Tag Archives: Michelle Monaghan

Mission: Impossible III (2006, J.J. Abrams)

After two asinine outings, Tom Cruise finally figured out how to get a Mission: Impossible to work. There’s an actual story–the viewer’s engagement with the plot doesn’t revolve around one’s appreciation of Tom Cruise and his frequent grin. The difference is in Cruise himself. He’s no longer charming the women aged twelve to fifty-two in the audience, he’s widened his scope–he’s trying to present an affable lead… to everyone. It’s amazing how little the film needs to engender some real concern for the character. Give him a girlfriend, a pre-exisiting girlfriend–does wonders. Throw in Ving Rhames putting his foot in his mouth while talking about the girlfriend. Rhames and Cruise, after two chemistry-free occasions, finally work well together. They’re finally believable as friends… or friendly acquaintances. Again, all seems to be Cruise.

There’s the other development–a personable team. Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers don’t exactly have a major part in the film, but there’s a definite sense they work together and know each other. It’s a very welcome feel, since Mission: Impossible kind of suggests them having a team. It changes the kinds of stunts Cruise gets to do–he still gets to run a lot and there’s a motorcycle sequence–but having to involve his teammates… I don’t know if it makes Mission: Impossible III more possible (there’s a lot of silliness, down to the secret underground base), but it makes the concept a little easier on the senses. Instead of whacking the viewer’s cognitive reasoning centers with a two by four, it’s a more acceptable amount of disbelief the film’s requesting suspended.

J.J. Abrams and crew present a rather simple spy plot–it’d work, easily, for a James Bond, a Lethal Weapon or even a Die Hard (all, obviously, with significant changes)–and do it well. It doesn’t really matter if this one’s a sequel to the other two Mission: Impossible movies. It’s a spy getting married movie, they’ve made these for a long time. Cruise works–and works quite well with love interest Michelle Monaghan. Monaghan and Cruise have a really great scene–one where Abrams’s directorial abilities come through–and Monaghan’s just too good for this kind of material… and she can even pretend she doesn’t know it.

Cruise assembled a great supporting cast–Laurence Fishburne (in the kind of role he should have been doing for years), Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman should have been playing the cooly evil villain for years–he excels at it. The scenes where he’s playing Tom Cruise playing Philip Seymour Hoffman are comic gems.

It isn’t just Abram’s story–he put together a great crew. Daniel Mindel’s a fine cinematographer–Mission: Impossible III has a bunch of CG composites and the lighting is never off, which is a not insignificant achievement. The music–by Michael Giacchino–is fantastic. It’s never bombastic (like a composer I’ve actually heard of) and occasionally feels like cheap TV music–a perfect match for Mission: Impossible.

Given the first two movies, it’s hard to believe III even has a chance. But, almost immediately, it’s a fine diversion. It just gets better throughout, even pulling a couple nice saves throughout (especially at the end).

Abrams is an impressive feature director.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by J.J. Abrams; screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Abrams, based on the television series created by Bruce Geller; director of photography, Daniel Mindel; edited by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Scott Chambliss; produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Owen Davian), Ving Rhames (Luther), Billy Crudup (Musgrave), Michelle Monaghan (Julia), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Declan), Keri Russell (Lindsey Farris), Maggie Q (Zhen), Simon Pegg (Benji), Eddie Marsan (Brownway) and Laurence Fishburne (Theodore Brassel).


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Gone Baby Gone (2007, Ben Affleck)

There’s one singularly profound moment in Gone Baby Gone, when Affleck plus vieux has one of those filmic moments directors rarely have. He takes a broken, melodramatic scene and makes it sublime. It’s a wonderful moment, coming just after the film’s second ending and before the third and fourth. The film has a lengthy list of pros and a lengthy list of cons. The cons have a lot to do with the script–specifically, I’m assuming, the particulars of adapting a novel. There’s also Affleck’s handling of Michelle Monaghan, who might have been a main character in the novel, but is a fourth wheel here. But the major problem is Affleck the filmmaker–not even the director, because Affleck does a great job–because he doesn’t seem to understand to make a film in this genre great, it has to accept it’s in the genre. Gone Baby Gone is, everything aside, an investigative mystery. Regardless of who is investigating, regardless of how the intricate the crime… it’s an investigative mystery. And Affleck refuses to label it and spends a lot of energy trying to distance the film from itself.

