Episode 120: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

We’re here to discuss one of our most anticipated films of the year, the newest entry in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series. This film is the first to serve as a direct sequel story-wise to one before it, and also the first to feature a returning director. I know that we both are huge fans of Christopher McQuarrie’s direction in Rogue Nation and couldn’t have been happier that he was coming back. But with all this hype, expectations were high. Did it deliver? Your mission, listeners, should you choose to accept it… is to stick around and find out what we thought, after we briefly the first five films, of course.

What We’ve Been Up To0:01:28

(Both – Mission: Impossible series)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout  Review – 0:17:27 

The Connecting Point – 1:17:08


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MOVIE REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (2018)

2 Hours and 27 Minutes (R)

Villain Solomon Lane tells Ethan Hunt that the end he’s feared is coming and describes it as “the fallout of all [his] good intentions”. That statement could also apply to Mission: Impossible – Fallout and it’s director, the first ever to return for a second go-around in the series, Christopher McQuarrie. With this direct follow-on to the story events in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, McQuarrie’s aim is clear: he is going for a home run of an action flick while attempting to marry the best parts of the series into a cohesive whole. But you know what they say about good intentions…

The impossible mission that Ethan Hunt (the ageless wizard Tom Cruise) and his crew face now is one of the more straight forward in the series. It revolves mostly around retrieving stolen plutonium to prevent terrorists from launching nuclear attacks. This is not a ground-breaking story concept by any means, but McQuarrie structures the plot in such a way that there are still plenty of smaller motivations in play along the journey while always keeping the “ticking clock” in mind. And, of course, we’re dealing with spies here so this wouldn’t be Mission: Impossible without a double-cross (or two, or three, or… you get the point). One of the biggest strengths of the film is the way in which the story borrows elements from multiple films in the series and weaves them together successfully without making the result feel recycled. There is a through-line of a very personal nature reminiscent of Mission: Impossible III, there is the aforementioned “save the entire world from destruction” big stakes, and there are some wonderfully developed team dynamics that get focused on as well. There are also quite a few callbacks to specific scenes from past movies. Though it remains interesting throughout, the one big knock on the story is how telegraphed it is. If you’ve seen a trailer for the film, you already know how this is going to go and there aren’t many surprises in store for you. Even if you managed to stay trailer free, a very early reveal robs the film of what could have been much more impactful events later on. There are also some workings of the plot that create extremely high senses of danger and emotion in the audience only to later expose that there was no reason to have those emotions in the first place.

Where McQuarrie’s good intentions do manifest into something utterly brilliant is every single one of the film’s action sequences. The film moves fast from one terrific adrenaline-pumping set piece to the next in the best of ways. Whether it’s the early on HALO jump (my personal favorite that had me holding my breath) or the hand-to-hand combat inside of a club bathroom or a motorcycle chase in heavy traffic or the well-documented insanity of Tom Cruise actually climbing onto a helicopter mid-air and then piloting it in a dogfight, the audience is left breathless and physically reeling from the practical effects and stunt work on display. Not to go unmentioned, because it’s a major contributor to these pieces, is the wonderful sound design and use of the score. At times symphonic, at others completely absent, and often just incredibly powerful pops of a bullet or punches of a fist or revs of an engine, the sound in this film greatly enhances the overall experience.

Another aspect of the series that is less frequently mentioned is its humor, and Fallout may just be the best at this. Some of the most hilarious lines come from Hunt’s team of Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), and Director Hundley (Alec Baldwin). But the film’s most interesting relationship, between Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) and Hunt, provides plenty of laughs also, as the two spies spend the majority of their time on screen together in a battle of who has the most testosterone. The results frequently evoke a light-hearted chuckle at just the right moment to provide a brief respite from the film’s intensely driven plot. Last but not least, fan favorite British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns and despite seeming less important while being in more scenes, manages to ground the team in a few key emotional moments that would otherwise not have been possible.

