action

REVIEW: The Meg (2018)

A team of scientists exploring the deep depths of the ocean discover more than they bargained for when they encounter a megalodon, a giant species of shark thought to be extinct.

The Meg does take a while to find its feet. There’s a lot of characters to introduce, almost too many to keep track of or care about, which takes time but once ex-deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) arrives things step up a gear. The first half of The Meg is more of a claustrophobic thriller as researchers are trapped at the bottom of the ocean with something attacking their vessel, the second half is more of the fun, action-packed people vs giant shark film you were probably expecting.

Naturally the scenes filmed on boats are a combination of filming in a giant tank with green screen, and being on the actual ocean, and the computer wizardry meshes those two together really well, so you really believe these characters are either going to swim or be eaten. The special effects are also great on the shark, it feels like a real intimidating presence and when a character gets a bit close to its jaws you get worried.

The film really thrives whenever Jason Statham is on screen. The Meg was pitched as Jason Statham vs a giant shark and it certainly delivers that, eventually that is. The action sequences whenever anyone is in the water are tense and while there are a lot of people for the Meg to chomp on, not that many people get eaten. The Meg doesn’t really go in for the blood and gore, which in certain sequences is a shame and makes the deaths somewhat samey and almost dull, but it’s a film that knows exactly what it is and relishes in it.

The Meg does try for more serious and emotional moments and they don’t always hit the mark. That’s not down to the cast, who all look like they are having a great time and do a great job even with some of the cheesy dialogue, but is more down to the pacing and the film trying to overstretch itself beyond the monster movie it is.

I will give The Meg its due for having a more internationally diverse cast than you usually see in a Hollywood film of its ilk, and it has not one but three smart female characters who are all scientist of some description. In the case of Li Bingbing’s Suyin, she is almost a co-lead with Statham and does just as much as him when it comes to saving the day.

The Meg is a lot of fun. There are jokes sprinkled throughout, a lot of which land, and the film generally knows what it is and has fun with that. There are a few typical tropes, for instance the greedy billionaire, but it makes them work. 4/5.

Advertisements

REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War but soon he’s roped into helping Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) who are attempting to travel to the Quantum realm in the hope to find her mother still alive.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a visually dynamic film. It has fun with the whole concept of people shrinking and growing, and to make things different compared to the first film, it also has cars and even buildings shrinking to tiny sizes. The fights are innovative, and having Hope become the Wasp is great as she has wings and blasters, making her fights just that bit different to Ant-Man’s.

After the intensity of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a good action-comedy. Like the first Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp has small-scale and personal stakes. Hope and Hank are desperate to find their lost mother and wife, Scott just wants to be a good dad to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and even the main villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) doesn’t have world-domination intentions, and instead has a personal stake in the Quantum realm technology Hank Pym has created.

It’s the brilliant chemistry from its cast that makes Ant-Man and the Wasp so much fun and enjoyable. The banter between Scott, Hope and Hank is great and the way they all work together, however reluctantly to begin with, is fun to watch. Scott’s ex-criminal friends Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) bring the jokes, with Peña stealing just about every scene he’s in. There is almost an abundance of characters. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is almost constantly watching Scott, and businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) want the technology Hope and Hank have been building. There’s a lot of people after our main trio and one has to think that the film could’ve probably lost one antagonist and not lost much in the way of the actual plot.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t ground-breaking but it’s fun. The many different types of familial relationships are what is at the films core and the action sequences are always entertaining. It’s just the sort of easy-watch summer superhero film you need after Infinity War. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team race against time to find some missing plutonium. As his team travel around the world on the tail of a terrorist organisation, they encounter old enemies and old friends and Ethan begins to doubt who he can trust.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the sixth film in a franchise that has been going for 22 years now. This is the first film in the series that has a returning director, Christopher McQuarrie, and it’s the first one that’s more of a direct sequel. Generally, the Mission: Impossible films can stand apart from one another as the only connecting features are Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell, and while you can certainly follow what’s happening in Fallout without seeing Rogue Nation, having that prior knowledge adds extra depth to characters and their motivations.

