Mulan (2020) – Cinema Review

Y/N? No.

Director: Niki Caro

Stars: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Jet Li, Tzi Ma and Ron Yuan.

Review by Damocles.

It’s confused. Very confused.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues Disney seems to face when creating their live-action adaptations of beloved classic animated films, is their poor director choices.

Niki Caro, touted as a “progressive” move, due to being the 2nd female director hired by Disney to helm a 100 million dollar film, is truly out of her depth directing Mulan, a story that is inherently based around action film, due to its war-torn Chinese setting.

A prominent drama director, whose film Whale Rider was actually studied by yours truly in high school, (even then I didn’t think much of it, beyond wishing I had a Kiwi accent), Caro seems to struggle both dramatically and action wise in a film that is best described as mediocre.

This poor choice in directors, is echoed recently with Aladdin. I remember being noticeably confused when I heard, Guy Ritchie, of iconic British gangster film fame, was being helmed to direct that particular adaptation. His natural ability and directing style, seemed to lack panache under the supervision of the Mouse, with a lot of his iconic fast-paced dialogue, clever cutting and ingenious editing skills that were so wonderfully put to use in 2019’s The Gentlemen, put aside for more basic directorship.

Which begs the question, of why would you hire Guy Ritchie to direct your film if you tie his arms creatively?

Or, more aptly, in Mulan’s case, why didn’t you hire Guy Ritchie to direct or industry famous Kathryn Bigelow, whose body of work is indisputably based around realistic action cinema, the very narrative that Disney has backed to justify the removal of big musical numbers and Mushu.

(Or just straight up hire Stephen Chow, whose unnatural ability to balance fantastical, action, comedy and the drama would be perfect for an adaptation of the animated Mulan.)

Caro’s directing ability struggles to properly balance the inherent darkness of warfare, Mulan’s internal struggles and the strange injections of fantastical elements like the Witch, Chi or Phoenix, all of them being needless additions to the story, and are actually detrimental to the overall tone.

The story itself is poorly paced and constructed, lacking a strong emotional core to properly generate investment in the characters on screen. Many characters, from Donnie Yen’s Commander Tung, to Tzi Ma’s Hua Zhou, lack proper introduction on-screen, and personal motivation that would generate conflict or motivation to the protagonist.

Mulan herself, is another casualty in the “Disney-nification” of female heroines, with her stoic, emotionless portrayal, and inherent ability to master “chi” in the same vein as Captain Marvel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Rey from the Star Wars universe.

The overpowered nature of these characters, with an emphasis on suppressing prodigy level of talent and skill, is the opposite of empowerment. It underwhelms the idea of struggle, and growth, perseverance in the face of adversity, arguably the most important aspect to portray on screen to generate relatability and connection between character and audience.

Mulan’s natural gift of “chi” (a poor substitute for the Force or superpowers), that is showcased in the first 5 minutes of her introduction, immediately sets a poor precedent, as it is tonally deaf to the realistic tone the film is striving to project, and distances audience relatability to her.

All of this is difficult to stomach, as the cast for the film, is the creme de la creme of Chinese acting talent, forced to perform their best, whilst being squandered and wasted at the same time.

The term “glorified extras”, seems harsh when talking about known leading men like Jet Li or Donnie Yen, but it is unquestionably true. Dialogue is stilted, repetitive to the point of hammering you over the head with the virtues, with delivery no-doubt suffering due to a decision to film in English, something that is more detrimental than immersive to the experience.

Of particular disappointment is the villain, Bori Khan, who doesn’t chew up scenery enough nor have any relationship with Mulan, leaving the final climax difficult to enjoy. The animated film suffered from something similar, but Shan Yu’s portrayal was far more charismatic and menacing, his overall design and demeanour on the right side of dramatic. Bori Khan’s on the other-hand suffers from the opposite, with bland design and personal motivation. On an directing level, Khan is played too straight and seriously, when in reality Jason Scott Lee should be more over-the-top and cartoonish to add more menace to the character’s aura and screen presence.