VERDICT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout jumped out of the gate to critic claims of being the next action masterpiece. While it does excel in this area, and is certainly one of the decade’s best, technical achievement is not the only aspect of a great film. Fallout’s story is good, but not without hiccups. It’s unfortunate telegraphing of surprises holds it back from being truly special, though it has some tender emotional moments that help offset that small critique. Regardless, the film is a 2.5-hour high octane ride with a master of propulsive action and this generation’s biggest star, resulting in yet another fantastic entry into possibly the best spy film series of all-time. Don’t walk, run like Tom Cruise to the nearest theater and experience this summer’s best blockbuster in the loudest theater with the biggest screen you can.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 085: Justice League

Andrew B. Dyce of Screenrant joins the fellas for some discussion on the newest entry into the DC Extended Universe.  This conversation covers the positives and negatives of our Justice League experiences, and we also give our take on the DECU’s progress thus far. Having Andrew on the show always results in insightful chat so give it a listen and let us know what you think!

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:51

Aaron (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Wonder)
Patrick (The Death of Superman / A World Without Superman)
Andrew (#MarthaWatch2017, The Punisher on Netflix)

Justice League Review – 0:23:25

The Connecting Point – 1:48:16

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Justice League

Justice League (2017)

GOING IN

The lead up to Justice League has been at times joyful to witness, and at others incredibly frustrating. Zack Synder’s DCEU has plenty of loyal fans defending its dark tone, but legions more who seem to prefer the more comedic and light-hearted nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a big fan of all previous DC comic book films not named Suicide Squad, I can’t help but find myself in the former category. I have thoroughly enjoyed Snyder’s willingness to go deeper into the psyches of his characters and despite not loving every casting choice or action sequence, my overall response to the DCEU has been highly positive. While I mostly prefer solo superhero films, this initial team-up of the Justice League does have me very excited. The fanboy in me is really hoping for a Green Lantern appearance. I’ll also admit that I am a bit concerned about the Whedon script doctoring that occurred after Snyder took a hiatus due to the terrible tragic loss of his daughter. My hope is that Synder’s tone is not completely replaced by a focus on humor and lack of stakes.


COMING OUT

Well, consider me surprised. All of that Joss Whedon rewriting that I was concerned about? Totally worked. In fact, the film holds together well with two distinctly different tones flowing throughout, even if the difference is always noticeable and occasionally distracting. Whedon’s dialogue is mostly a hit, and especially so when it comes out of the mouth of The Flash (Ezra Miller). Flash provides us with the quippy nature the MCU has embraced, but it works because only one character is a goofball and not all five. The team dynamic is great and consists entirely of unique personalities. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a strong and powerful, independent bad-ass living the life of a loner but with a heart of gold. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is brooding and angry, certain his new form is a curse. Batman (Ben Affleck) has renewed hope in humanity, regret over Superman’s death, and wants to save the world, while Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) follows-up her strong solo debut with a nice little arc of her own about what it means to be a leader. Truly, what Justice League really has going for it most is the cast chemistry. The relationship between Cyborg and Flash really stands out. These two “accidents” have a lot in common and are both discovering and coming to grips with their powers together, along with slowly developing trust and a friendship.

Its rather miraculous that Whedon’s humor and light-heartedness intertwine with Snyder’s serious storyline so easily. This is still a superhero universe with a lot at stake, where humans die and superheroes are vulnerable. But the dialogue works by delivering moments of levity instead of turning the film into a comedy. Justice League does bring up philosophical questions and ideas that carry over from previous films, too. In doing so, it balances those heavier topics with the epic sense of fun that we should get from reading or watching superheroes in action.

When it comes to the action, it’s vintage Snyder all the way. Fast cuts with explosive visuals and some well-timed slow motion feature prominently. I was worried that the movie might have a serious fake CGI look to it, but surprisingly it didn’t bother me at all. The majority of the action sequences are moving so fast that it’s hard to get a good handle on what’s going on, however, there are a few stand-out scenes – most of them involving Wonder Woman in some capacity, and that’s never a bad thing.

The film isn’t perfect, though. The opening scene and early setup feels rushed and incohesive. Once the team is together everything feels great, but getting there is just a little clunky. The villain is also not particularly memorable, although I did enjoy him more than previous DC baddies. His personality was lacking but the action involving him was a lot of fun, and he conveys a sense of otherworldly strength that was necessary for us to believe in the threat he poses.

