Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Also known as: Aries (fake working title), Mission: Impossible IV (working title), MI4, MiGP (informal titles)
Release Date: December 7th, 2011 (Dubai International Film Festival)
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson (uncredited), Ving Rhames (uncredited cameo), Michelle Monaghan (uncredited cameo)

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“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.” – Ethan Hunt

Well, out of the four Mission: Impossible films that I’ve seen, this one is hands down the best. Now I still have to see the two after this but following the third movie and this one, the franchise seems to be on a great trajectory following the second film, which killed the series for me way back in 2000.

I loved this movie from top-to-bottom and it had a superb cast that had solid chemistry, allowing them, as a unit, to carry the picture and alleviate the big burden from just being on Tom Cruise’s shoulders. As great as Cruise is, this made for a better film where he was still the star but a part of a great ensemble that made this movie seem bigger, cooler and more important than any of the previous ones.

As far as the cast goes, I wish that Ving Rhames was more involved and didn’t just appear in a cameo at the end.

The story here was also the best of the series. Although, it is hard to top Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain in the previous chapter. Still, the villains in this one are good and I was enthralled by their plot and how it effected the bigger picture of this franchise not just in this movie but moving forward beyond it.

The action sequences were stellar and the stunts were damn impressive. Each of these sequences sucked you right in, keeping your eyes glued to the screen. I loved the tower climb sequence, as well as the sandstorm chase.

All of the techie stuff was also very clever and while this dips its toe into the James Bond high-tech spy thriller pool, these films feel very much like their own thing and the tech is unique and fits the film’s style. It’s similar to Bond but our heroes here aren’t just using tiny gadgets with one function or suped up, weapon-loaded cars. The tech here is bigger and more interesting than just being one-off gags or easy solutions to an immediate problem.

I also loved the cinematography and the way the film was shot, as it had massive scope and just looked pristine and perfect. The locations contributed a lot to this but everything was masterfully crafted and captured on film.

Michael Giacchino’s score was really good and the more of I hear of his work, the more I like it. I think he has the ability to become one of the top composers in the game, which is refreshing as so much of the music made for films these days is forgettable and almost generic, paint-by-numbers compositions. Giacchino’s scores harken back to a time when film scores were iconic, memorable and would go on to stand the test of time by living on in people’s minds for decades. While I can’t call him a John Williams or an Ennio Morricone, I’ve greatly enjoyed his work and it exceeds what has become the norm.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an incredibly solid blockbuster picture. Everything in it just feels right and I was smiling ear-to-ear from start-to-finish. And honestly, that’s all I want from these sort of movies. 

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Spectre (2015)

Release Date: October 26th, 2015 (UK)
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 148 Minutes

spectreReview:

*written in 2015

Well, I finally got to see Spectre. Yes, I saw it on opening night, here in the U.S., but this was one of my most anticipated films.

I really liked the previous Bond chapter Skyfall and with the same cast and director returning, I was excited. I was even more stoked for this film with the inclusion of the criminal organization SPECTRE, their first appearance since 1971s Diamonds Are Forever and a brief appearance by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 1981s For Your Eyes Only.

Even though there were great James Bond movies after SPECTRE disappeared from film canon, none of the other great villains ever felt as dangerous without being aligned with the organization.

The reason for SPECTRE not appearing for so long was due to a battle over the rights to the copyright. That battle waged on for years. So when it was announced that “Spectre” was the name of this film, it was clear that the rights finally belonged to the studio and that the antagonist side of this franchise’s coin was getting a much needed boost of adrenaline.

Spectre picks up after the events of Skyfall. It isn’t clear how much time has passed but you can assume it isn’t much, as James Bond goes off on a rogue mission given to him by the deceased M, the Judy Dench version, on a video he received after her death.

Entering into Skyfall territory, the film fleshes out more of James Bond’s past. It takes more of the mystery away from who he was in the past. While this is something we never knew in any of the previous twenty-two films before Skyfall, I like how it helps you understand Bond better as a character. He isn’t a caricature, as he became in the older films, he is much more human since Sam Mendes started directing the series.

The backstory, as with the previous film, comes back to haunt him. Someone knows about Bond’s childhood life and is doing their damnedest to hurt him. You come to find out that everything bad that has happened to the Daniel Craig incarnation of Bond has been orchestrated by one man and his sinister organization: SPECTRE. All the films have been tied together but until now, the dots weren’t fully connected.

While the villain has the name of Oberhauser, if you know your Bond lore and understand that he is the leader of SPECTRE, it isn’t hard to figure out who he really is. Hell, his jacket when he is giving Bond a tour of his facility is a dead giveaway. And if you haven’t figured it out by that point, the furry white cat that jumps in Bond’s lap is too blatant for it not to be obvious. But I think most of the fans knew who Oberhauser was going to be before even seeing the film. And Christopher Waltz is perfect in this role.

