The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

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Films spoofing spies and what they do, are far from a novel idea by this point but when ridiculed in the right way they can be fun and smart popcorn features. This latest comedic jab at the spy genre may not be in the clever pastiche realm but it’s certainly an ambitious attempt with moments of glee.

As Audrey (Mila Kunis) tries to celebrate a birthday she can’t help feeling down because she’s been dumped via text by Drew (Justin Theroux). Eventually she finds out that he’s a spy and a prized item needs to be taken into Vienna to save the lives of countless people. A chaotic melee leads Audrey and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) to flee USA and become as close to spies as possible to finish this mission.

This is a film that fits into that same mould as last years ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ albeit this release is less funny but there’s a likely chance, of which I don’t begrudge, that ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ will pick up a sequel. Lithuania may get a raw deal as they’re plunged into a washed out grey sequence unlike every other country but on the whole, this is a bright and punchy action comedy that incorporates agreeable levels of threat, through oncoming dangers and tricksy treachery.

Annoyingly, like one too many US comedies, this movie relies heavily on people shouting or pulling stupid faces to be funny which elicits the opposite reaction from me because that’s bone idle comedy. The comedic element throughout is deeply lacking but as a feat of exhilarating action this film fares nicely. There are zippy gunfights and chases that are executed well plus there’s a violent villainess appearing with gymnastic wiles in the same vein as Gazelle from ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ but in fact this Nadedja figure is a scarier foe to oppose the American women.

Kunis equips her likeability and demonstrates some good action chops to ensure that Audrey isn’t ever a boring heroine to join the ride with. Theroux broods as only he can and is a believable dominating Bourne like copy who opens up the movie with vigour. This is going to be controversial but McKinnon overshadows the film with irritating tendencies to just be OTT. Again, like in ‘Ghostbusters’ I found her to be the most annoying quality of the film, she becomes grating after a while and as Drew says to Morgan in the film, Kate is just too much. McKinnon’s energy and wild performance abilities perfectly suit the SNL skit format but in feature length she becomes tiresome. There I said it.

As a European jolly this film trots from Prague to Berlin like an entertaining cinematic inter-rail trip which may not be the best or even good comedy but as a frothy action flick it’s pleasantly enjoyable.

5.5/10

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

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He’s scaled the world’s tallest building in Dubai, climbed a rock face in Utah and broken his ankle during the shoot of the latest instalment for the ever fun and always stunt heavy Mission: Impossible franchise, Tom Cruise is an action messiah and ‘Fallout‘ further proves this statement of mine.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) receives a message that a terrorist ring have their hands on 3 plutonium cores which they intend to use in creating maximum destruction for ‘peace’. He teams up with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames), but after an unexpected dilemma, Hunt is shadowed by CIA operative Walker (Henry Cavill) as their mission takes them to Paris and an old adversary.

Christopher McQuarrie is back in the directors chair and with his fantastically engrossing screenplay, he ensures to keep quality control on a narrative that essentially boils down to a seek and locate motivated globe-trot and a heart palpitating countdown themed finale. The M:I series has always been a fun one and this is no exception but they’ve definitely been getting better and more finely written.

Obviously the set-pieces are as amazingly coordinated as ever, each and every insane stunt moment making you take a breath and fear you won’t regain it by the end of the sequence. This sixth outing rockets from a HALO jump over France to a phenomenal helicopter chase, with everything from motorbike collisions and a London run in between. This film boasts such an impressive cinematic run of stunts with the optimum motivation to boost adrenaline into you, I certainly sat back, mouth agape loving it all. Side note: stunt teams and performers truly deserve more recognition and the Academy should step up and honour films that put great care and work into creating high-octane thrills like this movie offers.

This isn’t to say the stunts overshadow the film. There’s a meaty story that ticks away with great waves of tension, the usual shadiness of who can be trusted is utilised nicely and along rests of humour there’s some welcome light shed on Hunt and his back story with Michelle Monaghan’s Julia, who gets some crucial screen-time, showcasing her skills as an actor and also being a vital character that makes Ethan more than an unbreakable force but an emotional human too.

