July 30th, 2018


The Car and Motorcycle Shuffle

I wish I could speed through Paris on a motorcycle at a hundred miles an hour and not worry about hitting a kid or a dog or something. Walking around at a shopping centre after seeing 2018's Mission: Impossible--Fallout, I felt irrationally frustrated by all the obstacles preventing me from moving faster. People crossing on the sidewalk in front of me seemed malicious impediments to me realising my potential as a cannonball. Good thing we have movies to address such needs and this one has very little slack in that department.

I haven't watched a Mission: Impossible movie since I saw the second film in the theatre in 2000. I remember it being better than the first one, which I also only saw in the theatre, but mainly I remember the evening because I ate a whole box of chocolate covered coffee beans. I certainly didn't leave the theatre feeling sleepy though as I recall the main hook for the second film was shots of Tom Cruise slowly creeping his way around the underside of a rock at high altitude.

Good old Tom Cruise. Fifty six years old and the biggest daredevil in Hollywood. Constantly doing his own extravagant stunts, including a super high altitude skydive in this film, has become an integral part of his fame. And it's certainly a benefit for M:I--Fallout--there are subtle, natural reactions an actor has to a physical situation that cgi simply can't predict. A truly talented artist can make cgi action interesting but such sequences are at their best when they're expressions of those artists' sensibilities. The personality in Spider-Man flipping about between buildings has a different appeal than the sense of volatility in Cruise suddenly, unexpectedly scrabbling on the side of a rooftop.

Henry Cavill gives a flat performance but he's a good refrigerator--I still believe it'd hurt when he slams into someone. Simon Pegg seems like he must have been a lot of fun when his character was introduced a couple years earlier and he's perfectly satisfactory now. Mainly, though, the film is about Cruise's relationships with women.

The film's primary thematic appeal is very traditional for the spy genre and some might say retrograde--it primarily revolves around a hypercapable male protagonist's anxiety over the increasingly difficult task of protecting the woman he loves, or even just the woman he feels a raw sexual attraction to, an anxiety especially complicated by the ambiguity of the woman's motives. I've always argued that the James Bond movies are really imitations of Hitchcock movies and the true originators of this genre are Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) and North by Northwest (1959)--but especially Notorious. That one put all of the details in place--a handsome, suave, resourceful agent (Cary Grant) and the beautiful female spy (Ingrid Bergman) whose sexuality seemed connected to the peril surrounding the mission. And, of course, there's exotic travel and uranium.

Plutonium turns out to be the deadly McGuffin in Mission: Impossible--Fallout. There are three women on Ethan Hunt's mind this time--Rebecca Ferguson as an MI6 agent with the cool name Ilsa Faust, Michelle Monaghan as a wife named Julia from an earlier film, and a sexy weapons broker called the White Widow played by Vanessa Kirby.

He protects the White Widow in the film's most stylish sequence set in a club with a corridor of mirrors that reminded me of the sabre fight in Phantom Menace. Ambiguities about who Ethan is, who she is, and what both of them want add spice to an action sequence with a lot of physical intimacy and the always lovely garter pistol Kirby produces at one point.

The film's effective cocktail of relentless, expertly contrived action and sexual subtext never quite hits the heights of the Raiders of the Lost Ark gold standard and the last act of Fallout sags a bit with some logical inconsistencies but it's still a very fun film.

Twitter Sonnet #1139

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