yet to get a major release on Blu-ray.  Thankfully German label Kinowelt Home Entertainment has seen fit to release the movie as part of their Blu Cinematech label, in deluxe gate-fold packaging and with behind the scenes featurettes, a music video and a photo gallery.  Best of all the movie has been treated to a decent HD transfer that really upgrades the movie from previous releases, even if the mostly night time setting stops the picture from really popping.  The rock soundtrack sounds nice and punchy though and dialogue and effects are crisp throughout.  This is the kind of respect the movie has been sorely missing for years, and for now makes it the only edition worthy of your money.


(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5