The ever reliable, action movie star credentials of Cruise are back in full swing and he’s supported by a returning cast. The light-hearted quips from Pegg’s gadget savvy character are always well delivered but he’s on the field more and becomes caught up amongst the threats and action. Rhames is as great as usual and shows a touch of real softness when speaking about his longtime buddy Hunt. It’s great to see Rebecca Ferguson back too, she makes Ilsa a complicated and strong individual to stand toe to toe with Cruise. They’re joined by franchise newbie Cavill who sports ‘that’ moustache and pumps his arms as ferociously as his character is, also fresh to the scene is Vanessa Kirby who is a riveting complex character, that could have had more screen time but eats up the screen with a femme fatale like edge.

What this movie is to watch is nothing short of spectacular. You thought it’d be impossible to top the last one but again the crew and stars have succeeded in their mission to provide us with fast paced excitement and tension like no other. One of the best action films I’ve seen. You can choose to accept that or not, it’s a fact.

9/10

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Yes, this latest in the Trekkie universe is entertaining and feels like it’s ticking boxes of the roots of the show but there’s numerous times where it felt either too campy or too boring. It’s most certainly a blockbuster movie but it ended up being quite loud, crashy and dumb.

3 years into their 5 year mission, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew land in Yorktown. Kirk goes for a promotion to Vice Admiral but whilst there he sees a distress signal out of the nebula. Once the escape pod figure is rescued the USS Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of ships and a powerful leader named Krall (Idris Elba). The Enterprise ensemble end up separated and then together as they try to take down the force of Krall’s plan and army.

Even though my opening paragraph may sound negative, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this film. The major thing being the look of it all. Each new planet and landscape is detailed to glorious colour, texture and ultimate perfection. The sleek quality of the ships, space and creatures are in full effect. It definitely has a sci-fi appeal and visually the movie strikes a neat balance between weird worlds and summer popcorn entertainment.

Jaylah; a new character and a unique looking scavenger is another great addition the film. She’s smart, strong and resourceful and hopefully she’ll stick around with the team. There are some funny moments also, but at times it’s this attempt at comedy that begins waning and feeling out of touch. The comradery is great though and I liked the different pairings the film goes for as the fleet end up separated. Bones and Spock are a highlight of the movie.

It’s really clear to see that Simon Pegg wrote this film, because with Doug Jung there is a quirky stab at comedy that sounds more Cornetto trilogy then Final Frontier. The most impressive piece of writing is having the Enterprise attacked so early on, it’s a cool moment to set up the conflict and the battle look of this sequence is glorious to watch unfold. I think that was the best set-piece of the movie meaning it could only go downwards from that point. Pegg injects perhaps too much jokey attitude in places that deserve to be more tense and the final showdown in Yorktown feels very silly indeed; from gravity streams to glass shard reflections it just appears quite cheesy.

Chris Pine is looking more and more like Kirk as the franchise goes on, he has a smarmy charm but a confident and likable approach to being the captain and as a hero he acts the part. Zachary Quinto is even more the doppelganger to a young Spock, his Vulcan appearance and demeanour providing logic and humour along the way. Idris Elba gets to perform under some admittedly heavy but cool villainous make-up, his usual dominant voice and stature aiding Krall very well. Sofia Boutella as Jaylah is brilliant, she can hold her own and feels right amongst the rest of the story. Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin in one of his last feature roles are all fantastic, creating a sparkling chemistry and getting enough screen-time each to contribute something to the plot.

So yes, this is a fun film for the majority and it looks great, there’s just a heavy touch of dullness in places and the climactic scene feels totally the opposite. It may not live long and prosper but it’ll do until Rogue One comes along.

6/10

 

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)

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When you go in to see a Mission: Impossible film you can always guarantee action, fun and a well constructed story, try and forgot the second one, and this outing is no exception, really taking action packed to the limits we see badass Cruise globe-hopping in a darker tale as a twisted version of the spy force become the ones to find.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is under investigation with the rest of IMF – Impossible Mission Force, he uses his time to focus on his theory that an operative titled The Syndicate is to blame for a series of accidents. Pulling back together tech whizz Benji (Simon Pegg) Hunt tries to track down the leader of this evil group to prove IMF is a worthy organisation. Though mysterious newbie Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) may prove to be a help and hindrance as all actions shoot towards the finale.

