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

Leave No Trace

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace takes its gentle time to become one of the year’s finest movies. Debra Granik directed and co-wrote (with Anne Rossellini) a script that is free of conventional plot twists. Result? The emotions generated by the story sink quietly and deeply into the audience. Who can ask for more?

A quick summary. Will (Ben Foster) suffers from PTSD as a result of service in Iraq. He and his thirteen-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) live in an Oregon forest where they keep the tools of their living under piles of brush. When the park authorities turn them over to the kindly social service people, silent Will can take just so much of the ordinary world before telling Tom to pack up for another new beginning in the forest. Watch the effect of the noise of the machinery on this damaged man when he is assigned to work on a Christmas tree farm.

A silent, damaged father and the bright, loving daughter who accepts his problems and still loves him is the base. What does this movie avoid that would be done by conventional filmmakers?

It gives us no villains to distract us from the central dilemma. Everyone is kind. Father Will may have taken his daughter’s youth but she is strong because of it and she appreciates and learns from the kind people they meet along the way. The fact that there are no crises, villains, or sub-plots to distract us leaves the atmosphere calm and open for the deep emotion generated by father and daughter. In a symbolic moment, a dog that might have become a comfort for daughter Tom simply passes quietly through its moment. No clichés here.

Writer/director Granik uses nothing to distract us from the questioning growing in this young girl. Early on, she is her father’s student in the ways of the forest. As she meets just a few people from the real world along the way, she catches quick glimpses of how they live. People, school, music, and dancing are absent even though her father’s teaching has her above her academic grade level. We are watching a quiet exploration of human need.

The plot of this movie is irrelevant. What it gives us is a long unfolding of an emotionally wounded father who takes the finest care of his daughter in the forest. As she begins to envy a few things about life outside their world that has few people, we know she is academically and emotionally ready to step into a bigger world.

Ben Foster delivers a fine, though nearly silent portrait of the damaged father who does all he can to raise his daughter. But this movie belongs to two people: Writer/Director Debra Granik who made art of a story with a string of subtleties that leads us to an emotionally deep place. With little dialogue, Thomasin McKensie creates a wise young girl who silences an audience in appreciation of her quiet, superb performance. Her quiet performance is riveting.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Leave No Trace
Word Count: 500
Running Time: 1:49
Rating: PG
Date: July 22, 2018

This review was posted on July 28, 2018, in Drama.