I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. The kinds of things we recommend here are things I would be delighted to find under the tree.
Paramount has taken the 4k/UHD Blu-ray release to the next level. They are the first studio to really offer franchise sets so that you can watch your favorite film series in a complete collection. Here are some of the best from 2018 that any home theatre nut would be grateful to have under their tree. Just don’t expect to spend a lot of time with them for a while. They’re going to have some watchin’ to do.
The Jack Ryan Collection:
Amazon Prime Video is beginning to offer new scripted drama shows on their streaming service. One of the more recently acclaimed is a Jack Ryan series. That gives Paramount a great opportunity to take advantage of the situation and release the five Jack Ryan films on UHD/4K. Whatever the excuse, I’m happy to see these films get the UHD treatment. The release includes The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, The Sum Of All Fears and Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit. It’s a chance to see Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine all take the Tom Clancy CIA analyst to the big screen. You don’t have to pick your favorite, because they’re all here.
The Hunt For Red October (1990)
This is the film that literally started a trend. Within a decade, submarine films would make a huge comeback in the big-budget film industry. Titles like Crimson Tide, U-571, and K-19: The Widowmaker all took a little from Red October. Maybe the Cold War is over, but our fascination with that modern version of cowboys and Indians doesn’t seemed to have waned much in the last nearly 20 years. While our relationship with Russia might be up and down over the last two decades, there is still a part of our culture that can’t seem to let go of that classic game of good guys and bad guys. It’s not unique to the former Soviet Union by any means. World War II has been over for more than 60 years, but the occasional Nazi bad guys still make their presence known from time to time. Maybe it’s those accents. Whatever the reason, the seemingly dated subject matter of Red October is never a liability to the film. When Red October came out, the Soviet Union had just fallen a mere two years earlier, and there were some who suggested the film was an inappropriate reminder of those recent bygone days and might even be considered a slap in the face to the new regime in Russia. Fortunately this was not one of those instances where Hollywood let its often hypocritical sense of political correctness get in the way of a great film.
Jack Ryan (Baldwin) is a CIA analyst. When he comes across a spy photograph of a new Russian submarine, the Red October, he becomes concerned about a new feature. It appears two very large doors, too big for torpedoes, have been added to the standard Typhoon class vessel. He travels to Langley and meets with his boss (Jones) to have the pictures studied. When it’s discovered that the pictures could be a “caterpillar drive”, a silent running technology, Ryan finds himself advising the President’s National Security Advisors. The ship is now out to sea, and the Russians appear to have gotten suddenly very nervous. Is the ship run by a rogue commander with glorious visions of nuking the US? Ryan thinks he wants to defect, and now he must convince an entire chain of command to give Ramius the chance to do just that. Ramius must avoid the entire Russian fleet and convince the Americans of his intentions.
Patriot Games (1992)
It’s sad, really, when you think about it. The Hunt For Red October was a magnificent film, and it established a believable world and mythology that could well have launched Jack Ryan into a decades-long career as the American version of James Bond. All of the elements were established, as was a very workable cast of characters. But somewhere, somehow, something went terribly astray. Instead of giving us another international story of intrigue and global consequences, we’re left with a very pedestrian story about revenge. To make the sin worse, we get Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan and never really give him anything great to do. OK, there are a couple of moments that in the end only serve to tease us as to what was possible. Phillip Noyce takes over for John McTieman as the director. He gave us an almost equal cast but forgot to bring the movie along for the ride. There’s nothing terribly clever or original about the story. You can almost hear James Cagney screaming “You dirty rats. You killed my brother…” as the villain Sean Miller abandons his entire blood oath and mission to get revenge on Ryan.
Jack Ryan (Ford) is in England with his family when a rogue cell of the IRA makes a hit against a member of the Royal Family. Ryan interferes with the plot and ends up killing a couple of the would-be assassins, including the brother of mission leader Sean Miller (Bean). The terrorist is broken out of prison while being transported, but instead of returning to his blood battle against England, he seeks out Jack Ryan to kill him and his family to avenge the death of his younger brother.
Clear And Present Danger (1994)
This is the third of the Jack Ryan films and the only one of the four to have any kind of continuity with any of the other films. It follows closely on the heels of Patriot Games and uses much of the same cast and crew as that film did. Finally it seemed that Paramount was willing to establish some kind of a franchise with stability on the popular Tom Clancy character. While this was still not as good as Hunt For Red October, it is easily superior to any of the other Ryan sequels. Harrison Ford is put to far better use here and he finally appears comfortable in the skin of Ryan. The film requires many huge leaps in logic, making it less believable than, perhaps, Patriot Games, but the action mixed with a generous amount of suspense makes this a rather fun and interesting story to watch.