That error aside–I’m going to deal with Monaghan now, just so I can have a couple paragraphs of praise. Monaghan is important in the first act, almost absent in the second, and thrown in for effect in the third. When the film started, I thought it was going to be a gritty Thin Man. It’s not. The film’s about Affleck plus jeune being Catholic and understanding himself. The film skirts the Catholicism, which is a real mistake, because it dictates lots of important decisions. As for understanding himself, a lot of it is in relation to Ed Harris’s character and, for a lot of the film, it’s about Affleck and Ed Harris… not Affleck and Monaghan. She’s part of the character’s ground situation, not an active mover in the story, at least as Affleck plus vieux‘s script sets her up. So she’s a real problem third act. Monaghan’s good, really impressive, but she almost could have gone unbilled.

Casey Affleck is, no surprise, excellent in the film. He holds his own against Harris, who’s turning in some of his best work in recent years here (Harris gets the genre, however). Also excellent are Titus Welliver and Amy Ryan. Ryan’s no surprise either and Welliver’s a good actor, but he’s better than I expected when I saw his name on the credits. His role’s one of the more complicated and he does great work. Running through the laundry list, Amy Madigan, Edi Gathegi and John Ashton, all good. Morgan Freeman is severely underwhelming. It’s a perfectly fine, boring Morgan Freeman performance. It’s getting hard to remember his great acting… back when it was electrifying, instead of Bromo-Seltzer.

Technically, great John Toll photography, great score from Harry Gregson-Williams.

A sign of great future potential from the Affleck brothers. Hopefully next time, Affleck plus vieux won’t be trying so hard to prove he’s legitimate.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ben Affleck; screenplay by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane; director of photography, John Toll; edited by William Goldenberg; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; production designer, Sharon Seymour; produced by Affleck, Sean Bailey, Alan Ladd Jr. and Danton Rissner; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Casey Affleck (Patrick Kenzie), Michelle Monaghan (Angie Gennaro), Morgan Freeman (Capt. Jack Doyle), Ed Harris (Det. Remy Bressant), John Ashton (Det. Nick Poole), Amy Ryan (Helene McCready), Amy Madigan (Bea McCready), Titus Welliver (Lionel McCready), Michael K. Williams (Devin), Edi Gathegi (Cheese), Mark Margolis (Leon Trett), Madeline O’Brien (Amanda McCready), Slaine (Bubba Rogowski), Trudi Goodman (Roberta Trett), Matthew Maher (Corwin Earle) and Jill Quigg (Dottie).


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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, Shane Black)

It’s nice to have Robert Downey Jr. back. Val Kilmer is hardly doing anything, so I always looked at Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as a Kilmer film, but then, watching, I realized that I hadn’t seen Downey in anything since… Wonder Boys? Probably Wonder Boys. But he’s the lead in Kiss Kiss and it reminds you just how great he is an actor. Didn’t want to end with an “it” there.

Kilmer’s great too, but the show’s all Downey’s. Downey’s and Shane Black’s. Kiss Kiss isn’t perfect–it gets way too serious when it doesn’t have to–but it’s an impressively constructed film. It’s like if Adaptation had worked. Black “reinvents the buddy film again!” No, I’m just kidding–lots of people are bringing up that Shane Black wrote Lethal Weapon. But there’s a difference between the two films… Kiss Kiss takes some responsibility for itself. It might actually take too much responsibility, but there’s actual weight to the characters’ violent acts. That’s something new.

Either some or a lot of notice has been given to Kilmer playing an openly gay character. This notice falls under my observation a few years ago: GLAAD has an award for best portrayal–in an amusement–of gay characters as… human beings. When I first read that, I checked the calendar and, yes, I was living in 2004, so I decided that the human species just needed to be firebombed. Or something. The character’s gayness probably started–for Black–as a way to comment on the genre and the character relationships, but Kilmer and Downey just made it part of the film. And their relationship is great. So good I used an “and” to start a sentence.

I guess I should pay some attention to the female lead, Michelle Monaghan. She’s really good in the film–playing Downey’s high school dream girl no less–one of the further ways Black plays with the medium–and she needs to be in other films I want to see.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is probably the best time I’ve had in the theater in a long time. I’m glad I went (instead of just waiting three months for the DVD).

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Shane Black; screenplay by Black, based in part on a novel by Brett Halliday; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Jim Page; music by John Ottman; production designer, Aaron Osborne; produced by Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Harry Lockhart), Val Kilmer (Gay Perry), Michelle Monaghan (Harmony Faith Lane), Corbin Bernsen (Harlan Dexter), Dash Mihok (Mr. Frying Pan), Larry Miller (Dabney Shaw), Rockmond Dunbar (Mr. Fire), Shannyn Sossamon (Pink Hair Girl) and Angela Lindvall (Flicka).