From a technical standpoint, Mulan has attractive use of colours, with costumes being largely fun, vibrant and attractive, a definite attempt to add depth to the landscape, which occasionally shines, only to be replaced by poor CG backdrops.

I largely found the action sequences to be thoroughly underwhelming, with too many strange camera moves, desperately trying to amp up the intensity of the fights, which lack proper choreography, depth, motivation and duration. For a war-film, there are a surprising lack “epic” shots, that are typical of “medieval” style armies and admittedly a couple of glaring unbelievable moments from a tactical standpoint (trebuchets deployed against infantry, Mulan’s cavalry charge, Khan’s strange introduction, Mulan’s ability to teleport from A to B and the Witch’s abilities far too powerful).

On the actual score itself, this is sadly one of Harry Gregson-Williams less inspired work, with a lot of the score being rehashes of the animated film, with a rather bizarre Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010) twist added here and there, that upon listening to the score, I was thoroughly bewildered by, until I realised that he seemingly took a lot of his Prince of Persia music and applied it to the Rourans, due to their desert tribe nature.

Which is oddly discriminatory, as Middle Eastern higher pitches and shriller noises don’t quite apply to Mongolian steppes’ sounds, which are typically deeper and “throatier” (look it up).

The score was arguably my biggest disappointment, as I am usually enthralled by Gregson-Williams’ work, and I did wish there was an Asian composer who could provide a bit more bombast to the score, similar in the vein to the songs heard in the film Kung Fu Hustle (2004).

Overall, Mulan (2020) is a disappointing adaptation of the animated film, that fails to bring anything new to the table, nor add anything of substance to the lore. Many missed opportunities could have been fixed with a more rounded and inventive director, especially in regard to the score, action sequences, character development and overall tone.

Disney needs to take more risks with their approach to their Renaissance classics, and to actually choose and employ people who have the right skills, not because they fulfil an agenda.

To sum up, Mulan (2020) is not worth the $30.00 price point. In all honesty, that 30 dollars should be spent on getting a VPN, accessing a torrent site and finding a good copy there.

A scene to recall: When Ming Na-Wen (the original Mulan voice actor from the animated film) turned up briefly.

SPOILERS SECTION (FOR FUN):

I’ve created a small list below, to just quickly run through a lot of the plot inconsistencies and mistakes I noted throughout the film, and detrimental they are to the overall story. Please do not read further if spoilers annoy you.

