Mission ImPODible (feat. Sheryl Oh)
What’s more impressive: that Tom Cruise is still making Mission: Impossible movies into his 50s or that Chance and Noah recorded 100 episodes of Be Reel? Feels like a toss-up, and reviewing all six MIs is our chosen victory lap.
Inspired by the current box office hit, “Fallout”, Chance and Noah look to the Brian de Palma origins of the franchise, the John Woo growing pains, and the JJ Abrams-ification of the Cruise-produced series. Does Tom’s personal/tabloid life almost perfectly mirror the arc of his character Ethan Hunt? Does Tom have more sex appeal than Jeremy Renner and Henry Cavill (living embodiment of Gaston) combined? How is it these movies are about everything internationally relevant but nothing important? All will be addressed on this special 90-minute megapod edition!
Finally don’t forget to tune into Chance’s interview with Film School Rejects staffer Sheryl Oh. They discuss Fallout‘s acclaimed bathroom throwdown and how the franchise is finally doing right by its women.
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-“Fallout” review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer
I initially quit on the Mission: Impossible franchise in 2006. Those were MI3 days, and Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly yelled very memorably, but the then-trilogy already had a discernible air of pointlessness to it. MI3 director J.J. Abrams was digging in pretty hard as to who Ethan Hunt was and whether he could keep a wife safe from silloquiying mad men. The dire, haphazard character-building put me off in the midst of what was basically a decent exercise in popcorn filmmaking.
(It’s important to remember that Tom Cruise didn’t feel all that special in 2006 either. He had just jumped on Oprah’s couch and was a far cry from the problematic but electric Jerry Rice of acting that he is today.)
Three movies, 12 years, and not a single second lost off Cruise’s 100m dash time later, it’s hard to say whether this franchise has changed for the better or whether franchises in general have tilted in Mission: Impossible’s favor. In a decade when Marvel, DC, and Star Wars ask us multiple times a year to invest in sagas with no ends and infinite beginnings, people seem to consider the Missions: Impossible as completely unburdened of that need. These films are accepted as setpiece generators, delivering high-octane, low-commitment thrills.
That sentiment peaked in the early reviews for the franchise’s sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. In a splashy start to his review, David Ehrlich called it “one of the best action movies ever made.” That accolade is made possible by Christopher McQuarrie’s precise awareness of the kind of project on his hands. He’s directed the fifth and sixth installments of a franchise now most famous for Tom Cruise teasing the possibility of a violent death with every stunt. So we’d better do a lot of that. Take a rewatch of 1996’s Mission: Impossible and realize these are no longer movies that end on a speeding train; they’re just speeding trains.
What makes MI6 feel special is hard to pin down. It’s not a radically different take on the action of the last 10 years, be it Bourne, or Bond, or Bay, or John Wick, or Atomic Blonde. Action filmmaking is just a language in which McQuarrie is dazzlingly fluent. He can signal trouble, exhilaration or punishment in ways that are unsubtle and intelligent at the same time. He cuts to the first-person right as a motorcycle is trying to Frogger five lanes of traffic. He teaches us something small about the color of a parachuting helmet when the oxygen is on or off, so we know how it’s going when Ethan Hunt is jumping from a plane … above a thunderstorm. McQuarrie displays such smoothness and endurance in his staging that the “how did they do that” stunts flow in and out of each other as entire acts of Fallout. Hell, there are breathtaking action scenes in this movie that don’t even happen in reality, lest you try and recoup a breath or two during a yada-yada planning sequence.
What’s more, it’s safe to say the series hasn’t ever contained this film’s balance of outlandish showcase with concussive combat. McQuarrie treats his actors like athletes — obviously the ageless Cruise but also the strikingly imposing Henry Cavill — as pugilists and extreme sports stars, alike. Cavill is the needle-mover here, the only performance of his I’ve ever enjoyed. Turning heel is a great move for someone of his physique and who guards the existence of his jet black mustache so closely. As Ethan Hunt’s CIA handcuff, Walker, Cavill picks up some of the best square-jawed malevolence laid down by Sean Bean in the ‘90s and mixes in the debonair machismo of the Tom Buchanan archetype. To be a little more forward, he’s so attractive and intentionally unlikable at the same time, it’s hard to look away, all of which gives Cruise another mountainous object to slam into.
OK, that’s it for now. I’ve got five more Mission: Impossible movies to watch. Of course, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch all six and join us the week of Aug. 8 for our blowout of a 100th episode. Ultimately, I find this sixth movie very good. I find its shortcomings to be those of the entire franchise, and therefore pretty forgivable if you’re electing to try and hang onto the fender of this runaway series. When you’re neck deep in its kinetically and systematically thoughtful action, time compresses. God willing, that’s how it’ll feel listening to our podcast, but I doubt it. Adieu! (Tom Cruise speaks so much French in this movie.)
-photo by Chiabella James, Paramount Studios
our favorite movies
Be Reel is a movie reviewing & reappraising podcast hosted by Chance Solem-Pfeifer and Noah Ballard.
Each time out, we select three movies based around a genre and call up guests ranging from submarine captains to Oscar winners. Then, we rate the movies, weighing both technical quality and entertainment.
Noah and Chance are old friends who mostly respect each other’s opinions. Even though Chance is a fool and a traitor. Find their show presented at ThePlaylist.Net and follow them on Twitter for the latest on Noah’s literary agenting and Chance’s work in the Portland arts scene.