Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

© Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media and Bruckheimer Films

Top Gun: Maverick – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Monica Barbaro, Charles Parnell, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis

Directors: Joseph Kosinski

Synopsis: After decades of service in the US Navy, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is called back to train some new recruits for a dangerous new mission…

Review: What more is there to be said about Tom Cruise? For over four decades, here’s an actor who has poured his heart and soul into his projects, pulling off death-defying stunts, all to provide the audience with thrilling entertainment, which has cemented his reputation as one of the best action movie stars of his generation. While his most jaw-dropping stunt work has come in the Mission: Impossible franchise, arguably the first of the many iconic roles that he’s provided audiences with over the years was the cocky US Navy Pilot in Top Gun.  Now, somewhat much later than planned due to numerous delayed release dates, Cruise is taking audiences back to the skies once more, for an utterly enthralling sequel that will please long time fans of the original and new fans alike.

After more than three decades of service in the US Navy, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is right where he wants to be, serving as one of the most skilled pilots whilst continuously avoiding the calling of a higher rank that would prevent him from taking flight ever again. However, upon the request of Tom “Iceman” Kazinsky (Kilmer), he’s called back to Top Gun to lead the training of a batch of new recruits, billed as the best that the Navy has to offer, for a highly perilous mission that will test their skills as pilots to the limit. However, whilst training these new recruits, Maverick must contend with the fact that one of the new recruits is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Teller), the son of his late best friend Goose, who died whilst flying with Maverick.

To reprise a role after over 30 years can be a risk, as it can so often be one of two things. It can either tell a story that is worth telling, or it could (especially given Hollywood’s love for using nostalgia) be used as a mere excuse to print money at the box office. While this sequel does walk the line between being nothing more than a nostalgia trip for fans of the original, it does earn its place as a more than worthy sequel. However, while the script by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie certainly weaves some of that nostalgia into the story by immediately blasting Kenny Loggins’s opening song in the opening credits, it is also a story that packs plenty of emotional weight, especially where Maverick, and where he is at this moment in his life, is concerned.

Cruise, as he so often is, is effortlessly watchable. He exudes the swagger, charisma and cockiness that made him such made Maverick such an instantaneous icon of 80s action cinema. However, through all that charisma and extraordinary skill to fly a fighter plane, there’s an overriding sense of guilt that despite being cleared of any blame for the death of Goose, Maverick still feels responsible for what happened. It is a responsibility that he is forced to confront when Goose’s son Rooster becomes one of his pupils. While Maverick has to balance his desire to be the father figure for Rooster that he never had, and his teacher, Rooster continues to harbour resentment for Maverick’s part in his father’s death. The dynamic between the two creates an emotional arc that drives the story forward, whilst giving Teller an opportunity to remind us of what a talented actor he is with an extremely impactful performance.

For the majority of the new recruits, while they are all charismatic presences, any attempt at a backstory or character development for any of them, apart from Rooster, is minimal at best. This also goes for much of the rest of the new cast. There is an extremely emotional moment between Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman. Jon Hamm shines with what little screen time he has as a Vice Admiral who would love nothing more than to ground Maverick for good. For Maverick’s love interest, there’s no mention of Kelly McGillis’s Charlotte. Instead, she is replaced by Jennifer Connolly’s Penny, a past flame of Maverick’s whose only purpose is to give him the motivation to ensure he makes it back home.

Re-teaming with Joseph Kosinski, who helmed Tron Legacy and Oblivion with Cruise, it’s not overstating it to say that these aerial action scenes are some of the most exhilarating action scenes that have ever been put to film. It is estimated that a whopping 800 hours worth of footage inside real-life planes was shot, enough time to watch the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy approximately 70 times over! It is an extraordinary herculean endeavour from all of the crew, from Kosinski’s immaculate direction to the terrific sound work, it puts the audience in the cockpit of these planes like they are in the cockpit with these incredibly skilled pilots as they train for the toughest mission of their naval careers.  When it comes time for the mission during the all-important third act, the tension is dialled to the maximum and never lets up for the rest of the film. After all those delays due to the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick earns its wings by becoming a rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor in just about every single way.

A spectacular combination of pulsating spectacle, combined with a grounded and emotional story that pulls on the heartstrings, ensures that this is a sequel that passes with flying colours and will truly take your breath away. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Image is property of Paramount, Bad Robot Productions and Skydance Media

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby Michelle Monaghan, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learns of an organisation in possession of some deadly nuclear weapons, they face a race against time in order to prevent global catastrophe…

Review: Though the word Impossible is in the title, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to prove that nothing is impossible when it comes to creating mind boggling stunts, and combining that with very well crafted and compelling stories. The remarkable stunts however are in no small part down to the incredible work of Tom Cruise who goes all out in terms of giving the audience the perfect, adrenaline fuelled thrill ride. And with each new entry into this franchise, it continues to offer that, and in jaw-dropping and spectacular fashion.