There are an incredible number of characters on both sides of the fence to keep track of in this film, making it a little hard to keep up at times. You have: Ryan (Ford), Greer (Jones), Clark (Dafoe), Ritter (Czemy) , Escobedo (Sandoval) , NSA Director Cutter (Yulin), Felix Cortez (Almeida), Ryan’s wife (Archer), Moira (Mangnuson), FBI Director Jacobs (Tammi) and the list goes on. The plot, however, is a pretty good one. CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ford) takes over as Director of Covert Ops for the Company when his mentor Greer is stricken with cancer. The President, upset over the slaughter of a friend’s family by the Escobedo drug cartel, launches a covert military operation of which Ryan is unaware. Ryan meanwhile has promised Congress under oath that no such operations will be undertaken with money from an appropriations bill he went to Capitol Hill to fight for. When potential leaks make their operation a liability, the President shuts it down, leaving the military officers on their own. Ryan is set up as the fall guy both for Congress and for the leader of the men left stranded in the field. He must risk his own life to rescue the abandoned soldiers and uncover the plot that traces all the way to the President. At first we’re rooting for these commandos as they take out major players in the drug cartels. The collateral damage starts to mount, however, and we are beginning to question the actions of politicians we soon learn are in bed with the very men they appear to be fighting. Finally whatever moral high ground remains vanishes as American troops are left to be tortured and killed to protect the men who placed them in harm’s way to begin with. The moral grey area of the film is actually its strength. I like it when a film can play both sides up to a certain point. It’s then up to our hero to unscramble the ambiguity and set things right, at least as right as they can be. The film also has more than its fair share of bad guys on both sides of the fence. Is the villain Escobedo (sound a little like someone else?) the drug lord? Or maybe the true villain is Felix Cortez, who is Escobedo’s consultant, who is working more angles than an octagon? Of course, you can’t have a worse group of black hats than the trio of American bigwigs that started the whole covert mess. Is it simply a case of good intentions gone badly? The film certainly allows you the luxury of thinking that way, at least for a while.
The Sum Of All Fears (2002)
I can’t prove it. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I could swear that while I was watching this film there was a goose, or it could have been a duck, trying to sell me some kind of supplemental insurance. It might have been my enemy the backyard limpkin who finds it necessary to scream 24/7 while he litters my yard with huge snail shells. Whatever it was, it was distracting. Sum Of All Fears suffers from a multitude of sins, not the least of which is Ben Affleck.
What I think surprises me the most is that while Tom Clancy himself had far more input than in the previous films, this one appears to stray the most from his original novel. The film begins with us learning that in 1973 an Israeli bomber was attacked and grounded in the remote desert. Now, 30 years later, a group of salvagers discover the nuclear warhead the bomber was carrying. These ignorant nomads collect the bomb because “someone is always willing to pay for this junk”. Meanwhile we are introduced to some political intrigue with our old Clancy friends, the Russians. The Russian President collapses of a heart attack, and a new regime moves in. Nemerov (Hinds) doesn’t exactly have his hands too firmly on the reins of power, and a neo-Nazi, Olsen (Feore) wants nothing more than to stir up trouble between the US and Russia. He hopes that the ensuing war will leave the world ready for his fascist regime to step in and fill the void. He’s another Hitler wannabe, except that he’s got that pesky little bomb that got lost in 1973. Tensions between the nations escalate, brought about by ambitious hardliners in the Russian government and some gentle pushing by Oren. As the tensions escalate, Jack Ryan, a CIA newbie who wrote a detailed paper on Nemerov years ago, is called in to help the President’s team understand his motives. Nemerov appears to be a hardliner with aggressive intent; Ryan is the only one who understands he’s not, but that he can’t afford to appear weak and not in control of his military. When a nuclear explosion rocks a football game nearly killing the President, Ryan must piece together the puzzle before both the United States and Russia exchange nuclear strikes.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
“You’re not just an analyst anymore. You’re operational now.”
