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Mission Impossible: Fallout ★★★★★

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Released: 25th July 2018

Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

‘What the hell is he doing!? I find it best not to look.’

Rebecca Ferguson. You’re certainly not alone in questioning the thought process of a man seemingly gunning to be ‘The Greatest Stuntman’. Another one Mr Cruise? I imagine his reply is Never Enough. Never. Never.

22 years and six instalments in. Facing stiff competition from Bond, Bourne and a plethora of comicbook darlings along the way. This particular Tom has continued to be a marvel, risking life and limb to give us the adrenaline-pumping thrills we crave, admirably relying on old-school practicality instead of the obligatory CGI bombast we modern cinemagoers have grown accustomed to.

Previous instalment ‘Rogue Nation’ boasted an elegant operatic set-piece in Vienna, with returning (a first for the series) director Christopher McQuarrie masterfully pulling the strings in the background. Well imagine ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’ as a grandiose death-defying symphony, that could easily leave you breathless in the front row, never mind the upper tiers of this cinematic arena.

Whilst consistent in its entertainment value. It could be argued these films haven’t dug deep enough into the psyche of IMF’s main man. McQuarrie is quick to remedy this right from the outset as a pulsating plutonium power struggle ensues, with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) still reeling from his encounters with Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the latter a mere pawn now in the eyes of a terrorist organisation called the Apostles.

Trust in Ethan’s methods diminishing with the addition of CIA superior Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) who compares him to a scalpel, she introduces a ‘hammer’ to the situation in the form of August Walker (Henry Cavill), who is tasked with assisting Hunt and his usual suspects Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) in preventing further global atrocities. Interrogation? Not for this Man Of Steel.

Intertwining plot threads left dangling by its predecessors to layer its absorbing narrative, with Michelle Monaghan’s love interest Julia a notable inclusion. McQuarrie truly allows the audience to become emotionally attached to these characters this time around beyond the wisecracks and gadgetry, which only serves to fuel the tension and raise the stakes of its balletic action choreography. Playing a lead protagonist who can easily be perceived to be indestructible up to now. The moral angst that engulfs Cruise’s Hunt is refreshing, as his unwavering loyalty to his fellow field agents is deemed a weakness in achieving their intended objective.

Only for this aspect to be amplified by the compelling complexity of Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust who returns with her own agenda, remaining appreciative of Hunt’s relentless nature to complete a mission by any means necessary, with one particular Paris stand-off utterly engrossing. Whilst Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane continues to favour chilling prose, it’s a joy to finally see Henry Cavill utilised in a blockbuster effectively as August Walker, a bruising no-nonsense adversary whose reloading arms prove a worthy match for Hunt.

Yet for all its superior characterisation. Mission Impossible would amount to little without its enthralling stunts, with the film gleefully  looking to out-do the previous set-piece throughout its running time, only to succeed in jaw-dropping style. From heart-stopping halo jumps at 25,000 feet to a heady helicopter chase that made me audibly gasp at its sheer audacity, McQuarrie’s dizzying camerawork and respectful capture of its sleek locations as we witness Cruise’s crazy antics close-up, is as pure as popcorn cinema gets.

‘Fallout? With this franchise? I suspect that thought will self-destruct in five seconds once you clap eyes on this outing. An astonishing genre offering in its own right, in a series that continues to evolve in exhilarating fashion.

Featured Review

Humans Series 2 Episode 3 Review

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The intricately-spun web that is Channel 4’s sci-fi drama Humans continues to prove that no matter how widely disbanded your characters may be, their individual stories can be compellingly and purposefully told. As the rippling war arc between man and machine gently settled, we experienced a third hour committed to evoking powerful surges of poignancy instead. We’ve said before that for a show about robotics, Humans has a serious amount of heart, and this episode showcased as such.

Reserving the visceral action we’ve all come to love, showrunners Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley hand writing duties to Charlie Covell and Iain Weatherby for this intimate tapestry of emotion. We open and exit with duel scenes focused around Carrie-Anne Moss’ scientist Athena Morrow whose relationship with artificial intelligence system “V” is significantly deeper rooted than you might expect. It becomes clear that “V” is actually a sentient software lifted from her daughter Ginny who is paralysed and requires full-time life support.

Elsewhere Mia (Gemma Chan) is struggling to get past her encounter with café owner Ed (Sam Palladio) because her feelings for him go much further than colleagues. Despite clear warnings from Colin Morgan’s Leo that she’ll be rejected, that their isn’t a chance that a human being could really accept her for who she is, Mia follows her heart. Her core sequence with Ed on the rustic, wintery beach where she declares her emotional investment is skilful and beautiful. Chan enables the exchange to feel distinctly robotic and somewhat detached, yet entirely meaningful and romantic. Whilst “love” might be currently void from the synth vocabulary, Mia explains that Ed makes everything “more” for her; heightening her senses, mood and value. One personally is excited to see how this relationship will blossom, even though it is enviable that bad things are en route for the couple. The scene is ravishingly shot, too; just like the entirety of Humans, really. Subtle symmetry in frame and a textured, nuanced colour palette made for a eye-watering moment.