With this being the sixth entry into the franchise, this can be the point where things start to run out of steam, but this can definitely not be said for Mr Cruise who is showing no signs of slowing down even well into his fifties, and long may that continue. In the wake of the events of Rogue Nation, after a mission goes awry, a sinister group threatens to unleash global nuclear catastrophe. Consequently, the IMF once again finds itself in a desperate mission to save the world once more. However, it wouldn’t be a MI film if there weren’t some solid characters, a bunch of agendas flying around, people being double-crossed, and some people with some sinister motivations.

Bit high up here, isn’t it?

Cruise, as he has been across all 6 films, is once again terrific as Ethan Hunt, likewise for his IMF companions in Luther (Rhames) and the tech wizard Benji (Pegg). Though the absence of Jeremy Renner’s Brandt is never really explained. Also making her return is Ilsa (Ferguson), mysterious as ever, and out on her own mission that threatens to get in the way of Hunt’s. This in turn drags Sean Harris’s nefarious Solomon Lane back into the picture, which isn’t really good news for anyone. As for the newbies, Henry Cavill, and his well publicised moustache, certainly gives Hunt another headache that he could really do without. Fresh from her work on The Crown, Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious role was an interesting one, but sadly she is somewhat underused as is Angela Bassett as the new director of the CIA.

For each new entry into the franchise, a new director accepted the mission to helm the project. However, this time McQuarrie is once again writing and directing.  Given the slick style of action that he brought to the table, it is a welcome one to see him return. This film has almost every action set piece you can think of, and it’s just absolutely glorious to watch. There are some necessary breathers, which is helpful because by the time we reach the final action set piece, it really goes up a notch. The word tense REALLY just doesn’t do it justice, especially if you are afraid of heights. Sometimes you do wonder how on earth they accomplished what they did, this is action film-making at its absolute best.

The franchise has certainly seen absolutely batshit stunts like the thrilling Burj Khalifa scene in Ghost Protocol, but here Cruise might have just outdone himself with some of the stunts that are on show here, particularly in that enthralling final action scene. With each entry, this franchise just continues to just be a source of spectacular and electrifying entertainment, and arguably getting better with each instalment. The fallout of the film-making brilliance that you see on screen here means that should anyone choose to accept the mission to direct any future instalments, that itself is going to be its very own impossible mission. Good luck to whomever decides to take that challenge on.

A very well crafted and engaging story, fused with excellent action set pieces and some absolutely jaw-dropping stunts once more. Please fasten your seat-belts, you’re in for a pulsating ride. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Mummy (2017)

Image is property of Universal Studios

The Mummy – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Synopsis: An Ancient Egyptian Princess is awoken from eternal damnation and seeks to bring terror onto our world and has set her sights on Nick Morton (Cruise).

Review: It certainly seems fair to say that right now, a considerable amount of major studios are pouring a lot of time, effort and considerable sums of money into building shared cinematic universes of popular characters. Yet it’s all well and good conceiving these ideas, but it’s vital that the foundations of the universe are done, and done well enough so that it won’t all apart several films down the line. When it’s done well  (see the Marvel Cinematic Universe) it is delightful but when things have gone a little pear shaped, it can be troublesome to steer things back on course. For Universal, this reboot marks the launch of their Dark Universe, but in terms of laying those solid foundations to build upon, they’ve come up just a little bit short.

The film is set primarily in good old Britannia, but occasionally blasts back a thousand years or so to Egypt focusing on Princess Ahmanet. A woman who has consumed herself with jealousy and rage, and as a consequence, is locked away to spend eternity being mummified. Except when Cruise’s Morton stumbles upon a very ancient grave which sets off the chain of events leading to Ahmanet being freed from her damnation and now she’s on the hunt for someone, to help her rule the world (because what else do bad guys and gals really want to do besides that?) For writers as talented as Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp, it is quite a surprise that their combined efforts result in such a lacklustre script that features really insipid dialogue, and a plot about as generic as they come. What’s more, some of the line delivery is nothing short of atrocious.

This lady is not looking for a hug…

Cruise has shown his talents across many decades as an actor and as a man who really commits himself to the stunts he performs, but here his performance is just as generic as you can get. He tries to come off as this roguish badass that, to be fair, he has done throughout the Mission:Impossible series. Except under the direction of debut director Alex Kurtzman, it simply doesn’t work. Russell Crowe is again another fine actor, but much like Cruise, there’s just nothing to get excited about in terms of his performance, likewise for Annabelle Wallis’s character whose dialogue with Cruise is extremely cringy and gives an extremely wooden performance.