Witness the birth of — actually make that rebirth of –one of the most popular action heroes in literature. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has been a character of many jobs and many faces over the years. Baldwin, Ford, and Affleck have all stepped into the role of the man who has been a soldier, an analyst, an operative, and a president. Now Chris Pine looks to fill the shoes left behind by some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters and try his hand at a retelling of the legendary character which also stars Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, along with Kenneth Branagh who doubles as the film’s director. There are two clear differences between Pine’s circumstance and the others who have played Ryan: the story has been modernized to fit today’s setting, and Pine’s story is the only one not to be based on a popular Clancy novel.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a doctoral student at the London School of Economics. On his way to class, he notices a commotion in the school lobby and pushes his way through the crowd to a television set alerting him for the first time of the tragic events that have just occurred back home. Fast-forward 18 months; Ryan has left school and is now a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. During a transport, his helicopter is struck down and despite an injury that would have incapacitated a lesser man, he manages to pull his men from the wreckage and save their lives.
Now recuperating from the injury sustained in the attack, two significant things happen in Ryan’s life. Firstly, he meets someone, a doctor named Cathy (Keira Knightley) who helps him to get back on his feet. Lastly, he is approached by William Harper (Kevin Costner), the head of a clandestine unit within the Central Intelligence Agency. Knowing that his service in the military is over, Harper presents Ryan with a new opportunity to help protect his country from the next great attack. He recruits him as an analyst, sifting through intel and using his keen intel to predict the next threat.
It takes some time, but that threat presents itself in the form of a shadowy Russian businessman (Kenneth Branagh) looking to capitalize on the economic crisis caused by an international attack. Able to predict the attack with time to thwart it and the only one capable of possibly preventing it, Ryan is immediately promoted to field agent and thrown into the world of espionage where he will have stop what’s happening, all while trying to maintain his crumbling relationship with Cathy.
When you view these films as a collection, you end up comparing them, which isn’t exactly fair, I suppose. The same thing will be true of the Amazon series. Viewers will inevitably compare their favorite of these films with the series. I tried to consider each film on its own merits and consider the time that each film was released. They don’t always work as a collection, but for my money, it’s nice to finally have them in 4K and in one place on my video shelf. I have not seen any of the new show yet, but I like my Jack Ryan to be more of a “buckeroo”.
Mission Impossible Collection:
“Well, you think about it, Ethan, it was inevitable. No more cold war. No more secrets you keep from yourself. Answer to no one but yourself. Then, you wake up one morning and find out the President is running the country without your permission. The son of a bitch, how dare he. Then you realize, it’s over. You are an obsolete piece of hardware, not worth upgrading, you got a lousy marriage, and 62 grand a year.”
The more things change, the more they tend to remain the same. In 1996 Paramount was nearing the end of a run of feature films that started with a 1960’s Desilu Studios television series called Star Trek. That same year the studio was beginning a run of feature films based on a 1960’s Desilu Studios television series that at one time shared an actor with Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy. That series was Mission Impossible. The show starred Peter Graves as the leader of a cold war covert government group called the IMF or Impossible Mission Force. Each week he would select from a group of series regulars after getting his mission, should he decide to accept it, from a tape recorder that always self-destructed in five seconds. The tape’s dissolving vapor would lead to the fuse being lit that started the opening credits and an iconic theme written by Lalo Schifin. It ran for seven seasons between 1966 and 1973. The series returned for a short while as another television series in the 1980’s before it vanished into post cold war oblivion, until Paramount and Tom Cruise decided to join forces and create a new film franchise that has lasted over 20 years and is about to launch its 6th big-budget film.
Enter Brian DePalma, who 10 years earlier had made a successful film out of a 1950’s Desilu television show called The Untouchables. It certainly appeared that this film was more a product of fate than anything a Hollywood script could dream up. But DePalma would not remain with this franchise after the first film. In fact it would become somewhat of a tradition that each film would be directed by a different person, bringing a bit of a unique style to each outing. The results have certainly been rather mixed, but one thing is for certain. The box office for these films has brought some much needed cash to Paramount over the years, and that’s expected to continue in 2018 when Christopher McQuarrie becomes the first directed to repeat in the franchise. The release of a new movie is the perfect opportunity for Paramount to release the five previous films in 4K on UHD Blu-ray discs.
Mission Impossible (1996)
Mission Impossible starts with a nod to the original series. We see the IMF team just finishing up one of the elaborate scams that were a trademark of the show in order to have international bad guys get a little unofficial justice. The only character from the series to return is Jim Phelps, this time played by Jon Voight. The case has a happy conclusion, and the iconic fuse is lit, and we’re treated to a modern version of the classic opening, pulse-pounding theme and all. The resemblance to the series except for a few homage moments ends here.