HUMANS

The central dramatic narrative in episode three centred around Emily Berrington’s volatile and rogue synth Niska who undergoes extensive testing orchestrated by the courts in order to determine whether she committed an act of murder because she is sentient, or merely malfunctioned. Either way, she will face consequences for these actions, but Niska’s endgame goes far beyond the cold iron bars of a prison cell. Her attorney Laura (Katherine Parkinson) – “the finest synth legal rights lawyer in the world” as husband Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) jokes – is onsite as Niska is subjected to an array of sensory examination – poking her until she reacts. She is screened looping video footage and music in the hopes that it’ll evoke some kind of human response; that she can really feel.

Answers arrive when the audio-visual barrage seizes and Laura takes the microphone. Asking probing questions about the night in which she killed Andrew Graham, Niska’s responses are both profound and heart-wrenching. Expressing her bottled feelings through a vice, she unfolds. “He was going to rape me – I was scared…My whole life was being scared, being hurt, being angry. Sometimes things become too much for anyone, don’t they?” It is a huge credit to Berrington’s impeccable performance that she is able to remain such stoic and controlled posture – barely furrowing a brow or snatching a blink – even when reciting dialogue with as much sorrow and pain as this. Throughout the entire episode, Berrington’s impossibly still exterior commands, but to be able to see this crushing wave of anguish surging behind a vacant façade is mightily impressive.

Equally brilliant – albeit slight in screen-time – is the layered relationship between Leo and Ivanno Jeremiah’s Max. As Mia exits and the foursome become three (they are still unaware of Hester’s [Sonya Cassidy] antics last week…), a sense of leadership balance has lost footing. Leo looks to the ever-wise Max for support, and Max looks to the ever-focused Leo for a plan. Together they work perfectly, but Hester is the spanner in the inner-workings of their partnership as she requires a figure to follow: human or synthetic. Morgan’s ferocious dialogue delivery shows his action-oreitnated mindset; leave immediately, keep moving, find new shelter, protect sentient synths. Meanwhile Jeremiah’s patience favours thought and recollection; letting their captive go free, embracing and understanding Mia’s decision as opposed to rejecting it. How this demographic will alter in future weeks remains to be seen, but we are expecting serious fireworks.

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Other highlights from this third hour included a sour turn for Ruth Bradley’s synth-in-disguise Karen, whose inner lining bag splits after an evening out with her policing co-workers, leading to disastrous consequences. Her relationship with Neil Maskell’s Pete is already fractured as it is, but now developments are bound to get uglier. Also, Lucy Carless’ all-tech Mattie uploads the Elster coding to D-Series unit Odi (Will Tudor) who amazingly responds, albeit clumsily and confusingly so. Tudor’s whirring, robotic performance is excellent, and it is really pleasing for fans to have Odi back in business.

No matter how scattershot the cast may be, and no matter how many heavy themes and tonal shades Humans may convey, everyone pulls their weight here. The collective ensemble is exemplary and this series continues to go from strength-to-strength. There is little doubt that as of this third episode, Channel 4’s offering is the most essential show on British television today.

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Humans Series 2 Episode 1 Review

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Channel 4’s forward-thinking drama Humans returns with an hour simply erupting with ambition and social relevance. After the critically-acclaimed first series scored the network its highest ratings since 1992, exceptions for a second outing were undeniably high.

However such pressures haven’t phased showrunners Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley who deliver on their word of global influence and expansion. This first episode voyages between the UK, the US, Germany and Bolivia, telling a panoramic story of technological advancements. We pick up with fugitive and sentient Synth Niska (Emily Berrington) in Berlin some six months after past events. Initially in a state of deliberation, she decides to upload the secret software upgrade that gave her fellow machines human consciousness. Around the world, synthetic slaves begin waking up and unbuckling the shackles of their robotic existence.

It would be easy for such a gigantic development in the playing field to become overinflated, however Vincent and Brackley smartly implement the worldwide alteration. Random synthetics – some one in every 100,000 – receive the code, enabling audiences to attach themselves to a mere handful of ‘smart Snyths’ as opposed to a pandemic. Further thoughtfulness comes in the morality of such change. When the software overrides factory settings and a synthetic becomes humanised, subtle undertones of current affairs start to seep.

A major running theme in Humans is not just man versus machine, rather how our society represents those considered to be “second class citizens”. The sentient synths – now no longer chained to the limitations of their programming – are fundamentally refugees; searching for a better state of life, travelling in small groups, hoping to avoid detection. Never do Vincent and Brackley force the audience onto this line of thought, rather their narrative has respect for spectator intelligence and lets such subtextual notes play out naturally.

