For a review of “Mission Impossible — Fallout,
Is it even summer without a “Mission: Impossible” movie? Hardly. Thankfully, another installment of the Tom Cruise-starring action franchise, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” drops this weekend, as sturdy and reliable as ever.
Under the swift and efficient supervision of writer/ director Christopher McQuarrie, this is the kind of action filmmaking that proves to be an effective antidote for superhero fatigue, with a sense of realism baked into every shot. There’s no messy digital CGI here as our heroes try to stop explosions from happening with their fists and bodies. But there comes a point where we must ask: What does it all mean?
Of all the “Mission: Impossible” installments, “Fallout” may be the sparest and most efficient — not counting the truly wild and gasp-worthy stunts. It’s taut and unadorned; there’s very little flash or distraction in the form of eye-popping costumes or exotic locations or gadgetry. There is no cinematic sleight of hand performed as a digression. It’s pure action wrapped around a twisty tale of terrorism, covert ops and the one man who stands between the world and nuclear destruction, Ethan Hunt (Cruise).
The films have become less about espionage and intrigue, and more about Cruise and his death-defying acts of cinematic physicality, so McQuarrie strips away everything that might stand between Cruise and his stunt. He shoots in long shots with minimal cuts, and he keeps Cruise in and out of close-up to prove to the audience that it’s him.
It’s an action movie that embodies the ethos of “pics or it didn’t happen.” There’s no quick editing, stunt doubles or face-swapping. That’s Cruise, glancing over his shoulder on a motorcycle before he T-bones a car in Paris traffic. That’s Cruise, dashing across a rooftop and taking a flying leap, scrabbling to cling to the edge of a London office building. And yes, that’s most definitely Cruise, wrestling himself onto the undercarriage of a helicopter over the snowy Kashmir mountains in a sequence that will leave audiences laughing, gasping and cheering in disbelief.
The film’s theme is choice, drawing from the wellknown instruction: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” That choice has never been drawn out before, but the question is posed as Hunt and his team secure Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a former British intelligence agent-turned-terrorist. Has Ethan ever not chosen a mission? For whom is he choosing to act? But the question is always “how?” rather than “why?”
“Fallout” quickly drops the existential crisis for the fun and thrills of action, twists and identity swaps, for the added excitement of lethal CIA agent Henry Cavill and his biceps and mustache. But for a film ostensibly about politically motivated violence, it’s strangely apolitical, and it doesn’t have much to say on that topic at all. Ethan is motivated to extreme acts of adrenaline-pumping bodily peril simply because he loves his loved ones and wants to save them. But frankly, the lack of any sort of social or cultural relevancy is obvious. At a certain point you yearn for the film to say something — anything.
Nevertheless, here’s hoping they never stop making “Mission: Impossible” movies. For as long as Cruise can defy death, age and the normal laws of physics, they should keep making them. For as long as McQuarrie or Brad Bird is available to direct his insane stunts, they should keep making them. Tom Cruise is a heck of a movie star who never stops pushing his own limits, and that is always worth the watch.
“Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language. Running time: 147 minutes.
“Teen Titans Go! To The Movies”
Compared to their dark and dour live-action brethren, the Warner Brothers/ DC Comics animated features are a breath of fresh air. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie” (which one could argue is the best Batman movie — full stop), the wild, wacky and self-aware “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” bursts onto the screen like an attention-addled sugar rush. It absolutely nails the humor and self-referential material that is so sorely lacking from the likes of “Batman Vs. Superman.” So yeah, it is possible to make a funny DC Comics movie.
Based on the wildly popular and long-running Cartoon Network series “Teen Titans Go!,” the feature film adaptation is directed by Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail, written by Horvath and Michael Jelenic. “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is a deliriously demented and gleeful skewering of DC Comics characters, superhero movies and Hollywood in general that’s one long inside joke — with musical numbers!
It’s a classic story of big Hollywood dreams, wherein Robin (Scott Menville) goes on a quest to attain what seems impossible — a meeting with a big-time movie director, Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell). He wants to be a real superhero, along with his crew, the Teen Titans: Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) and Raven (Tara Strong). Based on anecdotal evidence, Robin deduces the way to be taken seriously as a real superhero is to have a movie made about you. And to be a real superhero and have a movie made about him, he needs an archnemesis — enter Slade (Will Arnett).
One of the great things about “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is the team behind the television show, including the filmmakers and voice actors, have been transplanted to the big screen and given a bigger platform, rather than replacing the creators with higher profile names. That deep knowledge and comfort with the characters shows, as it’s the rapidfire chemistry within the group that keeps the film moving at a breakneck pace.
There are cheeky bodyhumor jokes and rousing musical numbers, including an absolutely epic ’80s jam called “Upbeat,” complete with a Lisa Frank-inspired aesthetic. There’s a hilarious recurring Stan Lee cameo (voiced by Lee), roasting the Marvel publisher’s thirst for screen time. Most importantly, there’s a willingness to poke fun at some of DC’s most iconic characters, like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It may blow your mind that Nicolas Cage voices Superman, considering his obsession with the character and his failed Superman movie, “Superman Lives.” His son, Kal-El Cage (yes, named after Superman), even voices young Bruce Wayne. This is the kind of mind-boggling depth of reference going on.
But after such a promising start, it becomes clear that when stretched to an hour and 33 minutes, the relentless, frantic energy of the Teen Titans can be rather exhausting. The film becomes busy, loud and harried, never letting up on the pace or making room for lines or jokes to land. The Teen Titans overstay their welcome just a hair, as they most likely shine brightest in a half-hour format. But the film is incredibly smart, and funny, and a refreshingly lighthearted take on these characters and cinematic universe. Here’s hoping their attitude is infectious.
“Teen Titans Go! To The Movies,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG for action and rude humor. Running time: 93 minutes.
Based on the Cartoon Network show, “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies” features the voices of, from left, Greg Cipes as Beast Boy, Khary Payton as Cyborg, Scott Menville as Robin, Hynden Walch as Starfire and Tara Strong as Raven.