  • Mulan’s father’s injury would have already sent him home, the moment he arrived on camp, due to the military’s strict training regime, thus nullifying the need for Mulan’s sacrifice.
  • Mulan’s iconic bathing sequence is odd simply because water is … transparent. Honghui would have noted her feminine figure.
  • There is a lack of characterisation with Mulan’s comrades. None of them particularly stand out to my disappointment and nor was there a sequence when all were inspired by Mulan’s success.
  • The journey from her home to the army camp was bewildering to say the least, especially since why would the Army afford to lost another recruit, when she should have linked up at a staging area, before being transported to the actual base itself.
  • The passage itself would have been a good opportunity for Mulan to reflect on her decision to steal her father’s honour, through a proper monologue, but instead we got silent flashbacks
  • The only true standout action sequence was when the Witch was kicking ass, but Mulan never gets her own proper action sequence, where she proves herself to be the best warrior in a convincing way.
  • How was Mulan able to ride behind the trebuchets, whilst in front of them still confuses me or how she was so quickly able to traverse around the Imperial City and get to the Emperor.
  • What was the actual point of the Phoenix beyond a ham-fisted symbol? Or Mulan’s sister for that matter? Was her whole character supposed to be summed up as “arachnophobic?”
  • Honghui and Mulan’s chemistry was … questionable to say the least.
  • Usually avalanches occur higher up. The trebuchet “hot-shot” landed at the base of the mountain.
  • Mulan’s “chi” usage was confusing and strange, with a lot of inconsistency regarding her true talent. It also degraded the other men in the Army a lot, something that bothered me greatly.
  • Mulan doesn’t particularly have a lot of range, in terms of emotion throughout the whole film.
  • Niki Caro clearly stole a lot of scenes from other films. Mad Max Fury Road (2015), Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2003) and bizarrely Dracula Untold (2014) to name a few.
  • I truly wished they stuck to Mandarin as the primary language and made the rest of the world read subtitles, because the actors gave it a valiant effort, but could not emote in English well.
  • There are a lot of strange cutting throughout the whole film. Some scenes dragged on for too long and some action sequences were cut too short.
  • There is this strange precedent to show that women are “stronger” than men, in terms of physicality. I find this dangerously unrealistic and delusional. I do not have a problem with the animated depiction of Mulan’s abilities and strength, because they showed how a smaller, more lithe and agile woman uses those abilities to outsmart and out-think a man who is physically more imposing than her. I found it highly troublesome when Mulan just outright, brute strength her buckets of water to the top of the mountain, when much bigger and stronger men than her struggled. I was truly hoping that during the training sequence, we would see some type of growth, and struggle that Mulan went through that showed how much effort she had to put in to keep up with the boys. But alas, none of that promise came through.
  • The lack of musical numbers, robbed Mulan a lot of her “voice.” In the animated films, the musical numbers were there to provide a thrilling, emotional insight into the characters. We never got that with this Mulan, hence the lack of emotional investment in her character.
  • Donnie Yen is always underappreciated in Hollywood films. His speed is never showcased properly. Tsk.
  • The Witch and Mulan’s friendship … was so out of left-field and lacking in proper motivation. The Witch could have outright just overpowered everyone and became a Queen and force everyone to accept her.
  • Khan’s big fire death for the Emperor was … ridiculously unsatisfying. He should have just killed him ouright with her sword.
  • The fake-out death of Cricket … is so J.J. Abrams. Cheap, stupid, emotionally dumb and pointless. Please stop this trend.
  • Also why didn’t Khan shoot another arrow at Mulan and the Witch?
  • Final two thing … Mulan’s scale armour around her legs, proved terribly distracting to me. I really wished her legs were freed from the armour. She removed the upper half, so it still bewildered me, as to why she kept it. It didn’t match the rest of the costume well.
  • The words “honour, warrior and phoenix” were so overused. I really wished someone consulted a thesaurus.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Cinema Review

Y/N? No.

Director: J.J. Abrams

Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Ian McDiarmid and Adam Driver

Review by Damien Nguyen

Bloated? Yes. Uninspired? Yes. Bloated? Probably. Disappointing? Yes.

No we’re not talking about the failure of your gastro medication, this is the finale of a Star Wars trilogy.

Where to start? There was a lot in this film that I had to unpack. Plenty to process.

Maybe we’ll do an ego trip and start with me.

I’ve been an off-and-on Star Wars fan since I started getting more and more invested in its rival, Star Trek. I love Trek. The philosophy. The science. The utopian ideals. Its all very heart-warming in a way that only science geeks can really appreciate.

At the heart of every scientist, is a science-fiction nerd, and they temper that nerdiness with a willingness to explore further, for the benefit of humanity. That’s what makes Trek special.

Which is why I prefer it to Star Wars. However, just because I love Trek, doesn’t mean I watch the new trash (ahem, Discovery) nor do I really dislike Star Wars. If I did, why would I spend over 1000 dollars on collecting every single LEGO starfighter from the Original Trilogy?

So it remains a friendly, touching nostalgic reminder of my childhood. I never saw Force Awakens in cinemas. Nor did I touch Last Jedi.

I didn’t even really want to see this. But a free movie ticket in a drought, is a free movie ticket and why I’ve grown away from Star Wars, (minus the Mandalorian), something compelled me to see this one.

And it broke all the damn rules.

It reminded me of the mess that was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Lots of rules were broken in that one too.

J.J. also did a second film in a major franchise.

Only somehow, Rise of Skywalker is worse, because … the writing credit goes to Chris Terrio.

Why?

Why would you hire the guy who only recently wrote the messes known as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice or The Justice League?

WHY.

Honestly, this review is more or less a rant, which will be captioned as full of spoilers below, and will be full of questions, in which I will try to keep my counter-arguments brief.

Try.