One last thing to mention is that the film has two very good GREAT post-credit scenes. One right after the film ends and another all the way at the very end of the credits. They are both worth waiting for. Do not miss these. The final one, especially, is textbook for how a post-credit scene should be done.

Verdict

Justice League endured a lot of changes during its production and the result is a film that has glimpses of greatness but never quite reaches that plateau. Still, the film balances its dual tones just fine and manages to provide well-rounded character development  for the whole team. Ezra Miller steals the show as The Flash and team chemistry, in general, is a big highlight. A movie doesn’t have to be perfect to entertain, and Justice League does plenty of the latter. It is a joy to see these heroes together on the big screen and many emotions were felt. My prevailing thought when walking out of the theater with a huge smile on my face was simply,  “I want more,” and that happiness is a big relief.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: March 5-11

LESSON #1: THE SUCCESS RATE OF INDIE DIRECTORS STEPPING TO BLOCKBUSTERS IS IMPROVING— Other than Marc Webb stepping up from “(500) Days of Summer” to the ill-fated “Amazing Spider-Man” double bill and “Moon” director Duncan Jones bombing on “Warcraft,” the recent push of larger studios’ farming of indie directors to helm blockbusters have gone pretty successfully.   All of the greats started small (take Christopher Nolan going from “Memento” to Batman), but the trend is swelling lately.   Colin Treverrow turned “Safety Not Guaranteed” into “Jurassic World” and J.A. Bayona will be moving from “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” into the dinotastic sequel.  “The Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cashed up to “Kong: Skull Island.”  This list goes on and on, and 2017 is full of more.  Rian Johnson flips “Looper” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Taika Waititi goes from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for “Thor: Ragnarok.”  Jon Watts of “Cop Car” hopes to not pull a Marc Webb with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

LESSON #2: BIGGER IS BETTER— Speaking of “Kong: Skull Island,” the head honchos at Legendary Entertainment found the easiest and most irresistible route to selling a new Kong film: Make him bigger.   The powers that be have smacked an invisible label on the cinematic Cheez Whiz jar that reads “now bigger than ever,” jacking up the normally and plenty-imposing 25-foot gorilla into a gigantic 100-foot bipedal behemoth.  That changes everything when it comes to the monster’s capacity for destruction and man’s impossible chances of opposition.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

LESSON #3: KEEP AN EYE ON THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL— For nine days and 125 features this month, Austin, Texas becomes the center of the independent film scene with the annual South by Southwest Film Festival that is starting to rival January’s Sundance Film Festival for exclusive films and a Hollywood-level red carpet.  This year, you’ll get the premieres of the latest films from Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Terrance Malick (“Song to Song”), and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”).   SXSW’s merger of the arts is becoming a hot ticket with good gets.

LESSON #4: THE WHITEWASHED CASTING OUTRAGE IS STARTING TO SMARTEN STUDIOS UP— I think the combination of warranted complaints,  butthurt rants, and internet courage-fueled protests are starting to work.   Movie news reported this week that director Guy Ritchie will seek Middle Eastern lead performers for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” re-imagining and Niki Caro looks to be doing the same for “Mulan.”   If you look past the animated curtain and beyond all of its inherent entertainment value, “Aladdin” is one of the worst perpetrators in film history for white-washing.  I’m intrigued to see something different and call these active attempts an initial victory towards improved diversity.

LESSON #5: LET’S MAKE UP A NEW WORD: “BRITWASHING”— Piggybacking from Lesson #4, race relations also have a national vs. international bend to them from time to time.  Samuel L. Jackson just stepped out in an interview to criticize the casting of black British actor Daniel Kaluuya to play an American African-American guy in “Get Out” and wonders about missed opportunities.  Honestly, the man isn’t wrong and, as I coin the term, “Britwashing” has been a quietly unsettling trend when you see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Oyelow playing real and fictional American heroes.  One has to wonder if there is a talent gap between the Brits and the Americans.  What do you think?  How do you feel about foreigners playing American figures and heroes?

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.