Jim Phelps receives a new mission on the plane ride home. There is a list of secret agent identities out there in two parts. Apparently an international bad guy is about to obtain the second part of the coded list, and that means a lot of compromised agents. He assembles his team, which includes Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise. Phelps has been his mentor and is about to retire, putting the IMF team into his hands. But the last mission goes horribly wrong, and it appears Hunt is the only surviving member of the botched mission. Of course, that makes him look like the mole the agency has been trying to track down, and Hunt has been framed for the role. We finally learn what it means to be disavowed, and Hunt has to put together a team of disavowed agents in order to clear his name, find the real mole, and keep the agent list from falling into the wrong hands.
The first film of the new feature film franchise begins to establish the move from the con aspect of the show to a more furious action film genre. Cruise establishes himself as a bit of an action hero who has been insisting on doing many of each film’s signature stunts. In this one we get the first of many iconic images of Cruise as Hunt dangling from a rope rig as he enters an impenetrable vault and drops to within inches of the rigged floor, arms and legs spread-eagled in what has become an easily recognizable scene from the franchise. Hunt also hangs on to a speeding bullet train while battling and taking out a helicopter as it enters the Chunnel between England and France. These action moments have become the trademark moments of each new film as one attempts to outdo the others.
Mission Impossible II (2000)
“This is not Mission: Difficult, Mr. Hunt. It’s Mission: Impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you.”
After four years and nearly $200 million at the box office, it was only a matter of time before Paramount and Tom Cruise would partner again for a new Mission Impossible film. This time the move would be completely toward the action and stunts and farther away from the television series. The hiring of John Woo to direct the second film put quite a punctuation mark on that move. This time there would be no mistake. Mission: Impossible 2 would be a no-holds-barred action adventure across the globe, and with Tom Cruise once again doing the majority of these hair-raising stunts himself, much to the concern of the new director and crew. The stakes had to be higher, and Woo was the perfect choice for that kind of film.
This time out the McGuffin would be a bio-weapon. This would also be the only Mission: Impossible film where Hunt is working as an agent for the entire film. In all of the others he’s had to go rogue ala Jason Bourne with elements inside the IMF trying to bring him down. Hunt (Cruise) is also told to recruit a civilian master thief for the team in the person of seductive crook Nyah Hall, played with style by Thandie Newton. Back is newly returned from the disavowed list Luther Stickell, the computer hacker and tough guy played by the returning Ving Rhames. There’s instant chemistry between Rhames and Cruise that goes back to the first film and beyond. There’s a reason that Rhames remains the only other actor to appear in all of these films. The two of them are really good together, and that relationship along with the stunts covers a multitude of sins, or shall we say holes in the plot itself.
Another disavowed agent named Sean Ambrose (Scott) is the bad guy who intends to bank some serious coin off the bio-weapon Chimera. This film is a lot tighter than the first, with a more limited number of characters and a lot less of the double-crosses and triple-crosses that made the first film a bit hard to follow. This time Woo uses a more limited cast but keeps everything so quickly in motion that you’re getting much more of an amusement park ride out of the experience. It is this film that pretty much sets the tone for everything that follows. It’s Woo’s expert handling that allows this film to rise considerably above the first and made the long-running franchise far more mission: possible.
There’s little question that this film plays out more like a James Bond adventure than anything the 1960’s show was about. We do a lot of globe-trotting that takes our adventure from exotic place to exotic place. Thandie Newton would fit in with the best of the Bond girls. She has good chemistry with Cruise and she’s such a nice combination of tough and seductive that it’s rather easy to imagine her in a Bond film. Anthony Hopkins shows up as the film’s answer to M, and I’m disappointed that thread did not continue. Hopkins and Cruise added to the development of the film’s characters.
Mission Impossible III (2006)
“You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat people they don’t have to treat well.”
It had been a decade since Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible hit theatres to box office success, established a new blockbuster franchise, and added ‘action hero’ to Tom Cruise’s resume, and six years since John Woo’s highly stylized follow-up raised the franchise to new box office heights. In 2006 the long-awaited third installment arrived amidst controversy about Tom Cruise’s crazy off-screen antics. It was feared that the happenings of Cruise’s personal life would somehow bring down this movie; the previous two films did set the bar pretty high. Mission: Impossible 3’s U.S. box office take did appear to suffer from the public backlash to its headliner’s wacky rants and questionable actions. J. J. Abrams’ top-notch action flick likely deserved better. But the third film could have put a halt to any future missions by posting the worst box office of the franchise to date. The $134 million box office was down considerably from the expected $200 million that was reached by all of the other films. As it was there would be another nearly six-year gap before the next outing.