But if I have to critique it overall, it’s a very disjointed film. They go to, too many locations. A lot of jumping around, with crazed editing to hit you with something and then promptly forget about it a minute after.

There was so much to unpack, within the first half hour, my brain merely gave up and decided to join the ride, only it was entirely unimpressed with the ride the entire way and kept scoffing at every reference J.J. had to put in.

I’m a minority, in the sense that I hate being pandered to. I dislike nostalgia for nostalgia sake or for the indulgence of the director or studio mandate. References have to be naturally not forced in there to get a cheap emotional rise out of us.

I could go on and on, but in the interest of speed, here:

Cinematography: Lacking. There was simply nothing that really stood out. Everything happens so quickly, so rapidly, any impact an awesome shot might have, is instantly dulled.

Plot: Why so many MacGuffins? There was even a MacGuffin that lead to a MacGuffin. Lazy writing. Stupid short-sightness in the story and poor editing of said script.

Acting: Fine. If a bit under-par. I think these actors are done with this crap. They want out. They want real films. Can’t blame them. The only real actor was Adam Driver. But that guy brings his A-game in everything he does. He’s the linchpin of this entire fiasco.

Music: Nothing stood out. A Greatest Hits album is not good enough. Star Wars used to have the most epic scores, the most epic themes. I can name all 6 episodes iconic scores. Episode I (Duel of the Fates), Episode II (Across the Stars), Episode III (Battle of the Heroes), Episode IV (The Force Theme, although Cantina Band though), Episode V (Imperial March), and Episode VI (Into the Trap). In the past 3 films, I haven’t really heard anything as iconic or unique as those.

I don’t even really want to finish writing this review, because honestly, J.J and Disney doesn’t really deserve it. 

To close up …. just go watch Return of the Jedi … that’s where the franchise should have ended.

A scene to recall: The saber battle on the wreck of the Death Star. But that was so obscured by water, it was only half as good as it promised to be.

Does this look epic? Just wait until you watch the film and the image moves … get ready for disappointment.

HERE ARE ALL THE DAMN QUESTIONS I’VE GOT FOR THIS FILM (SPOILERS AHEAD!):

  1. If you can chain hyperspace jumps together …. why did all previous films establish the rule of charging the hyperdrive and how dangerous space travel actually is? Plus if you can hyperspace in a planetary atmosphere, wouldn’t that just mess up the planet?
  2. Why did we need a purple/gold space pirate lady for a character?
  3. Why were there so many side characters to being with?
  4. Why was Lando on that desert planet? How long was he there?
  5. Why Lando? He’s not even that special.
  6. Those speeder bikes …. aren’t speeder bikes? Why have wheels?! Its slower!
  7. Why the Emperor?
  8. HOW THE FUCK did he conjure up all those Star Destroyers? Why were they under the ground? Who is piloting them? Who made them? WHY DO THEY ALL HAVE DEATH STAR LASERS? THAT COMPLETELY NEGATES THE DEATH STAR.
  9. So the Emperor made clones of Snoke?
  10. How did the Emperor survive a gigantic explosion and a 1000m fall to his death?
  11. Why did they jump to so many planets in the first 15 minutes?
  12. Why make C-3PO go evil for? A trailer shot?
  13. Leia should have been made to die in the Last Jedi
  14. Luke can use the Force as a ghost?!?
  15. Why can Rey heal shit?
  16. What is this Life Force crap?
  17. Ben’s reversal is … underwhelming.
  18. Why is Exogol such a stupid planet.
  19. As if the Emperor created thousands of Star Destroyers that all relied on one communication array.
  20. Why didn’t the Star Destroyer just roll … to flip those Resistance fighters off?
  21. Who were all those people in that weird chamber?
  22. Why are there so many conveniences in this damn movie.
  23. A Captain’s coin? SERIOUSLY?
  24. Did no-one bother to check why a rust-bucket was going into a hangar?
  25. The last fight is so lame.
  26. Lighting can blow up ships now? How come the Emperor just disabled all the normal ones then? Plot Armour?
  27. Hux is a spy? REALLY?
  28. Rey as a Palpatine completely negates the unique story aspect of Last Jedi
  29. God so many cameos … none of them deserved or done well
  30. So many aliens look stupid. All the comedy flew past me, but the lame alien designs had me rolling in my chair
  31. Rey’s lightsaber is yellow. Big whoop.
  32. Rey Skywalker …. nah. No. Just nope.
  33. The Death Star throne room is still intact ….. HOW?
  34. Why did they have to crash the Falcon?
  35. The whole Chewbacca’s death clickbait was completely unnecessary
  36. The quicksand stuff was equally bullshit
  37. A dagger …. blends perfectly with the wreckage of the Death Star … yeah how about NO.
  38. First its too dangerous on a skiff …. but #yolo they do it anyway
  39. The sequences of “dream” between Rey and Kylo just …. plain breaks rules for some cinematic flair and I hated it
  40. Knights of Ren = Knights of Crap. Absolutely useless.
  41. How does Rey die at the end?
  42. If Palpatine can just knock out ships with Lightning …. why bother with a Death Star or ANYTHING.
  43. Leia shouldn’t be able to use the Force or be a “Jedi.”
  44. That Harrison Ford cameo … was only saved by Driver’s acting skills
  45. What exactly was the purpose of General Pryde?
  46. Where was Anakin in all of this stupid shit?
  47. Why the lesbian kiss?
  48. Why the shitty forest base?
  49. Rose was pointless wasn’t she …
  50. Why am I getting so angry over all of this.

