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|By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com)||Ver 1.4 2020.09.08|
Nevertheless, after numerous rewatches, what struck me this time is the subtle reactions of Ving Rhames ("It's worse than you think.") and Vanessa Redgrave. Jon Voight is also compelling—it's just a shame that he's hobbled by the requirements of his character's role in this film.
This movie also depicts the change in Hunt from being a team player to a lone operative (and with all the double crosses in this movie, you can appreciate why). Nevertheless, it's great that the team dynamic comes back in "MI: Ghost Protocol" and the subsequent films. I also really enjoyed the scenes showing Hunt's impressive mental and observational abilities as he analyzes and uncovers what really happened in previous scenes, and how to get out of his current predicament—another thing that I'm glad they kept in the later films!
The soundtrack is also notable. While I may currently like the soundtrack for "MI: Fallout" the most, the one for this movie never gets old!
Perhaps the best part is the meta-commentary by Sean Ambrose—the villain—about Ethan Hunt's tactics, which invariably entail incredibly risky climbs. However, the sum of the films good parts (and there are quite a few) don't compensate for what the film lacks: characterization and a plot that is stronger than a clothesline to hang the action set pieces on.
Nevertheless, I really liked the chemistry between Tom Cruise and Thandie Newton (a major protagonist and Hunt's love interest). And as much as the script lets them down, both Dougray Scott (playing Ambrose) and Newton bring their A-game to their performances (compare Newton's Nyah Nordoff-Hall in this film to her Val in "Solo"!)
However, compared to later entries in the Mission: Impossible series, this one is a bit of a let down. That said, I do recommend watching it as—at the very least—it gives a nice tour of the environs in and around Sydney, Australia!
What does make this film memorable, however, is Maggie Q's red dress (how does that thing stay on?!) Seriously, this film does introduce two important elements for the subsequent films in the series: Benji Dunn (the technician who graduates to field agent), and Julia Meade (Ethan's wife).
And then there's Laurence Fishburne's turn as the IMF headmaster. His portrayal doesn't have the same gravitas as the other actors in the same role, but due to a mischievous sparkle in Fishburne's eye, one gets the impression that he's playing it as a parody—and if the movie was any less serious, we'd be treated to showers of broken glass when he slams doors shut in anger.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of the villain is chilling, however the script ultimately lets him—and us—down. Aside from being the ice-cold embodiment of rage, the character gets next to no character development. We don't even learn, for example, why he is an arms dealer, let alone how he feels about selling the "rabbit's foot" super weapon to terrorists (admittedly, we never learn that about Max [in M:I:1] either, but one gets a sense that she and her daughter [from M:I – Fallout] are doing it for fun and thrills). And then there's his henchmen... who get no development, and they are often little more than cardboard for the heroes to trip over.
The other letdown of the film is that it feels made for the small screen: there are hardly any establishing shots, let alone ones that pan around so the viewer gets a feeling of the context—compare to all the crane and helicopter establishing shots in M:I:2, or all the time spent showing us the office space around the computer room in CIA headquarters in M:I:1. Ultimately, aside from Ethan's wife, this film is forgettable.
Ghost Protocol introduces us to some great new characters, reintroduces a few recurring ones, and asks: who has Ethan Hunt turned into (the film starts with him locked away in a Russian jail, and there's gossip about his wife having been murdered!) There are the usual double-crosses, masks and so on, but the twist this time is that the tools the I:M teams use break about as often as they work—which adds to the tension in a number of scenes (the one where Jeremy Renner's William Brandt has to make a leap of faith over a giant fan is particularly tense!)
Another part of the fun in this movie are the nods to the preceding films. Interestingly, it ends with dialogue about the antagonists of the next 2 films.
The highlight of the film is the cinematography. Two shots stand out in particular: the one where the camera transitions from behind Tom Cruise's back to a bird's-eye view as he steps outside of the 123rd floor on the Burj Khalifa to begin his climb up the outside in a vertigo inducing single shot. The other one is also in the Burj Khalifa: when the camera transitions between floors and we see the concurrent events occurring in parallel rooms with Jane Carter pretending to be Sabine Moreau meeting Marius Wistrom and Leonid Lisenker, and Hunt and Brandt pretending to be Wistrom and Lisenker meeting Moreau and her protectors!
The other great thing about this film is that it truly feels like a team effort. While it has always been a team effort in the preceding M:I films, they felt more like Ethan Hunt doing the heavy lifting with team support. This film, on the other hand, splits up the action and gives each teammate something important to do in the final sequence—which significantly increases the tension, as the failure of any single one of them means the bad guys succeed!
Wisely, the script realizes that he needs help, and eventually Hunt ropes in Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner)—who all bring in much needed characterization and humour; not to mention the dissenting voice that challenges the logic behind the courses of action that Hunt chooses. The writers (or writer-director) also wisely gives us a notable villain surrounded by a pantheon of recognizable henchmen. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the villain, is also refreshingly presented as the polar opposite of Hunt: while they're both thinking strategists, where Hunt gambles, Lane relies on logic.
And then there's the wildcard: Ilsa Faust. She adds great mystery and intrigue in the initial viewing. Her character arc also holds up extremely well in repeat viewings, as the movie also supplies a believable reason for her actions and why Hunt reacts the way he does to her actions. Faust is the standout part of this movie, and Rebecca Ferguson's portrayal of her is worth the price of admission alone.
The film also has some great action sequences. While there's nothing that comes close to the sustained tension of Hunt climbing the Burj Khalifa, the motorbike chase through Casablanca has a similar level of excitement. However, my view is the film peaks a little too early with the craziest stunt happening at the very beginning: Tom Cruise holding on for dear life on the outside of a transport plane, as it soars into the air. "He's on the plane!" takes on a whole new significance.
The problem is that Walker has a nasty reputation of leaving his targets dead—which leads to the first obstacle Ethan faces: due to Walker (accidentally?) killing his previous target, they have to find someone named John Lark in a crowd of people, without knowing his identity, let alone what he looks like... with the ultimate goal of impersonating him in a subsequent meeting with the White Widow, an arms dealer who is 'selling' the plutonium.
Where Rogue Nation had Tom Cruise "on the plane", this film has the auteur moment of Tom Cruise's Hunt and Henry Cavill's Walker having a disagreement, then leaping out the back of a C-17 Globemaster transport plane flying at airline cruising height over Paris—all in a single shot! Should we even bother mentioning that they're leaping into a thunderstorm?
Unlike Rogue Nation—which kind of played as a "best hits"—Fallout heads off in its own direction, and gives us some absolutely astounding, nail-bitingly tense action sequences. Some of which take on some completely unexpected twists that not only raise the stakes even higher, but also give a lot of welcome character development.
Along the way, Ilsa Faust reappears, and—just like in Rogue Nation—her character is at times an obstacle and an ally. With all the expected and unexpected plot developments and twists, the film literally kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time.
Above all else, the music is the highlight of the film. Lorne Balfe has given us a great score that adds a lot to the film. It also gives an insight into the mood or feeling of Hunt as he's thinking—which is probably the best aspect of this film: it pauses and gives us time to appreciate how much thought Hunt puts into his actions. Well, when the film slows down and allows him a chance to stop and think: "I'll get it." "Uh, if he's in another helicopter, how are you going to get it?" "I'll figure it out."