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For a programme centred around robots, it is admirable just how many perceptive things Humans has to say about, well, humanity. Their is a heart vibrantly beating here as we explore the validity of emotions, family, and wider interpersonal relationships. New Synth Hester (Sonya Cassidy) describes feelings as “contradictory data – an excess of sensory feedback that makes no sense and serves no useful function.” Ivanno Jeremiah’s sincere and sage Max is quick to enlighten. “Emotions have functions, you’ll see”.

Cassidy isn’t the only debutant is series two, either. American actress Carrie-Anne Moss of The Matrix fame enters the fold and makes a fantastic first impression as Athena Morrow – a synthetic-symphasing scientist who is seeking progressions of her work – yet she is cynical enough not to welcome handouts from a potential corporate investor.

Something most impressive about Humans is the physicality of Synth performance. The nuanced body language, posture and movement is quite simply a marvel; finitely straddling the beam between seeming “too human” and “too robotic”. The aforementioned Berrington and fellow female co-star Gemma Chan have mastered such craft. Black-faced impassivity is contrasted by glimmers of prodigious mortality. Mia relishing the feeling the wind in her hair and wheat in her fingers. Niska smiling at a headline reading: “Synth tram driver abandons passengers to look at the birds”. Together they occupy space in frame with proficiency, enabling the viewer to notice their finite detailing without consciously drawing complete attention.

HUMANS

Equally matching the breadth of thematic scope and characterisation are the assortment of morally conscious ideas this first episode and hopefully series explores. We tap into LGBT, Internationalism, crime and punishment, migration, redundancy and basically everything in between. Heavy groundwork has already been laid, enabling the drama to flourish as we push onwards with Series 2.0 at it is promotionally stylised.

Comparisons to HBO’s gargantuan science-ficition epic Westworld will come thick-and-fast (a typical case of conflicted scheduling; it began airing on Sky Atlantic earlier this month), but Humans is more indie movie than Hollywood blockbuster. Perspective and focus here is significantly tighter; ensuring its domestic nature remains at the forefront of expansive scientific developments. It profiles how common people’s lives are altered by their connections to technology, and what it means to be in a landscape so laden with contrast and change.

This is the rare British export which is willing to pose important and pressing questions, without expecting easy answers.

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Featured Review

LFF 2016 Review: David Lynch: The Art Life

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DAVID LYNCH THE ART LIFEReviewer: Chris Haydon

Director: Jon Nguyen

Starring: David Lynch

Certificate: N/A

Release Date: Currently Pending (UK)

 

For a factual study of an auteur famed for remarkable controversy and flamboyancy, it is most surprising just how nuanced David Lynch: The Art Life feels. Debutant director Jon Nguyen is granted unprecedented access to the genius behind such works as Inland Empire, Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, and yet the results are hauntingly still.

This reflective documentary underpins Lynch’s love for traditional painting and is stationed in his secluded studio atop the Hollywood hills. Sequences are drawn with a equal patience as that of a brushstroke; lens lingering on heavy lungfuls of nicotine as Lynch drags his cigarette and gulps his espresso. His characteristic wave of silver-grey hair flops as he vacantly stares at his canvas, or fiddles with latex.

Whilst Lynch the director is unquestionably dexterous, Lynch the painter isn’t quite as skilled. Most of his works are onscreen for prolonged periods and rarely are they better than average, but the luxuriously hypnotic voiceover – captured with earthy rusticity thanks to a vintage microphone – is what gives them texture.

DAVID LYNCH THE ART LIFE

Despite Nguyen’s film being anything but flashy, in fact portions of it are so deliberately static that clocks will be watched, the audio reflects a career of much complexity, and a life of much transformation. Speaking most intimately, Lynch recalls his small-town America childhood, his beguiling array of anxieties and doubts, and the pivotal figures who helped render him into the visual artist he is today.

Combining grainy stock footage and weathered home movies, paired with his peculiarly moody artworks and observations, David Lynch: The Art Life endeavours to broaden its own canvas throughout the 93 minute duration, and to an extent it achieves. There is only so many times audiences can hang in the haze of Lynch’s tobacco smoke and arabica before they start craving more. There is little doubt that portions of Nguyen’s film are well, boring, and a lack of any particularly juicy original footage from his famed filmography is frustrating, but the meditative, almost tranquil nature of this visual essay is admirable.

Die-hard fans of Lynch really cannot afford to miss Nguyen’s film – which is competing in the 60th BFI London Film Festival’s Documentary Competition – as it sheds an ambient light on a master of celluloid. Those less familiar or infatuated will likely find their patience tested. David Lynch: The Art Life is guilty of repetition, but has a soulfulness equal to the man himself.

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