I guess that pretty much sums it up. I’m exhausted, and thoroughly annoyed that a film got this hard under my skin.

Disney … please hand over the franchise to someone with real talent. And PLAN THE DAMN MOVIES IN ADVANCE NEXT TIME.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) – Cinema Review

Y/N? Yes

Director: Chad Stahelski

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, and Ian McShane

Review by Damocles

Its just …. good.

Upon hearing that the next film in the John Wick series was going to be another “chapter”, I was initially hesitant. Somehow I suspected that it would have been a smarter move to have the words “requiem” put in there or “finale.”

Walking out of the cinema, I knew I was right not to have jumped on the hype train that all the other critics and movie-goers hopped on.

John Wick 3 has the troubling issue of having an absolutely riveting 20 minutes opening, with bombastic action sequences following each other almost seamlessly. Horses, cars, guns, blood, books and knives are all thrown around with reckless abandon, and there seems to be almost no limit to the imagination of Stahelski’s vision for martial arts choreography.

However, after those first 20 minutes, the film lacks the panache of the previous installments.

John Wick has always been about stylised action sequences, backed with a charismatic performance from Keanu Reeves, whose internal agony and pain serves as the heart of the film. It is Reeves’ performance of a man with few words, a man of focus, commitment and sheer fucking will, that allows us to forgive the ballet of violence erupting across the silver screen.

However, such heart grows stale by the third repetition and the stakes don’t quite get higher or lower in Parabellum. Which is the core fundamental issue with the film.

Plot-wise, the film does not further nor develop the story and instead takes a back-seat to the action sequences. Parabellum seems less of a narrative, and more of a action film highlight reel.

Which of course sounds like a disservice to the film. But it isn’t, if that is exactly what you are going for. If a film merely has to deliver incredible and stylish action sequences, Parabellum is the cinema experience you crave and need.

Unfortunately for myself, the action film Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) casts a long shadow over the realm of action cinema, with its flawless execution of what an action film actually is …. a simple narrative that is told by via action sequences and characters’ motivations, abilities and development are all relayed during an action sequence.

Parabellum lacks the simplicity and heart of its original in 2014, which to me, remains the pinnacle of the series, because it executes an action film concept properly. Each action sequence, each kill, in the original was inspired by Daisy’s death, and the motivation was clear from the on-set.

In John Wick 3, the plot and pacing is more difficult to ascertain and my disappointment at not having the more logical narrative option of a straight up “survival-thriller finale” for the story soured the film-going experience for me. Which, is why I mentioned the first 20 minutes as being everything I hoped, only for it to be ripped cruelly away for a decision to continue the franchise instead of end it on a proper high-note.