A newly engaged Ethan Hunt has retired from being IMF team leader. It appears he is settling down and enjoying his engagement party, but not for too long. He receives a phone call from an IMF contact, setting up a meet at a nearby Seven-Eleven. At first Ethan turns down the mission, but upon viewing a disposable camera with hidden video he discovers that an ex-partner, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) has been captured by Davian and is being held in Berlin. Reluctantly he accepts the mission to get her back. Ethan tells his fianceé that he has to leave on business, and the action begins. An impressive firefight ensues, with well-choreographed action. All seems to have gone well, and Agent Farris is being extracted when it is discovered that there is a self-destructing charge in her brain. An attempt to save her is botched, and the mission is failed. Apart from the death of the primary target, little information was recovered about Davian.
At Agent Farris’ funeral Ethan receives a call from a mail forwarding service letting him know that Lindsay has sent him a postcard from Berlin. At first glance, the postcard is just a postcard, but upon further investigation under the stamp there is a microdot containing a secret video from Lindsey Farris. At this point it is decided that the IMF will not be involved any further in this investigation, and Ethan and his team decide to pursue Davian themselves.
From this point on there are constant advancements in the story line, matched with some great action scenes. From the moment I put the disc in to the moment I took it out, I wasn’t left bored once. Usually in an action movie I don’t expect great acting, but Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman were very impressive, especially together. The two enjoyed some pulse-pounding chemistry. At first I couldn’t picture Hoffman as a bad guy, but by the end of the picture I was more than convinced. He played a calm, witty sociopath. Almost as impressive was Cruise. I didn’t know what to expect, the same guy from Oprah’s couch or the guy from the past. In the end classic Cruise showed up and played a great action role, with a compassionate side.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
“The Secretary is dead. The President has invoked Ghost Protocol. We’re shut down. No satellite, safe house, support, or extraction. The four of us and the contents of this car are all that remains of the IMF.”
The fourth Mission: Impossible entry exchanges digits for a subtitle, and brings in Brad Bird to direct his first live-action feature. So the man whose The Incredibles made fun of the sort of thing that is the bread-and-butter of the M:I franchise is brought in to revitalize said franchise. Result? Job done. Gotcha. You thought I was going to say, “Mission accomplished,” didn’t you?
The plot kicks off with two missions going badly wrong. One ends with the assassination of an MI operative. The next ends with the Kremlin blowing up and the entire MI organization disavowed. Tom Cruise and his small group (Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner) must now operate without sanction to stop Michael Nyqvist from bringing about nuclear war.
The story twists and turns through all sorts of baroque convolutions, and it does get rather difficult at times to keep everything straight. But that is, ultimately, a rather minor problem. The plot is purely functional, existing to get us from one exotic location and elaborate set piece to the next. And these are spectacular. The sequence where Cruise climbs the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai is, or course, the highlight, a tour-de-force of vertigo-inducing suspense, and this bit alone would probably be enough to qualify this film as the most satisfying entry in the series.
What does, I think, clinch that title is the supporting cast. While the film remains very much Cruise’s show, there is a stronger sense of a team than we’ve had.. well.. perhaps ever in the film series. Though Patton doesn’t register as strongly as her character should, Renner solidifies his claim as heir-in-waiting to the action crown. Pegg, meanwhile, radiates the same unqualified delight to be in this kind of a movie as he did in Star Trek, and his sense of fun is Ebola-infectious.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
On the surface MI-5 looks to be a mundane direct-to-video film attempting to cash in on a couple of things. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the fifth in the series and often referred to as MI:5. The new James Bond film has a plot involving the head of MI-5 attempting to take down the MI-6 department and our beloved 007. None of these would contribute to the fortuitous name. Rather it’s the difference in racial sensitivity between Britain and the United States. MI-5 is actually a feature-film version of the long-running British series Spooks. The film’s original title happens to be Spooks: The Greater Good. It seems that even foreign nations have noticed we can be offended by words that have completely innocent meanings so long as someone out there can find an offensive albeit completely unintended meaning. Don’t believe me? Just check in with how many sports media refer to the Washington Redskins these days. It’s unfortunate, because I like the original title. It’s more original. MI-5 is so generic these days.
