Tag Archives: Michelle Monaghan

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018, Christopher McQuarrie)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is two and a half hours of almost constant, continuous action. There’s an opening sequence to set things up–Tom Cruise botches a mission because he likes his sidekicks too much (and who wouldn’t like Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, who make a fantastic pair in the film). He gets in dutch not with boss Alec Baldwin (who can barely maintain his man crush on Cruise) but with Angela Bassett, who’s the CIA boss. Cruise and company are IMF, which stands for Impossible Mission Force. Oddly, even though Henry Cavill (as Bassett’s CIA muscle who tags along to babysit Cruise) makes fun of the Mission: Impossible “let’s wear masks and pretend to be bad guys” thing, he doesn’t make fun of the Impossible Mission Force name.

Maybe writer (and director) McQuarrie only wanted to go so far with it.

So even though Cruise has botched the opening mission, Bassett’s willing to let him go off and try to save the world from rogue secret agents who want plutonium. Sadly they don’t need it to get 1.21 gigawatts, they need it to set off nuclear bombs and destabilize the world as we know it. As long as he takes Cavill along.

Bassett describes Cruise as a scalpel and Cavill as a hammer, but it’s more like Cruise is a hammer and Cavill is a jackhammer. Cavill towers over Cruise, making their scenes together in the first act all the more impressive because Cruise maintains the upper hand. Not hogging the screen acting-wise, but in terms of being the more dominating ideology. Cruise is a good secret agent, Cavill is an immaculately groomed thug. Cruise is fairly immaculate as well, but he gets dirty. Not too dirty; whoever was in charge of maintaining their hair during action scenes deserves some kind of special Oscar. Secret agents have great hair.

Pegg, Baldwin, and Bassett included. Rhames is shaved bald. And when British secret agent and former Cruise and company member Rebecca Ferguson shows up a little while into the film, she too has great hair. Only Sean Harris, as the villain, doesn’t have great hair. He’s wild and unkempt. He’s an ex-secret agent who wants to destroy the world. Cruise stopped him once and, in Fallout, now has to decide whether or not to potentially free Harris to get back that plutonium.

The film stays in Europe for most of the story, with the biggest sequences in Paris and London. The finale heads to rural Central Asia, where director McQuarrie proves just as adept at mounting phenomenal action sequences as he does in European metropolises. McQuarrie never lingers too long on landmarks, but he’s always aware of the architecture. There’s lots of Cruise in long shot, running through a building (or across the top of one) and great scenic backdrops. It’s charming. And always perfectly paced. McQuarrie’s direction, more than his script, more than any of the performances, makes Fallout. He gets the film set up, gets it moving, and runs it to the finish. He never races–Fallout’s pacing (especially for a two and a half hour movie) is outstanding. McQuarrie has some twists, but he’s also just got good plot developments.

He’s also able to use dream sequences–albeit ones with visions of nuclear destruction–to do a lot of Cruise’s character development. Though, really, Fallout doesn’t have much character development. Not for anyone else, anyway. Pegg’s got a tiny personal subplot about being more self-confident and Ferguson’s sort of got one but not really. Like Rhames doesn’t have any. Neither does Cavill. He’s there to be a foil. There’s not time for character development. There’s plutonium out there and Cruise’ll be damned if he’s going to let anyone get hurt.

All of Cruise’s dream sequence character development involves guilt over how he ruined ex-wife Michelle Monaghan’s life by being a secret agent, forcing her into hiding. Monaghan’s a memory in Fallout, someone offscreen in danger to give Cruise something constant to fret about. McQuarrie doesn’t give Cruise any angst to deal with, just the dream sequences haunting him. Harris haunts him too, because Harris knows Cruise too well. It’s impressive how well McQuarrie integrates it into the film since Fallout’s always moving. Even when Rhames has to tell Ferguson about Monaghan because Ferguson is sweet on Cruise and thinks Cruise might just be sweet on her, which leads to a lovely scene in Paris in a park. McQuarrie is sparing with the quiet moments, but they’re always exceptional. They’re so well-executed, technically speaking, it lets him get away with the script being a little saccharine.