Yet, in spite of this flaw, this slightly sour taste, the film is pop cinema at its finest. Creativity was shown from the onset of the film’s first kill to its very last. Cinematography and lighting and choreography have never quite been more bombastic, less CGI and more skilled than ever before.

In fact, it has gotten to such a level, that the introduction of the infamous Raid duo, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, provides another bittersweet note to the film, particularly if you are fan of the Raid films.

That note of course, is that Keanu Reeves simply cannot keep up with such fast and incredibly skilled practitioners of pencak silat. And if one was to compare the speed and ferocity of the hand to hand choreography in the Raid films to John Wick, there is quite a difference.

But then the strongest elements of John Wick has always been the gun-fu. And somehow, Stahelski tops the gun-fu choreography of the previous film, with unique new enemies types for John Wick and even new skills to showcase how competitive shooting provides a new platform for actors to showcase just how quickly a handgun, shotgun and rifle can be fired.

In particular, the standout sequence with Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves and the pair of Belgian Malinois’, is an incredible and unique display of dog training, gun fighting and impressive choreography that has never quite been portrayed so well on-film.

Accompanying these action sequences is a score that improves on the formula of the previous films of utilising electronic synth to punch the action sequences and the iconic slow tension build of John’s theme. In Parabellum, Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard updates the score to include Vivaldi for a key finale sequence and is easily as iconic Le Castle Vania’s work in the previous films.

In terms of costuming, John Wick remains one of the best films to admire modern men’s fashion and how to blend beautifully made suits with tactical gun-fu. Despite the location change, each location showcases excellent use of the culture on display, whilst retaining the John Wick’s world aesthetics.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an film that showcases how imaginative and talented stunt work has come since the black and white days of Buster Keaton. Everything on display, is a testimony to how far action cinema as come since then, but such spectacular choreography needs to be in service of a story, and not for the sake of style.

For the sake of the strength of the franchise, I hope the next film is the grand finale that the Baba Yaga deserves.

P.S. For the creative team, please continue the trend of utilising cool Latin phrases in your world.

A scene to recall: When things go green and winter descends at the Continental.

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Parasite (2019) – Cinema Review

Y/N? Yes

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Syn-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam

Review by Damocles

Its … so metaphorical.

Parasite, the latest film by Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (of Snowpiercer, Okja and Mother fame)  is a brilliantly executed thriller.

The pacing of the film’s plot threads and characterisations of its key players is perfect. Not a single frame is wasted, not a single beat missed and the story is beautifully economical with how each character reacts to more and more dire situations.

Joon-ho’s skill at pace is all the more impressive when you consider the juxtaposition of  humour in tense situations. Yet the way how Joon-ho manages to balance both of those elements within a single scene is no doubt one of his trademark abilities.

Not many directors can balance and create such dark comedic moments in a film with such heavy themes. And I would argue none do it better than Bong Joon-ho.

And the themes that run through the film are obvious from the title alone. One does not need to repeat viewings of this film to see the obvious discussion around class, society and status. Yet there are just as nuanced and subtle debate about how Joon-ho chooses the portray the titular “parasitic” family, our protagonists.

We flip-flop between sympathy and reluctant disgust at their actions. The characters, are brilliantly realised and their desperation is portrayed beautifully by an excellent cast.

By far, the best thing about the film, are how each character, minor or major, are logically inhuman and human with their desires and emotional state regardless of the situation. Each action, each decision is perfect for the character and the consequences they suffer are a result of their own folly.

A film like Parasite, dissects the irrationality behind the rational concept of doing a con.

And that juxtaposition alone is what makes the film such compelling watching.

Acknowledgement must be made to the director’s ability to hold tension within a scene, to create frames of art in a drab urban environment (of particular note is the descending staircase sequence), and his ability to create new angles with the camera, despite being confided to 2 locations throughout the entire film.

This film, utilises light and architecture beautifully, whilst never quite sacrificing realism for style. There is style and punch to the camerawork, but it is never a distraction to the characters and the plot, the true linchpins of the film.

