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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Tom Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie have nailed us to our seats with suspense – again. As the credits roll for Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you are likely to sit immobile in in your seat in wonderful fear. If that sounds crazy, it is.

The tale unfolds in Belfast, Berlin, Paris, and London and we follow as the action moves through all the monuments we recognize and love. The secret, as always, is to forgive ourselves for not understanding the plot or the characters. Just listen to the music and watch Tom race through the explosions. The predictably violent sound track is a constant warning of what lies ahead.

Here’s the gut of it: Terrorist John Lark has designed a plan for the destruction of the world with three nuclear spheres that will do the job when one person has all three plus the key to ignite one. Lark’s plans are being carried out by his supporters, The Apostles. Where is the missing plutonium ball? That’s the gut of the film. Can Tom Cruise find it and save the world? Don’t worry about the world or the details or the confusing identities. Just watch the inventive tricks as they unfold.

Watch for a Paris bathroom scene of confined bloody violence, a nightclub scene of the same, and enjoy the sight of each horrifying switch unfolding under amazing light. We’re never sure who is good, who is evil. Watch Vanessa Kirby as “the white widow,” Henry Cavill as CIA operative Walker, villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and enjoy a fine turn by Alec Baldwin as Tom Cruise’s boss. Baldwin drops a strong note of wisdom into the otherwise ridiculous happenings.

Whether Tom Cruise is riding a bike against traffic in a Paris tunnel or dodging bullets everywhere, the tension spirals up. Why are we caught when we know the whole thing is ridiculous? It’s simple. Cruise doing the impossible, especially in the melodramatic, ludicrous finale that absorbs a whole theater.

Why, I asked myself, am I sitting here tied in knots about whether he will fall off a cliff, be hit by a truck, or shot by a traitor when I know perfectly well none of that will happen? The reality of that is the music, the extraordinary filming, and the colors, all of which create tension very successfully. Don’t even wonder who is who; it doesn’t matter a whit.

One appealing thing in all the violence: Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, for all his tough guy stuff, cares far more about one man or woman in danger than he does about the end of the whole world, and as he protects each one, we begin to like him. The plot? Forget it. Just look for the hints of good and bad in the characters. And feel yourself sinking into your chair hoping you can just disappear. And I ask this favor: During the last twenty minutes, see how much you can watch before slamming your eyes shut in fear.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Word Count: 499
Running Time: 2:27
Rating: PG-13
Date: August 5, 2018

Chappaquiddick

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Chappaquiddick

Your interest in Chappaquiddick – or lack thereof – is likely to be determined by your age and your politics. The younger you are, the less likely you are to be emotionally involved. Director John Curran and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan have made a fine film of a terrible story. They chose wisely to deal with things that were known and factual. No theories here.

Of the four sons of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, Joe Jr. was killed in Europe during WWII. John F. Kennedy became president in 1960 and brought a new generation into the political world. He died by a bullet in Dallas in 1962. His brother Robert was shot dead while running for President. Their supporters, I among them, reeled when Chappaquiddick unfolded.

Ted, the youngest brother, was elected to the senate and plunged into controversy when he drove a car off a narrow bridge in Chappaquiddick, MA that caused the drowning death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a strong, bright campaign worker in the Kennedy organization. Now we have a movie that offers the first filmed interpretation of that accident. Whatever your political persuasion, you will see a weak man who never measured up to that major crisis. He left the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne struggled for breath as she drowned in the car whose doors she couldn’t open.

Director John Curran has done a fine job with a tough subject. He doesn’t pretend to know how Kennedy escaped from the car and left the scene while Kopechne drowned inside so he concentrates on the known facts. Kennedy escaped, left the scene, and waited far too long to report the accident while trying to figure out how to make it all go away.

It is enough to say that because of his family’s fame, he fell immediately into the public spotlight while one loyal family friend, Joe Gargan (an excellent Ed Helms), tried unsuccessfully to convince him to do the right things. Bruce Dern stuns as patriarch Joseph Kennedy stricken speechless by a stroke who still tries to control his son. The screen fills with an ugly bunch of former loyalists who want to take Kennedy’s place as a presidential candidate.

At the center of it all, actor Jason Clark creates Kennedy in a remarkable creation of a man without a moral center caught in a crisis of his own making. In a powerful, understated performance, Clark conveys the center rot of a spoiled man whose dark, selfish instincts and ambitions governed his own behavior after the accident.

The supporting cast does a fine job of creating a mob of former loyalists who suddenly tried to seize the opening Kennedy had planned to use to run for president. Many in the audience were joined in disgust. The man who followed his three brothers into politics failed as a human being when he drove off a bridge, left his friend in the car – and tried to erase it.

Film Reviewer: Joan Ellis
Film Title : Chappaquiddick
Word Count : 498
Running Time: 1:41
Rating: PG-13
Date: 8 March 2018