The supporting cast of Bond’s MI-6 crew has never been better. Ralph Fiennes is perfect as M, Naomie Harris takes Moneypenny out from behind the desk and Ben Whishaw’s Q is a refreshing take on the character. I like how they are more active characters than before and how they, like Bond, had to defy orders and go off the grid, in order to save the world.

Andrew Scott, known for playing the evil Moriarty in Sherlock, does a great job as M’s foil by playing his new boss with ties to SPECTRE. Léa Seydoux was lovely as the new Bond girl, Dr. Swann. Monica Bellucci is also in the film but it is nothing more than a two scene cameo. Former WWE wrestler and Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, Dave Bautista shows up as this film’s evil henchman, Mr. Hinx. I’m hoping he isn’t dead. He probably isn’t. He’s the first henchman in a long time that was really cool.

The thing I like most about this film, is that it is really left open ended. Bond saves the day but evil isn’t vanquished. While that is the trend in these movies, you don’t really understand why until this film’s plot unfolds. With the villain living, you know that it will come back to haunt James and his allies.

I like this film the same way I like Skyfall. It has its flaws but it is still a fun and intense Bond flick. I don’t necessarily expect Bond movies to be masterpieces, I expect them to be fun, beautiful, action-packed and sexy. This film was all that and more. While most critics seem to like this less than Skyfall, I think it is a perfect companion to it. Both films are my favorite of the Daniel Craig era.

I hope that Daniel Craig does come back for at least one more picture, even though he seems to be exhausted with playing Bond. I also hope that Mendes directs again and that Waltz returns for payback. SPECTRE can’t just reveal itself in this film and disappear. SPECTRE needs to be a constant antagonist, at least for a little while.

My only complaint, is that SPECTRE should have felt massive. In the Connery era films, they felt immense. While they had a grip on the world in Spectre, they were more hidden and too reserved. I like in the old films how they had massive bases with their logo plastered all over the place. Maybe that would seem corny in today’s world but SPECTRE are proud of who they are and believe in what they do. They are kind of like Cobra in G.I. Joe or Hydra in Marvel Comics.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Release Date: February 6th, 2014 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson

American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg, Scott Rudin Productions, TSG Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 100 Minutes

the_grand_budapest_hotelReview:

The Grand Budapest Hotel did the unthinkable, it became the highest rated film on IMDb of Wes Anderson’s career, despite the director making countless classics before it. It cracked the top 200 films of all-time and currently sits at 204 on IMDb’s well-known and highly referenced Top 250 list. That’s pretty impressive considering The Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouThe Royal TenenbaumsRushmoreMoonrise Kingdom and others came out before it.

Let me get into the fantastic cast, which is huge.

In somewhat of a small role, never has F. Murray Abraham been better. That is a big statement to make, as he has been an actor featured in countless films over the last several decades but his ability to pull the filmgoer in, as he did, is a gift bestowed upon very few. This also brought out amazing performances by the rest of the cast, which isn’t just a who’s who of those cemented in Wes Anderson lore, it is a who’s who of Hollywood’s most talented crop.

You get Bill Murray in a small but amusing role, Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe in an amazing sequence, Adrien Brody as a fantastic asshole, not to mention Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Mathieu Amalric and Tom Wilkinson.

The bulk of the acting duties are split between the pair of the spectacular Ralph Fiennes and his perfect sidekick Tony Revolori. Saoirse Ronan, who is becoming a favorite of mine, was near perfection as the apple of the young Revolori’s eye. Léa Seydoux also shows up and she is alluring as ever, even as a maid in the hotel.

As a director, Wes Anderson never disappoints, at least in my experiences with his work. This was another gem to add to his seemingly flawless resume but going beyond that, one could argue that this was Anderson’s magnum opus. The high accolades and ratings for this film probably reflect that.

With this picture, Anderson broke his own mold and took some chances that he never has before, which paid off tremendously. For instance, there was a level of violence in this film that one wouldn’t expect from him. Yet, such changes in Anderson’s narrative tone were only enhanced by his crisp and colorful style, thus bringing a new layer to his methodical visual technique that added some depth to his artistic repertoire.

Wes Anderson found a way to reinvent himself and still stay true to his craft and style, giving his few critics something new to chew on and dissect that should thwart the naysayers who relish in the countless parodies of Anderson’s work.

Not to say that I don’t enjoy the parodies myself but Anderson proved that his quirkiness and visual approach aren’t predictable and mundane but that they work exceptionally well and are still presented in new ways: refreshing and enjoyable as the first time one experienced his style. For a filmmaker with such a specific visual aesthetic, such a feat is unheard of after having this much longevity.

Rating: 8.5/10