This is a franchise known from its stunts and in many ways, Fallout is one thrilling set piece after another. There’s electric fight sequences – the standout being Hunt and CIA Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) against a suspected terrorist in a bathroom – chase sequences that go from a car chase to a motorbike chase seamlessly, and there’s Tom Cruise jumping from buildings, dangling from helicopters and doing a HALO jump from 25,000 feet. These are all edge of your seat stuff. The action sequences and stunts are all shot well, there’s no shaky cam here, and knowing that it’s Tom Cruise who is putting himself in dangerous situations to entertain adds to the drama.

The stunts are spectacular and jaw-dropping, but thanks to the script and performances Fallout isn’t style over substance. There’s a lot of heart in this film, as Ethan is a man who has his regrets and his principles, mainly not wanting to trade the life of one person for the lives of millions. The relationships Ethan has formed over the course of this franchise are a major part of his motivations and the story as a whole.

The plot itself is full of twists and turns, some more obvious than others, with many characters having hidden agendas. Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns with her own mission while head of the CIA Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) doesn’t trust Hunt so puts Walker, a trained assassin, on his team. These combinations of characters, new and old, lead to some brilliant dialogue and chemistry. There is humour to be found from Fallout, and it’s not Simon Pegg’s Benji being comic relief. The humour here is very natural, coming from characters finding themselves in increasingly unpredictable situations, and the laughs never take away from the moments of tension or drama.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a tense, relentless action-packed thrill ride. It’s a technically brilliant film, from Lorne Balfe’s score to the beautiful cinematography from Rob Hardy. Fallout is a film where every aspect of it shines. 5/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

When the IMF is dissolved, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on a mission to find out the truth about the Syndicate – an international rogue organisation as highly skilled as the IMF were. As he tries to track down a mystery figure, he encounters Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman with her own agenda. Ethan and the remnants of his team are unsure if they can trust her, but they may not have a choice as the Syndicate steps up their dangerous game.

Rogue Nation starts off with one of the biggest stunts in the series which is a thrill ride and shows you just what the Mission Impossible series is about. Unfortunately, the film can never really top that. It’s still a well-paced action film with some great fights, car chases and stunts and it’s also a lot of fun.

Rogue Nation has more of a spy thriller feel to it that the first Mission: Impossible had. It has shady agents with their own agendas, there’s the head of the CIA Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) breathing down Agents Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Dunn’s (Simon Pegg) necks, as they try and aid Ethan without being detected, and a villain who is more like a ghost that Ethan is constantly chasing after. Rogue Nation does a good job blending together the action spectacle and the espionage thriller aspects to make an entertaining and exciting film.

Isla Faust is a fascinating character. She’s not just the female-version of Ethan Hunt (which she so easily could’ve been), she has her own motivations, flaws and personality. She’s a skilled fighter, she’s smart and is the kind of character that you believe is a badass secret agent.

The final showdown in Rogue Nation is more of character-driven one rather than a spectacular action sequence. This makes it tense as it involves characters you’ve seen across a number of films now so have seen their relationship grow. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

When the IMF is implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, it’s shut down and all agents are disavowed. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are on their own as they race against time to clear their organisations name and stop a potential nuclear war.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is a thrill ride from the very beginning and the action never really stops. It does so many things right. The humour, which generally comes from all the fantastic characters and their interactions, lands every time, giving you a short rest bite before the next tense action sequence begins.

With Ethan this time are Agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton), and analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who has his own secrets. These four characters gel together very well, and the chemistry between the four of them makes them feel like a solid team. And they need to be a solid team as just about everything that can go wrong with their mission does. The tech is faulty, they must improvise, and they have no back up.

The iconic stunt in Ghost Protocol is Ethan scaling the side of the Burj Khalifa and it looks incredible. The heights he’s at is enough to make anyone feel queasy. The whole sequence in the Burj Khalifa, both the stunt itself and everything else that happens in that building, manages to be tense, funny and exciting. It’s not just the big stunts that look good, the fight sequences are all well-shot and easy to follow.

