Monday 27 July 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (12A/PG-13, 131 mins)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

It’s a sad state of affairs that Tom Cruise is the biggest star on the planet in every measure other than box office returns. For charisma, charm and sheer star wattage, on and off the camera, he’s still at the top of a tree he’s occupied for over 30 years now.

And yet for some reason cinemagoers, or perhaps more correctly, American cinemagoers, don’t want to look at his films anymore outside the Mission: Impossible franchise. In the face of this apathy he seems to have made it his mission to astonish audiences into submission by attempting things on screen that no human, never mind a pampered A-lister, should be doing.

That included dangling from the world’s tallest building in Ghost Protocol, the previous M:I movie, and now this fifth entry in the series showcases Cruise as superspy Ethan Hunt hanging on seemingly unharnessed from the side of a plane in take-off.

It’s pretty much what the entire film is being sold on, and looks like part of an elaborate climactic sequence, but in actual fact it happens in the first two minutes as Hunt and his team target a group of terrorists. He’s trying to get on the plane to rescue its dangerous cargo and, as prologues go, it’s magnificent stuff, brief but jaw-dropping and clearly completely real. See it in IMAX with the sound making the floor beneath you shake and you’ll feel like you’re taking off with him.

Such heights are hard to sustain, and for some of the next hour or so as plot elements are clicked into position, it can sometimes feel like you’re back down to earth and sitting in a traffic jam instead of flying high.

First off there’s the emergence of a shadowy organisation known as the Syndicate, rogue operatives responsible for worldwide atrocities. Then the Impossible Mission Force gets dissolved at the behest of Alec Baldwin’s CIA boss who doesn’t believe the Syndicate exists and thinks Hunt is himself rogue, leaving him on the CIA’s wanted list and on the run with only Simon Pegg’s analyst Benji to help him.

Ethan has already encountered Ilsa Faust (the excellent Rebecca Ferguson), a potential double agent who looks to be working for the Syndicate, led by a chilling bad guy in Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, who seems as though his many years of playing quietly dangerous nutters have been leading to this).

None of this is dull, but there’s a lot of it, interspersed with a bunch of fights and some country hopping. A polished sequence at the Vienna opera sets the film back on track while also setting up the mystery of just what exactly Ilsa is up to. And central to the Mission movies is having to steal a bit of tech from an impregnable stronghold, leading to a top notch underwater escapade that owes a lot to Gravity.

There’s a high-speed motorbike pursuit in Morocco that will leave you breathless, assuming you’ve got it back after the underwater stuff, but not all of these action moments feel like they're advancing the story, the bike chase in particular. So for all that these sequences look cool and offer fleeting excitement, there’s a bit of padding here, and a few too many computer generated cars despite protestations that it’s all for reals.

Critically though, as much of what makes these movies good is built on tension as it is on action. But even more importantly than that, it’s built on characters, and makes a virtue of Hunt’s doggedness and willingness to do what it takes for the mission. The result is a delicately balanced and extremely suspenseful chess game (not literally!) between Ethan and Lane that ratchets up as we head towards one of the best finales of the series.

Cruise is reliably excellent throughout and Jeremy Renner gets some funny lines but absolutely nothing to do in the action stakes (for some reason Benji has been promoted to second fiddle), which seems like a shame considering how able he was in Ghost Protocol. Overshadowing all of them is Ferguson, with the little-known Swede demonstrating serious combat chops as well as convincing us as an agent with a lot of secrets.

With 15 minutes shaved off and a little more clarity of focus, Rogue Nation might have claimed Best Mission: Impossible Movie. We’ll just have to settle for it being a first rate action movie and a terrific spy movie.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Win Tickets to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in IMAX

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in IMAX tickets to be won

Win tickets to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Exclusive Event Screening with Tom Cruise at the IMAX screen at Odeon Braehead.

The Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Exclusive Event Screening with Tom Cruise will be screened live from the BFI IMAX at IMAX cinemas across the country including Odeon Braehead on the evening of Saturday 25th July. 

The exclusive event screening will include live coverage of the red carpet and a Q&A with the film’s star Tom Cruise. On the night winners will then be able to experience Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in IMAX’s immersive format, ahead of the film going on general release on July 30th 2015.

We've got our hands on five pairs of tickets to give away to this exclusive event!

To be in with a chance of winning a pair for the Odeon Braehead this Saturday, simply send an email with your name and contact number to by 2pm on Thursday July 23rd.

See Terms and Conditions below for timings and other important information.

The IMAX release of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of An IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images coupled with IMAX's customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

Watch the trailer here

Terms and Conditions
•    Winners will need to arrange their own transport to the cinema
•    Doors open at 6.30pm on Saturday 25th July
•    Tickets are non-refundable and cannot be exchanged
•    Film is 12A certificate

© 2015 Paramount Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Friday 17 July 2015

Ant-Man review

Ant-Man (12A, 117 mins)
Director: Peyton Reed
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Every successive movie triumph for Marvel becomes a building block for their next enterprise. So the fortunes accrued by Iron Man and the Avengers movies allows them to dip into the vaults for the lesser know Ant-Man, a character who may not be a household name, but who audiences will doubtless come to love in this and future movies.

Back in the day (which was the 1960s when Ant-Man was created, and which is the 80s when we join it here), Ant-Man was the alter ego of Dr Hank Pym. Pym (Michael Douglas) worked for SHIELD on a shrinking formula that he refused to hand over to them, and this gives us a nice chance to imagine what an 80s superhero movie starring Michael Douglas might have looked like.

In the present day we meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), just released from prison and doing his best to go straight. He’s a cat burglar and safecracker, although more of a Robin Hood figure than a proper criminal, which is why Pym targets him to be his helper.

Following a series of rather funny tricks and tests which are basically Hank auditioning the unwitting Scott to be the new Ant-Man, Scott ends up in the original shrinking suit. Zapped down to the size of an insect inside the suit, he has super strength and speed, and can communicate with ants to help him on his missions. This ant-eye action is very well realised, creating an entirely believable sense of scale as the tiny Scott interacts with the suddenly terrifyingly huge world around him.

The worst that could be said of Ant-Man is that it’s lightweight and occasionally routine, playing to a formula we’ve seen in many a movie, where a tech is developed which then becomes an application for the military and the chance for some unscrupulous businessman to get rich. In this case Pym’s one-time protégé and now great rival Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has been working on his own version of the shrinking suit, which is why Scott is being recruited to try to steal it off him.

It doesn’t feel throwaway and, like the similarly glib yet ultimately worthwhile Guardians of the Galaxy, certainly earns its place as a piece in the bigger picture. Specific references to Avengers: Age of Ultron tie us in in lots of ways, old and new, including a great moment when Scott realises the extent of the danger and quips “Why don’t we just call the Avengers?”

The need then is to give it a bit more substance, and Ant-Man is bolstered by a fathers and daughters motif running through it. Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) still blames him for the death of her mother, with the added complication that she works for Cross. Scott meanwhile is estranged from his own young daughter due to his time in prison, with the promise that he can see her again if he helps Hank.

As always, well cast actors feel at home in their new roles, judging the tone just right and providing slick entertainment. The jocular Rudd is a great fit, and having someone of the heft of Douglas to back him up doesn’t hurt, though the veteran star is more than capable of making with the funnies himself.

Perhaps it’s a little sparing with the action, heavy on training montages but taking a long time to get to any set pieces of real scale. But that’s more than made up for with the sense of fun, and when the big sequences do come they're bursting with wit and imagination, the miniature scenario allowing it to go places others simply can’t.

As superhero origin stories go, Ant-Man is a rock solid if hardly perfect effort, and the Marvel machine ensures that these guys will be back, and they’ll be bringing their friends.