Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rated PG-13
****

Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film based on the television series that ran from 1966 – 1973, is an exciting, non-stop action film, one of the best films of the year. The film is directed by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay, directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The film had a budget of $178 million, and made that back with an opening weekend worldwide gross of in excess of $205 million.
This film picks up the storyline from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It is set two years after Ethan Hunt, played by three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Magnolia, Born on the Fourth of July), had captured anarchist Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Remaining members of Lane’s organization called the Syndicate have since formed into a group calling themselves the Apostles. They have a belief that suffering leads to peace. They have been working with a mysterious John Lark inside of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) to obtain three plutonium cores to create three bombs. Hunt has to get the plutonium back, but Lane, who Hunt left alive rather than killing, is working with the Apostles, even though he is in custody.
Ethan is sent to Berlin to find Lark before he buys the plutonium by his boss Alan Hunley, played by Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler). Ethan meets Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, and Luther Stickell, played by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America) in Berlin, but the mission to buy the plutonium fails when Ethan chooses to save Luther’s life. The plutonium is taken by the Apostles.
CIA Director Erica Sloan, played by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It) Hunley’s boss, insists on sending one of her agents, August Walker, played by Henry Cavill (Superman films) along with Ethan to Paris to insure the mission is successfully completed. We don’t know who to trust. It appears that Baldwin and Sloan, as well as Ethan and Walker, are working against each other.
Ethan and Walker make a thrilling HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump through a thunderstorm into Paris. Cruise trained for an entire year to perform that stunt. In Paris they attend a fundraiser party where Lark is set to buy the plutonium from the Apostles, with an arms dealer known as the White Widow, played by Emmy nominee Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), acting as a broker.
Will Ethan and his team, including Ilsa Faust, played by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) along with Walker be able to get the plutonium and keep the Apostles from using it to create incredible suffering? And are Ethan and Walker really on the same team?
The film has a number of exciting car chases, incredible stunts and double-crosses. It takes place in Berlin, Paris, London and Kashmir and features stunning shots from those locations, courtesy of cinematography by Rob Hardy (Annihilation). The film features a strong cast, with many members returning from previous films in the series, along with a few new additions (Bassett, Cavill).
Content issues include some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name, and a significant amount of violence.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is a thrilling, non-stop action film with great visuals and stunts. It’s overly long at nearly two and a half hours, but that is my only complaint about this excellent film.

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My Review of BLACK PANTHER

Black Panther, rated PG-13
****

Black Panther, the latest film from Marvel, is a triumph and an exciting, well-acted and directed introduction to a new super hero. The film is directed by 31-year-old Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and written by Coogler and Emmy nominee Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story). Coogler uses cinematographer Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), production designer Emmy nominee Hannah Beachler (Beyonce: Lemonade), and composer Ludwig Goransson, all who worked with him on 2013’s excellent Fruitvale Station. Two-time Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter (Amistad, Malcolm X) handled the costume design.
The film has an all-star cast, and an estimated budget of $200 million. This is the eighteenth film released by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This one is different from other Marvel films however, in that it is a pretty much self-contained world, though we did hear about the death of the King of Wakanda in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman (Marshall, 42) is the son of the king. After the death of his father, he returns to the mysterious land of Wakanda to take his place as king. Wakanda is a beautiful African nation that has never been colonized by White settlers that hides its riches and technology, powered by the rare and extremely valuable blue metal vibranium, from the rest of the world. Vibranium has many valuable uses.
T’Challa assumes the title Black Panther, with an impenetrable black battle suit, developed by his sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, who also provides the vibranium-based weapons. Okoye, played by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) leads Wakanda’s elite female warriors. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) plays Nakia, T’Challa’s former girlfriend that he still has feelings for.
For centuries Wakanda has kept its great wealth to itself and T’Challa wants to keep Wakanda isolated from the rest of the world. But Nakia sees how Wakanda can help other nations with their vast resources.
A challenger to T’Challa and the throne of Wakanda is Erik Killmonger, a soldier played by Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Creed).  Because of an event that occurred in his childhood, Killmonger has motivation to destroy T’Challa. Killmonger also wants to steal the technology of Wakanda and use it for evil purposes. Ulysses Klaue is a South African arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis (Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings) and is a partner in crime with Killmonger.
The all-star cast also includes Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It), Golden Globe nominee Martin Freeman (Fargo, The Hobbit, Sherlock), Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (This is Us, Marshall) and Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).
Coogler used experts in African history and politics as consultants on the film to work on defining Wakanda, a nation where three out of every five people go barefoot. The fighting in the film is based on African martial arts. The powerful musical score is by Ludwig Goransson and features new original songs from Kendrick Lamar.
Themes in the film include loyalty and tradition, and transitioning from barriers to bridges.  The film is visually stunning, particularly the costumes and how the African nation of Wakanda is portrayed. Parts of the closing battle scene will also remind you of Star Wars.
Content concerns include a significant amount of intense superhero violence, as is expected with any Marvel film. There is also some adult language. The king’s power is said to come from the panther god, Bast by way of a glowing flower. We hear people pray to ancestors and to Bast.
Black Panther is an achievement not only as a very entertaining film with a good story, but also culturally. It features strong women in key roles. The Black Panther is Marvel’s first African American super hero and the cast, director and supporting crew is largely African American.
Reminder: as with all Marvel films, don’t forget to wait through all of the ending credits.