Baldwin’s not the only one with a man crush on Cruise; McQuarrie’s pretty smitten too. Cruise isn’t just a good guy, he’s the only good guy who can save the world. It’d be eye-rolling if the film didn’t make such a successful argument for it.

All the acting is fine or better. Vanessa Kirby, as a blue blood heiress arms dealer, gets a little grating, but she’s an arms dealer. She’s not really supposed to be too sympathetic.

Cruise is good. He’s got some really fun moments, not just the action stuff, but also the action stuff. He and Ferguson’s gentle flirtation is likable, just like he and Cavill’s muted hostility is entertaining. Rhames and Pegg are both fun. Harris is a good villain. Cavill’s good, though probably has the worst character in the film. McQuarrie never quite gives him enough and sometimes too little. Especially in the third act. Same with Ferguson; she’s got her own subplot–aside from the Cruise crush–and McQuarrie kind of chucks it once she fully teams up with Cruise and company. Actually, there’s enough of a logic leap with her character… maybe some scene got cut.

On the technical side, Fallout’s excellent. Rob Hardy’s photography is good, Eddie Hamilton’s editing is great. Lorne Balfe’s score is quite good; he’s sparing when integrating the Lalo Schifrin theme and always right on when does (or doesn’t) use it.

Fallout’s a superior large-scale, stunt-filled, action picture. It’s more thrilling than ever a thriller–in the third act, even the good guys can’t really be in any life-threatening danger because franchise, McQuarrie is still able to make every moment rivet. Fallout is a spectacular action spectacle.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; screenplay by McQuarrie, based on the television series created by Bruce Geller; director of photography, Rob Hardy; edited by Eddie Hamilton; music by Lorne Balfe; production designer, Peter Wenham; produced by Tom Cruise, McQuarrie, Jake Myers, and J.J. Abrams; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Henry Cavill (Walker), Ving Rhames (Luther), Simon Pegg (Benji), Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa), Vanessa Kirby (White Widow), Michelle Monaghan (Julia), Alec Baldwin (Hunley), Angela Bassett (Sloan), Wes Bentley (Patrick), Liang Yang (Lark), Kristoffer Joner (Nils Debruuk), and Sean Harris (Solomon Lane).


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Better Living Through Chemistry (2014, Geoff Moore and David Posamentier)

Given its ninety minute length and having Jane Fonda perform the comically explicit narration, it might be easy to dismiss–or just describe–Better Living Through Chemistry as a genial amusement. Certainly lead Sam Rockwell can do this role in his sleep. He's a small town pharmacist in a bad marriage (Michelle Monaghan is great as the controlling wife); his father-in-law runs his life, his teenage son is starting the awkward years, no one takes him seriously.

Except unhappily married trophy wife Olivia Wilde.

What actually makes Chemistry so different is how writers-directors Moore and Posamentier seem to have no idea what they're doing. There are all sorts of tangents the film goes on, all sorts of great little moments between Rockwell and Monaghan then later Rockwell and Harrison Holzer (as his son). It's all over the place, with the affair between Rockwell and Wilde ostensibly the foundation of the narrative.

Only it's not. It's a device to go into a series of rapid comic set pieces–as Rockwell tumbles out of control, only everything turns out to be regimented. All of these set pieces go well, thanks to Rockwell and his abilities in both physical comedy and just lovably obnoxious. There's no heavy lifting for the actors in Chemistry, except maybe Holzer, but strong, assured performances in a well-written, if unambitious picture, isn't a bad thing at all.

Nice supporting work from Norbert Leo Butz and Ken Howard rounds things off.

Chemistry is controlled and it's calculated and it pays off well.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Jonathan Alberts; music by John Nau and Andrew Feltenstein; production designer, Heidi Adams; produced by Joe Neurauter and Felipe Marino; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Doug Varney), Olivia Wilde (Elizabeth Roberts), Michelle Monaghan (Kara Varney), Norbert Leo Butz (Agent Andrew Carp), Ben Schwartz (Noah), Ken Howard (Walter Bishop), Jenn Harris (Janet), Peter Jacobson (Dr. Roth), Harrison Holzer (Ethan Varney), Ray Liotta (Jack Roberts) and Jane Fonda (Jane Fonda).