Having risen to prominence in films such as Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond, Boutella is by far and away the film’s leading light (or should that be darkness?) Though she isn’t helped by the film’s weak script she does her damn best to put some meat on the bones of her character, but they are threadbare and it’s just a mighty disappointment given the talent of the actress to not make her more of a compelling, and menacing presence, given that the script and the tone of the movie is all over the place.

There are some exhilarating, well filmed action scenes, packed with decent CGI, and accompanied by a fine score from Brian Tyler. There are plenty of shots of shots of Cruise running. which let’s be honest is is to be expected whenever he appears on screen, given that it has literally become a meme! It’s a shame then that these scenes are just not enough to prevent the film from being a complete mishmash that is trying so hard to get its Universe off the ground. It focuses so much on this, and as a consequence large forgets to be an entertaining movie by itself, and that is a monstrous disappointment.

With a real potpourri of mismatched tones, some very exposition heavy dialogue, and a collection of bland and uninteresting characters, the Dark Universe is off to an extremely uninspiring start.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

ghost protocol
Image rights belong to Paramount, Bad Robot, Skydance Productions and TC Productions

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: The IMF is disavowed following a mission, and must use any means they can to take down a growing terrorist threat, bent on global destruction.

Review: If there is one movie star today who absolutely commits himself to every stunt he does, for the sole purpose of giving the audience the ultimate thrill, edge-of-your-seat action, then look no further than Tom Cruise. In this fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise really decided to up the “holy shit” factor by actually scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and in doing so produced one of the best set pieces ever put to film.

Of course, this is one exhilarating and intense action sequence in a movie jam packed with amazing sequences and some really great characters, all under the supervision of animation veteran Brad Bird. The IMF has been disavowed after a pretty catastrophic event which they are subsequently blamed for, and it is up to them to clear their name and find the real perpetrator. From a thrilling prison break sequence in the beginning, a daring mission in Moscow, the aforementioned scaling of the Burj Khalifa, to a climatic chase in Mumbai. The action sequences are thrilling and very intense at times, and can certainly lay claim to some of the best in the franchise. Yet, there are plenty of moments to allow the audience to catch their breath.

burj khalifa

Aptly for the fourth film in the franchise, the IMF has four key players, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Benji Dunn (Pegg), and newbies Jane Carter (Patton) and William Brandt (Renner). Together the four of them make a pretty effective team, although it’s not always happy times, as Agent Carter has a vendetta, specifically against the secondary antagonist played brilliantly by Lea Seydoux. Each of the actors give excellent performances. Sure Cruise’s Hunt is the main character but the team play an important role too and that is stressed throughout out this movie, they are a team, and they get stuff done as a team. Pegg’s Benji is there to provide the humour, and he does so wonderfully well. Lea Seydoux appears as a secondary antagonist, but she is a much more compelling villain.

The real trouble here is the main villain, Nyqvist is fine in the role, but he is a bit generic. A madman who wants to wreak global nuclear destruction, not exactly anything new in the genre of spies and espionage movies. However, it serves to help the plot move forward, which also in itself is a little bit generic, as it tries to create a new Cold War, except this one wouldn’t be so cold as to very very hot one. Nevertheless, it remains a very exciting movie to watch, and a stylish one at that! When a franchise reaches its fourth instalment, there are times when a franchise needs to be put to bed, or it proves to provide awesome entertainment that ensures it keeps going. The latter is applicable here and when the fifth instalment came out last year, it went on to produce even more greatness for the franchise.

Gripping action sequences, with top performances from its cast, especially from Cruise, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to accept its missions, and with great style too! 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

mission-impossible-5.35209
Image is property of Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions, China Movie Channel, Alibaba Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learn of the existence of the Syndicate, a group committed to destroying them by causing global panic, Ethan Hunt and his team have to go rogue and take them down

Review: Is there an actor working today more insane and more gutsy than Tom Cruise? Here’s an actor who absolutely commits to his roles, including taking on some ludicrously dangerous, death defying stunts all in the name of some awesome entertainment. Climbing the tallest building in the world? Check. Fighting on top of a high speed train? check? Clinging on for dear life as a jet takes off with him on the outside? Check. On the basis of this evidence, the answer is yes, Tom Cruise is certainly one of the most barking mad actors in the business, but all the better for it, because it provides us cinema goers with some awesome high pulse action sequences and a thrilling movie that reminds us why we pay money to go watch these movies on the big screen. In what is his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt, Tom  Cruise shows no signs of slowing down, He’s choosing to accept these missions, and we the audience are very grateful that he is.

