Review: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT Delivers The Most Insane Action Sequences This Year

Villain has a thing that will destroy the humanity. Ethan Hunt must get the thing before the villain uses it. Ethan and villain go on a wild goose around the world, all while Hunt (who has been framed for whatever reason) is trying to clear his name. In the end, Ethan Hunt saves the world, captures the villain, and all is right in the world.

Having described all six Mission: Impossible films, is there a reason to see the sixth Mission: Impossible-Fallout?  Yes, if for nothing else the insanity of the stunts. These films are entertaining as hell, but they never cover new ground. There is nothing wrong with repeating the wheel, but as a viewer, it can get boring. How are fans excited to see the same film over and over just with different titles every few years? Seriously, how does Tom Cruise do it?

As a sequel to Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, Fallout follows The Apostles (formerly known as The Syndicate)  led by mystery man John Lark. No one knows who John Lark is, but he has a reputation for being deadly. The Apostles objective is to acquire plutonium for nuclear bombs. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tries to intercept a sale of the plutonium by manages to screw it up, and Apostles capture the plutonium cores. Determined to get the cores back in safe hands the CIA agrees but only if he takes August Walker (Henry Cavill) with him. With the plutonium exchanging hands across the globe, Ethan must track down the dangerous element while avoiding Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and saving the world, again. 

Tom Cruise's career trajectory is fascinating. He's devoted to every role he chooses, but the decision to ditch the Oscar bait for action cinema has reaped enormous benefits for his fans, and for his pockets. His ability to master every stunt is what keeps the Mission Impossible franchise in business. Cruise never ceases to impress with his level of dedication and authenticity of all his action roles by doing without assistance. With each film, he aims to outdo himself--so where does it go from here? It's exciting to think about how wild things could get in the next installment. 

One of the best additions to the franchise is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. The character is treated as an equal to Ethan Hunt and nothing less. Dance training comes in handy for the actress as she's able to execute expertly choreographed fight scenes without the help of stunt doubles or ugly special effects. In fact, Ferguson is so good in Rogue Nation that she manages to upstage Cruise. Is this the reason her role and level of action felt reduced in Fallout? Or is my mind playing tricks on me? We need more Ilsa Faust, not less!

With all the good things going for it, some things are unforgivable. It's trippy how these movies take themselves seriously yet get away with the dullest tropes because the script says so. The key to making a film that makes sense is knowing where they stand within the realm of reality. Painting a realistic world that doesn't live up to realistic expectations moves a movie from plausibility to nonsense. Did writers Christopher McQuarrie, and Bruce Geller expect audiences to buy the whole 45 min third act takes place while there are 15 mins left on the doomsday movie clock? It's something viewers should come to expect but why must it be so dang cheesy.

Ghost Protocol is still my favorite, but Mission:Impossible-Fallout is a close second. The memorable moments lie in its non-stop, balls to the wall action sequences that up-the-ante in the genre. If you can accept for the movie what it is, then you'll be happy you paid the price of admission. 


Review: HEREDITARY Is A Technical Masterpiece With Story Flaws

For Ari Aster's Hereditary, the hype was peak out of Sundance Film Festival. Critics dubbed it the scariest film in years, with many comparing it to The Exorcist. Does it live to its reputation? As a movie, yes, but as a story, it isn't as strong. Aster cleverly uses the stages of grief as a guide to forward the plot, but the intended impact falls short. Women hold the story together as Toni Collette at her most brilliant and most unhinged. It's just frustrating when a movie full of potential fumbles in it's second and third act, leaving you unfulfilled and with more questions than answers.

When Ellen Graham, the matriarch of the Graham family dies, her estranged daughter Annie (Toni Collette) throws herself into her work. The mother of two is a diorama artist who creates scenes of her daily life, some serene, some gruesome. Her nuclear family consists of Peter (Alex Wolff)-- her eldest child is a teenaged stoner with raging hormones; Charlie (Milly Shapiro), the creepiest child on screen since Damien in the Omen; and Steve (Gabriel Byrne), the loving husband and father whose just trying to hold shit together.  All are mourning in their own way, but Charlie is most affected. To cope, Annie attends group grief management meetings where she meets Joan (Ann Dowd), a grieving mother looking for solace in the company of others. Unbeknown to Annie, this is a match made in hell.

As family tragedy strikes again, Annie is vulnerable, and Joan sees an opportunity to forward her agenda, and the family descent into madness begins. One by one they start to unravel as the sins of the mother come crashing down on Annie, and it is her responsibility to make things right.

Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski deserve high praise for their technical and visual execution. The audience gets a bird's eye view--a diorama in motion--into the life of the Graham family. The use of darkness and shadows plays tricks on the mind and implants a haunting sense of dread. The soundtrack intensifies that anxious feeling with deep hollow sounds and eerie music that sets the tone for the sinister forces at work.

Another fascinating aspect is the way Aster cleverly implements the stages of grief into pivotal scenes. Denial and anger are first as the Graham family can't have dinner anymore because it turns into a screaming match. Bargaining and depression happen as Annie finds ways to address and cope with her losses by attending grief meetings and bonding with Joan, and at this stage, our heroine is susceptible to evil influences. Finally, when Annie begins to accept her fate, she believes she is the one that can free her family from this inherited curse.

The best asset to the film is the captivating performance by actress Toni Collete. She delivers one of the best portrayals of the year in a genre often ignored by award committees. Here's to hoping award snobs can put aside their hate for the horror genre to acknowledge superb acting next year.

With so much to celebrate, Hereditary isn't perfect. From the trailers, many compared the film Jennifer Kent's The Babadook anticipating it would examine the profound effects of mental illness on motherhood, and how that impacts a nuclear family. However, the film is more an homage to Rosemary's Baby with necromancy as a central plot device, and in this case, that feels like a cop-out. It's much more frightening to think of this as a look into the life of a dysfunctional family than it is the work of the devil. There is a problem with the use of these specific themes because Aster's script doesn't shift smoothly between them. This left a disconnect between each act, making it feel like several different films are happening at once.

Hereditary is a hallmark in cinematic film making, and still worth a watch, but the narrative prevents it from living up to its full potential and leaves viewers scratching their heads wondering what they just saw.