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Justice League: War (2014, Jay Oliva)

Justice League: War raises the “interesting” question of whether or not superheroes are any fun to watch when they’re vain, selfish bullies. It sort of leaves the answer unresolved, though it’s definitely a lot more entertaining when Alan Tudyk’s Superman leaves for a while. Tudyk’s performance isn’t any good but it’s probably not his fault. Heath Corson’s script is lousy, with very few of the characters remotely likable.

Some of the voice acting is all right. Michelle Monaghan does okay as Wonder Woman when the script isn’t too bad, Justin Kirk and Christopher Gorham are both nearly likable. The rest of the cast? Well, the script’s so bad it’s hard to say.

At its best, War reminds of the old “Super Friends” cartoons from the eighties, only the Warner guys want to appear tough so they throw in some curses in order to juice up the MPAA rating. Because why watch a cartoon about superheroes if they aren’t nasty and shallow.

Oliva’s direction is atrocious. Almost all of the action scenes–except the huge one where they sort of rip of The Avengers–take place in enormous warehouses. Metropolis is just full of gigantic, empty, multi-story warehouses. The action sequences are nonsensical, poorly animated and often dull.

Kirk and, occasionally but not often enough, Sean Astin bring some life to the big final battle. War plays like a spin-off from a toy line, only without the toys.

Steve Blum and Bruce Thomas are especially lame as the villains.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jay Oliva; screenplay by Heath Corson, based on comic books by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams; edited by Christopher D. Lozinski; music by Kevin Kliesch; produced by James Tucker; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Justin Kirk (Green Lantern), Jason O’Mara (Batman), Shemar Moore (Victor Stone), Michelle Monaghan (Wonder Woman), Christopher Gorham (The Flash), Sean Astin (Shazam), Alan Tudyk (Superman), Zach Callison (Billy Batson), Rocky Carroll (Silas Stone), Ioan Gruffudd (Thomas Morrow), George Newbern (Steve Trevor), Bruce Thomas (Desaad) and Steve Blum (Darkseid).


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Due Date (2010, Todd Phillips)

It would have been nice if they had credited Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the source material, since Due Date lifts the concept—high-strung guy on the road with an annoying, but secretly lovable fat guy.

Due Date stays close to the pattern; the fat guy has a lot of melodramatic angst fueling his actions. It does add Facebook references, American Pie-style humor and stunt casting. Wait, Planes, Trains had stunt casting too.

So, it’s hard to look at Due Date as original and harder to discuss it as such. Phillips treats it like “The Hangover on the road;” it bellyflops when too outlandish. It’s too real a situation not to wonder why Robert Downey Jr.’s character isn’t on the FBI’s most wanted list for causing an international incident.

Some of the problem is Downey. He’s funny, but inappropriate for an absurdist comedy. Even here, when he’s giving one of the most rote performances of his career, he’s stellar. He does stumble through some of his character’s worst scenes, but the writing there is so false, it’d be impossible for him to succeed.

Zach Galifianakis is an amiable fat guy. Dumb but lovable.

The supporting cast is made up of former Downey co-stars—Michelle Monaghan (who has absolutely nothing to do), Jamie Foxx (ditto) and Juliette Lewis (who is funny). Again, hard to think of it as an original film.

The ending is pretty good though. I just wish Phillips would realize he’s not a Panavision auteur.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Todd Phillips; written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Phillips, based on a story by Cohen and Freedland; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by Debra Neil-Fisher; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Phillips and Dan Goldberg; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Peter Highman), Zach Galifianakis (Ethan Tremblay), Michelle Monaghan (Sarah Highman), Jamie Foxx (Darryl), Juliette Lewis (Heidi), Danny McBride (Lonnie) and RZA (Airport Screener).


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