While naturally Ethan Hunt is the lead, and Tom Cruise is the star, of this franchise, Ghost Protocol is the first film in the series where the team does indeed feel like a team that solves the problem together. Each character has multiple times to shine and show off their skills which is great. It’s not only the core team that are relevant and interesting, it’s the secondary characters too. Naturally some get more screen time than others, but you’re never bored when Russian agent Sidorov (Vladimir Mashkov) or assassin Moreau (Léa Seydoux) are on screen.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is fantastic. The characters are brilliant, the action sequences are gripping, and it’s a film that never really slows the pace. It’s a non-stop action thrill ride with likeable character who you want to see succeed when all the odds are against them. It’s the best. 5/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is trying to balance his life as an IMF agent and his attempt at a normal life with his fiancée Julia (Michelle Monaghan) when manipulative arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who is set to steal and sell an item known only as the Rabbits Foot comes onto the IMF’s radar.

Mission: Impossible III is a good mix of intrigue, action and more emotional depth when it comes to Ethan Hunt. Ethan has semi-retired and is in love and wants to settle down with nurse Julia. While it would’ve been nice to see these two meet and fall in love, Cruise and Monaghan’s chemistry more than makes up for that. Also, Julia isn’t stupid, she knows there’s something up with Ethan and his “business trips” but she trusts him enough that he will tell her what’s going on with him when needed.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is satisfyingly menacing as Davian. He’s calm under pressure and always seems to be a few steps ahead of Ethan and his team. Davian plays underhand, threatening people Ethan cares about including Julia, and is an intimidating presence even when he’s not on screen.

The action sequences are exciting, especially the showdown on a bridge. One of the main set pieces in Mission: Impossible III is when Ethan and his team infiltrates the Vatican. That sequence shows off all the spy tech and how good these guys are at their jobs. Mission: Impossible III definitely spaces out the action, instead focusing more on the characters and the idea there’s people at IMF that might not be trusted.

Mission: Impossible III is a good action flick with solid performances from Cruise, Monaghan and Hoffman. Ethan’s team does get left by the wayside during the final act and the Rabbit Foot is a McGuffin which causes the characters to act and it really is a surface level plot point. At its heart Mission: Impossible III is about Ethan and Julia and it’s probably the most character driven film of the series. 3/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible II (2000)

When terrorists plot to steal a deadly super virus, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is tasked with putting together a team to find the terrorists and get to the virus before they do. Joining him is tech expert Luther Strickell (Ving Rhames), pilot Billy Baird (John Polson) and civilian thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton), who has a history with the terrorist leader, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott).

Directed by John Woo, Mission: Impossible II is almost the polar opposite of the first film. Mission: Impossible II is all about the action and is a full fights and shootouts, while Mission: Impossible was more of a character-driven thriller. There’s a lot of dramatic slow-motion camera shots in Mission: Impossible II that after a while just makes the whole thing feel cheesy. Ethan Hunt has apparently learnt martial arts in the four years since Mission: Impossible and it sometimes looks really quite weird and unnatural and is another way the film distances itself from its predecessor.

Mission: Impossible II begins with Hunt recruiting Nyah and they both fall for each other surprisingly quickly leading to a good proportion of the film being about Nyah stuck between two men. Unfortunately, Cruise and Newton have little chemistry, and some dodgy dialogue, so they are a couple you really don’t believe in.

Mission: Impossible II’s main problem is for all of it’s over-the-top action sequences it still ends up being dull. The characters are not that interesting, though Ambrose has his moments of being an intimidating villain, and the finale is over-long. 2/5.

Admittedly we probably have Mission: Impossible II to thank for the increasingly dangerous stunts Tom Cruise takes part in in each subsequent film. The first time we see Hunt in Mission: Impossible II, he’s climbing a huge rockface, thousands of feet off the ground, without out any ropes and then dangles by one hand off a cliff. These huge stunts are now a key part in the Mission Impossible franchise.