Mission Impossible 3

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise and Maggie Q – the Mission Impossible team

 

 

Remember the tagline for True Lies, the Arnie Schwarzenegger actioner in which he plays a secret agent whose wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) is unaware of his job – “When he said I do, he never said what he did”? Pretty much the same thing is going in M:I3, with impossibly happy semi-retired agent Tom Cruise unable to tell his fiancée (Michelle Monaghan) that he’s off on a perilous secret mission. In something of a departure from the previous two films, Tom does actually have more of a Mission Impossible team with him this time – Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q. This is all much more in keeping with the TV original, which focused on the intricately choreographed activities of the Mission Impossible team rather than the stuntorama of an individual. Also from TV is the director, Lost’s JJ Abrams who keeps the action boiling and gives us choppers and latex masks (where would M:I be without them?), international locations, gunplay and exploding vehicles, but seems incapable of injecting any flavour. Possibly that’s because he’s saddled with a plot that is flimsy beyond belief, Abrams (ie his paymasters) seeming to think that action is all that’s necessary. Let’s not knock the action; it is very well handled, it’s just that we’re on the third film now and we need a bit more. More, for example, of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Cruise’s dastardly nemesis this time out. Every time he sneers on to the screen, it’s as if someone turned all the dials on the M:I machine up a twist. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often enough.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Mission: Impossible 3 – at Amazon

 

 

 

Mission: Impossible II

Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back, tasked with saving the world from a dastardly villain intent on unleashing a deadly virus – cackle, preen. The “this time it’s personal” angle comes from the fact that the villain is a former Impossible-ist himself, and also the former lover of the woman Mr Hunt is now in love with.

You’d have thought it a mission impossible to make a duff sequel to Brian De Palma’s all-action 1996 movie with the fine ingredients assembled here. For starters there’s the $125m budget and Cruise, still one of the biggest stars in the world (he earned $60m+ for this). Then there’s the damsel in distress, Thandie Newton, a woman so beautiful that she could make a pope cry. And Dougray Scott as a Bond-style uber-baddie, malevolent as a man can be in designer gear. But there’s something not quite right. Perhaps Anthony Hopkins is symptomatic. Why hire the boombastic Hopkins only to throw him away in a minor role as Cruise’s control? And what of the contribution of Chinatown writer Robert Towne, forced to write around John Woo’s spectacular set pieces? And by “write around” I mean “join the dots”. M:I2 is lean, it’s efficient, it zips about the globe in much the same way as Woo’s camera zips about Cruise – way above him, circling about, swooping, and that’s just the pre-titles sequence set on a spectacular rock face. Suspense isn’t Woo’s thing, spectacle is, which is why, between rock faces and the peeling off of latex masks and helicopters and explosions the film just kind of hangs there, inert. Plus there’s the love subplot with Newton to be factored in. If there is one thing to be learned from the Bond movies that Cruise is so clearly is setting out to surpass, it’s that the minute Bond falls in love, the films fall apart.

© Steve Morrissey 2001

 

Mission: Impossible II – at Amazon

Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

 

 

Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights disappointed those who were hoping for more Dirk Diggler and his prosthetic schlong. At 182 minutes it also caught out those who were watching at the cinema with a beer or two inside them – knotted legs don’t make for maximum movie fun. At home with a pause button it’s pure luxury. Stylistically it’s heavily in debt to one of Anderson’s readily acknowledged influences, Robert Altman – the overlapping dialogue, the wandering camera and the faintly disengaged performances. By which I mean the actors are not all constantly presenting three-quarter profiles to camera (no, not even Tom Cruise).

Yes, Tom Cruise. How often is it that you can see Tom Cruise in a film that’s not a Tom Cruise film? In terms of plot Magnolia is multi-stranded, with lots of characters, each starring, to some extent, in their own mini-movie. That’s Altmanesque too (see Short Cuts). But Anderson’s theme is all his own. He follows a bunch of flash, empty characters – among them the trophy wife (Julianne Moore), the over-eager sex guru (Tom Cruise), the former child star (William H Macy), the ineffectual policeman (John C Reilly) – as they descend into an existential inferno of their own making. Except for one man (Jason Robards), whose take on existential activity is coloured by the fact that the Grim Reaper is sharpening the scythe in the hospital ward his intubated body is currently occupying. No, not literally the Grim Reaper, that was a figure of speech. Though at the end of the film, after he’s spun his separate stories closer to coherence, Anderson does do something which shatters the absolute matter-of-factness of everything that’s come before. And if you haven’t got wind of his most oddball of endings, I won’t ruin it. Magnolia is not a film for plot-junkies but it does deliver something rather magical in its place – virtuoso zeitgeist film-making with a message that could have been lifted from a medieval morality play.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 Magnolia – at Amazon