If you’re up on the show, you already know the Intelligence Chief of MI-5, Harry Pearce, still played by Peter Firth. After 10 years he’s now a disgraced agent and on the run after terrorist Adam Qasim (Gabel) escapes from a prisoner transport that Pearce was in charge of conducting. Some inside the agency think that Pearce was a part of the escape plan.
Enter decommissioned agent Will Holloway, played by newcomer Kit Harington. Harington may well be new to the series, but his character is not new to Pearce. They are connected in two crucial ways. It was Pearce who decommissioned him, and Pearce was present when his father was killed in the field. MI-5 brings him in literally from the cold where he had his own op going in Russia. They put him on Pearce, where a game of trust and distrust play out between the two. Throughout the film we never quite know who the good guys and the bad guys happen to be. Two things are certain here. The first is that someone high in the command chain is a mole and the second that Qasim is planning something big.
It’s very much a cat-and-mouse game throughout the film. The two leads are rarely actually together. There’s a Bourne Identity element here with our heroes having to work outside the agency. Still they can’t even be sure that they can trust each other. In the end Pearce is out to clean out his own agency as much as he wants to stop a terrorist attack. In the background the escaped terrorist is causing the American CIA to attempt a takeover of MI-5 because they view them as insecure. Too many players make the plot a bit hard to follow at times, and some of it is unnecessary. Add that to concerns of people like myself who have never seen the actual series. Let me at least put that worry to rest.
I think this will appeal to fans of the spy genre and satisfy the television show fans. I do get the idea that this is a passing-of-the-baton kind of thing. The Holloway character appears to be the future if the franchise continues. With a mix of old and new, it appears this decade-old show “might still have a trick or two”.
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
“Your mission should you decide to accept it. Isn’t that the thing?”
And that has been the thing. Since 1966 Mission Impossible has plotted out 9 seasons of television and 6 movies thrusting Tom Cruise into an action hero icon. Cruise and company have taken their time with these films. It’s been over 20 years and we’re only on the 6th entry. For the first 5 films, each of the Missions have been directed by a different director from John Wo, who directed the 2nd and worst of the films through J.J. Abrams who turned the ship around with the third, which was also his first feature film to Christopher McQuarrie who becomes the first director to repeat in the series of films. In fact, McQuarrie has become quite the Tom Cruise collaborator these days also directing his Jack Reacher film and writing his version of The Mummy. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and now Fallout offer a nice apology for the train wreck…or was that a plane wreck that was The Mummy. The fact remains that this is the one rare franchise that appears to be getting better with each outing.
Mission Impossible: Fallout begins with a familiar theme in the film franchise. And, no I’m not talking about the iconic Lalo Schifrin music. That comes later. The familiar theme here is a mission that goes badly. Hunt (Cruise) decides to save Luther Stickell”s (Rhames) life and let some stolen plutonium slip through his fingers. The botched mission calls his ability into question and once again the IMF team is on the bubble and Hunt must take his team rogue to make up for the mistake. The film brings back a couple of earlier threads from previous films. With the exception of a few characters none of the films included this kind of continuity before. Back on the team is Simon Pegg’s Benji who finally gets to wear a mask which has been a bit of a running gag since the 3rd film. Alec Baldwin returns as “The Secretary” Alan Hunley. Renner couldn’t make the film because of Marvel commitments.
Michelle Monaghan returns as Hunt’s once thought dead wife. Her new life gets disrupted by the new mission. That’s because we also see the return of one of the franchise’s better bad guys Sean Harris as Solomon Lane. He’s been a prisoner since he was captured and traded from nation to nation for the intel he can provide. Now the cost of getting back the plutonium is freeing the arch-villain. Of course, that’s going to get a bit complicated and you can never tell how much of Hunt’s movements are being manipulated by the old head of the dangerous Syndicate. Back again from that previous plot is ex-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust once again played by Rebecca Ferguson who gets some of the coolest stuff to do once again. She continues to be Hell on wheels with a motorcycle and you can count on more high-speed action on the highways with some of the most elaborate car chases you’ve yet seen.
If all of that makes this film sound like a re-tread nothing can by farther from the truth. Henry Cavill enters the franchise as CIA Agent August Walker. His participation led to the rather silly million dollar mustache removal debacle in the Justice League film. His boss is played by another newcomer to the franchise in the form of Angela Bassett as the head of the CIA. Throughout the film we’ll have cause to question their motives because once again the film features the requisite mole in the operation. On second thought a lot of this film is a bit of a retread. But what it lacks in imagination and plot holes big enough to sail a starship through the film makes up with imaginative visuals.