Just to put it out there, I do love Mission: Impossible movies, there’s something so entertaining about them that even if the plot sometimes weakens I don’t really notice or care. Yet this fifth installment has an interesting arc, with a darker take on an IMF set up being one step ahead of Ethan’s usual one step ahead routine. The story is engaging and it pulls together more than a couple of impossible mission scenarios while still balancing that undercurrent of finding a shadow organisation. At times you can tell where things may go, as in it being a tale of them being shut down and scrutinised, this ‘in hiding’ situation comes with certain expectations but it’s done well.

Now to the action, where Cruise clearly has no insurance policy or one so high that I fear for the people behind the camera yanking at the collar as he runs about the place like a mini rocket. When a film begins with a sequence so barmy and yet brilliant as Tom Cruise jumping onto a moving plane and then hanging on as it takes off, you know you’re in for a ride and a half. That moment is no less cool even if you’ve seen the trailers and adverts multiple times. Then car and motorbike chases, fist fights and an underwater task pile in to add more fun to the mix as the movie progresses its 130 minute run time.

Christopher McQuarrie follows up Brad Bird’s glorious Ghost Protocol with a film that packs a lot in but it looks good too. It appears like it should, establishing shots of worldwide locations, fast crazed close ups for the fighting and slow builds for the Impossible moments, like Benji taking the nervous trip through a Moroccan power station. It might not be stylish or have some kind of poetic handle but McQuarrie gifts the film that necessary summer blockbuster vibe and focuses on presenting these action scenes in an exhilarating way.

Highlight of the film for me, in terms of directing, music and action is the Austrian Opera scene which is a fantastically grand series of events that looks breathtaking even if it’s taking in the backstage of an opera. The theatrical way it keeps on building, rigging keeps on moving and characters add to Hunt’s confusion of who to trust which we join, is masterful. It’s a beautiful sequence aided by a fantastic score and stands out as intriguing, classy and gripping.

The music scored by Joe Kraemer is orchestral and swelling to do its best in raising the hairs on the back of your neck. He utilises the theme by Lalo Schifrin, adding country flavour to the famous sounds, in London it becomes classic and regal and it Morocco it comes across exotic. The score in between is just as neat in adding to the visuals and building that sense of urgency in the battles Ethan must face. Cleverly as well, from the beginning using a record shop to discuss classical music, the film takes it further by blending sections of ‘Nessun Dorma’ underneath scenes which comes to fruition in that opera sequence in Vienna.

Tom Cruise is the man when it comes to doing stunts. He’s always reliable for action and this film makes that statement no less true. Gladly you’re not watching a double or CGI, you know that the man up there on screen is none other than Cruise. His determination is what makes him likable and he pretty much is Ethan Hunt. Rebecca Ferguson is an enigmatic arrival in the franchise, balancing that shadowy ambiguity really well. Step aside critics as well as she’s a kick ass female character that can hold her own, provides a challenge for the male lead and isn’t there for a romantic entanglement. Simon Pegg, once more comes back for that ingredient of light relief though his role is amped up more as he’s put on the field in a bigger way and could face the consequences. Jeremy Renner is slightly sidelined to a suit and politics role as he hangs back traversing Hunley’s orders. Alec Baldwin who I can no longer see as anyone but Jack Donaghy is there as the role Baldwin can do in his sleep but therefore it sells. Ving Rhames exudes cool in a glare though he too is on the outskirts with Renner as it becomes the Ethan & Benji show. Then there’s Sean Harris as the most chilling villain yet, his costuming adding to the slender figure of Harris’ precise acting, creepily calm voice and cold stare.

It isn’t the best in the series but it ticks all the boxes required for a fun and entertaining watch with enough action to please the senses. It’s a cool summer blast of mystery, thrills and spills to make way for more I’m sure.

7.5/10