The MI franchise has had a few stutters on its way to its fifth outing. Yet the last picture, Ghost Protocol was a storming critical and commercial success, so Rogue Nation had much to live up to. However in the hands of Christopher McQuarrie, taking over directing duties from Bird Bird, the ship is well and truly afloat once more. This time, the team has the task of tracking the Syndicate, an organisation which ruthlessly carries out tasks with the intention of causing mass panic on a global scale, and much like in Ghost Protocol, they have to go it alone after they are disbanded by the CIA. Right out of the gate, the action on show is fantastic, from the enthralling opening sequence of the plane, as we saw in the trailer and on the poster, to a spectacular battle right in the middle of an opera show.

There are more than enough action scenes to get the heart truly pounding, but through all of these impossibly plausible action scenes (clue is in the name) there is emotion that resonates throughout the story, similar to that of Ghost Protocol. Yes there is a lot of crazy and borderline ridiculous action going on, but the story packs heart in there. The audience cares about these characters, and feel on edge when they seem to be in extreme peril.

Cruise, as usual, brings his A game to this movie and shines brightly. Yet a key theme of these movies has been the team element. Cruise is awesome, yes but the team play an important role in the mission as well. Simon Pegg, returning as Benji Dunn, effortlessly provides the comic relief once more, whilst also maintaining a very serious tone as the gravity of the situation they are in is fully realised. Taking over the role of femme fatale from Paula Patton is Rebecca Ferguson, who provides great charm and sexiness, whilst also being a very dangerous badass in a dress! Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are both back to complete the team line up, and together they all make a powerful ensemble.

Previous MI villains haven’t always been the greatest, and it is certainly the franchise’s Achilles Heel. No one has really topped Phil Seymour Hoffman’s turn in MI 3. However, we are here presented with a much strong villain, with some more clear motives. Yet the series has really lacked that strong, powerful villain that is so often present in for instance the James Bond franchise.  But take nothing away from Rogue Nation, it packs a lot of fun into its 130 minute running time, and with talk of a sixth film in the franchise in the works, Tom Cruise shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

 With a great ensemble cast, and some superb action sequences, nothing is truly impossible with this franchise

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

edge of tomorrow
All Image Rights belong to Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Viz Productions

Edge of Tomorrow – Film Review

Cast:  Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Jonas Armstrong, Franz Drameh, Kick Gurry, Tony Way, Noah Carter

Director: Doug Liman

Synopsis: Lieutenant William Cage is an untrained soldier forced against his will to join in a battle fighting against deadly alien foes. But when he dies in combat, he mysteriously awakens, reliving his penultimate day over and over again…

Review: Many movies often borrow elements from movies gone by . They also might borrow from other entertainment forms, and take them in interesting new directions. For instance, if you take the time loop element of movies such as Groundhog Day,  the Normandy beach landings as depicted in Saving Private Ryan, and elements from the popular video game franchise Halo. When these things are merged together, the end product is this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

Adapted from the anime novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Humanity is at war with an alien race and the troops are being rallied in England to prepare for an attack on the enemy foe. Enter William Cage (Tom Cruise), a top General in the US army who is more into talking than fighting. He ultimately is forced onto the front line to help repel the alien forces. Yet after seemingly meeting his maker, he finds himself waking up, relieving the same day again and again.  As the film’s tagline goes” Live. Die Repeat.” and this happens many times. This premise may sound familiar, but with Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith) on the director’s chair, what we have an innovative and refreshing perspective on this similar premise.

For three decades, Tom Cruise has given us exciting action movies such as the Mission Impossible series. And yet again, he gives another enthralling performance as we see his character really progress from quite frankly a complete wimp who barely knows how to fight, to a fearless warrior determined to wipe out the foe whilst using his impressive tech suit.  Despite being 52 years of age, the man can still give a solid action performance. As he falls each time, he learns something new and uses this knowledge to his benefit. The key piece in this science fiction puzzle however is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). Her character has gone through something similar to Cage and he must utilise her knowledge to help win the war.  The two leading actors have great chemistry on screen as she is the one who helps train him into the soldier that he needs to become. Blunt gives an exceptional performance  and demonstrates that you can have a strong female protagonist who does not need a man to stand up and make herself count. In many respects in this film it is vice versa, he is the one who needs her to stand up and make himself count.

Liman himself stated that the scenes with the character repeatedly dying and respawning were  an intentional comparison to video games. The fight scenes are fun to watch, particularly with Cruise running in his tech suit and taking down the bad guys. While the fighting does come across as almost too video game like at times, it is intriguing and there is plenty of action here to get the heart pumping. In particular the final showdown against the aliens is fantastic to watch. The continuous loop element of the movie could be tedious and dull. Yet it works to great effect as each time Cage bites the bullet, there is something new and energising that is brought to the plot, and it effectively moves the plot forward.

With elements of video games and time loops and time travel from past movies all blended together, along with a revitalising and exciting story that keeps you entertained from the word go. The final result is a film you will (hopefully) enjoy and watch many times.

Watch. Enjoy. Repeat 

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