A slight weakness in the film’s near-perfect execution is the lack of a memorable soundtrack. Much of it was ambient and large forgettable. I would also level a small critique to costuming, with many characters lacking a distinct flair to their personalities. But such quibbles can easily be explained away by the setting and its realistic approach to Korean slice-of-life.

Korean cinema is at its finest when it explores dark themes and thrusts its likeable characters into dark situations. And here, with a plot that twists, turns and topple your expectations of what to expect next …. Parasite is a cornerstone of Korean cinema that thoroughly deserves its Palme d’Or.

A scene to recall: The flood, the stairs and the transition.

parasite

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) – Cinema Review

Y/N? Yes

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Stars: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Henry Cavill, Michelle Monaghan, Sean Harris and Vanessa Kirby.

Review by Damocles

No … bloody … way!

Mission Impossible Fallout is a classic of the action genre. Quite possibly one of the master-classes of action cinema.

No shaky camera. No ridiculous cutting away from the lead actor. A minimal use of CGI. Action sequences that serve the story and inform the audience about the character’s motivation.

Not since Mad Max Fury Road, has there been a film quite as good, and Mission Impossible Fallout, almost tops it.

Every single action sequence and stunt was an incredible adrenaline rush. There is so much to enjoy and marvel at, that its almost impossible not to relive the sequences in your mind and find adrenaline coursing through your veins.

However, in the hands of a lesser director, Tom Cruise’s stunt-work would have been massacred on screen, but McQuarrie utilises the camera skilfully and beautifully, with deft cinematography that perfectly serves the action sequences and a creative freedom that can only come from having a star doing incredibly insane stunt-work.

At 56 years old, Tom Cruise is almost relentless in his ability to amaze and thrill the audience. Whether it’s performing a live and proper HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump that only Special Forces unit in the military would perform, or just that glorious montage of him running across the rooftops of London, few can say that his commitment to stunt-work and sheer energy isn’t impressive.

The supporting cast, all do an excellent job of making the world a believable and fun escape. Rebecca Ferguson reprises her role from Rogue Nation as Ilsa Faust, and is as dependable as ever, the female counterpart of Ethan Hunt. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg have their moment to shine, with Rhames being used more and better in this film, than he has been previously.

However, the standout character was Henry Cavill’s Walker. The now famous “bicep reload” is in off itself an important element to the character and perfectly establishes what he is capable of.

The plot continues the story of Rogue Nation, with Ethan Hunt and his team tasked with finding the remnants of the Syndicate, who have relabelled themselves as the Apostles, under the leadership of John Lark, and prevent a nuclear holocaust.

Pacing is almost airtight. It uses situational humour to deliver a breather between the action, and unlike many films, the third act is just as solid as the previous two. This, in of itself is noteworthy due to how often action films have a very flagging last act.

The cinematography perfectly showcases Europe. In vein of the old Bond moves, where locations served to up the ante of the stakes, amidst the glamour of the Continent, Fallout visits Paris, London, and for an incredible finale, Kashmir.

Each location is almost upended in the chaos that Ethan Hunt leaves behind, in particular Paris being an incredible standout of action cinema, with multiple chase sequences in a myriad of vehicles that leave you gasping at the screen.

Simply because Tom Cruise is that close to death in every single one of them, and you simply must admire the work of a man who is so committed to entertainment, that he is willing to die for it.

To aid with these sequences, Lorne Balfe created a pulsing score that echoes the work of Junkie XL in Mad Max Fury Road. Fast paced beats, roaring overtures that creates a cacophony of noise that behoves you to both realise the stakes and the speed of which everything has escalated.

Mission Impossible Fallout is film-making at the very peak what Hollywood action cinema can deliver. It takes all the lessons learned from master-classes of Mad Max Fury Road and John Wick and delivers insanity on screen.

Let’s hope that the lessons learned from the success of this film, mean an even greater standard be reached for future blockbusters and adventure films.

A scene to recall: The helicopter stunt when he falls … that literally had me gasping and goosebumps erupted like a rash across my body. Also that magnificent transition from film to IMAX lens was amazing. 

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Image courtesy of The Atlantic.