Mission: Incredible

July 31st, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Knowing a new Mission: Impossible was coming, Barb and I decided to watch all of the movies in order, one night at a time. Which we did on Blu-ray. Most I hadn’t seen since first seeing them in the theater. And I came away much impressed – I would be hard pressed to think of a series that maintained this high a level, and even improved as it went along.

Brian DePalma and John Woo are two of my favorite directors, and I was struck this time by how their entries (the first and second respectively) were so much their movies. DePalma’s style but also his recurring themes were much on display and the same was true of John Woo in number two, right down to the pigeons in slow motion.

But the auteur here is Tom Cruise. He is a genuine movie star, who commits every molecule of his being to the job at hand. In the new film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he spends much time telling his comrades that he won’t let them down – that he will pull off whatever crazy job is expected of him. But the subtext is that he’s saying the same thing to the ticket buyers. His Jackie Chan-like insistence of doing his own stunts is both thrilling and frightening. Learn to fly a helicopter in a matter of months? No problem. Run on a broken ankle? Piece of cake.

But none of that would work if he wasn’t a strong screen actor – not just presence, but actor. He brings an emotional reality and intensity to this, let’s face it, inherently silly material that is the real impossible mission that he and the various directors and writers pull off.

J.J. Abrams is also key to the enduring success, both commercially and artistically, of this stellar franchise. Just adding Simon Pegg and his humor and humanity lifted an already soaring series. Abrams fine-tuned the formula with the third entry, and my son Nathan’s favorite – the fourth film, Ghost Protocol – found a strong director in Brad Bird. Christopher McQuarrie followed that perhaps definitive entry as the first director (also writer) to do two chapters in the saga, rather boldly making Fallout a direct sequel to his Rogue Nation.

If you’re down on Cruise because of Scientology, let me say that I’m no fan of the L. Ron Hubbub, either. But I’ve said it before and will likely say it again: what an artist owes the public is his or her work. And Tom Cruise works damn hard and so well.

* * *

Crusin’ played another outdoor gig in Muscatine (well, the rural area near Muscatine) last Friday night, at Ardon Creek winery. It went very well, and showed what we can do on a beautiful cool evening as opposed to the horrific, soul-crushing heat we’ve played in previously this year.

I have frankly considered throwing in the towel, after over fifty years of this; but we had fun and the crowd was large and responsive, so what was not to love? The band is like a woman; just when you say you’re going to quit her, she gives you a really, really good night, and all bets are off.

* * *

Here’s one of the interviews I did at San Diego, where I was promoting the Mike Hammer comic book mini-series and the graphic novel Quarry’s War.

This is a fresh link on the Mr. Media interview.

Here’s another San Diego podcast, this one with the prestigious PW’s graphic novel editor.

Finally, here’s a nice, loving piece about Mickey.


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4 Responses to “Mission: Incredible”

  1. Louis Burklow says:

    Max, I saw the new M:I on Friday. Much as with the last one, I found myself thinking this movie was full of the “give me a break” moments that made THE A-TEAM such a laugh (not that Mr. T wasn’t funny enough on his own). The stunts are flat-out spectacular, thanks in no small part to the star’s commitment to them. Being around the same age as Tom Cruise, I wish I had that willpower to stay in shape. I agree with you, he owes the public nothing more than what he gives us on screen.

    Maybe it’s because of my own feeble writing attempts but I judge movies on their stories. This one has a fairly standard thriller plot with the added unreality of people getting hit by cars, crashing helicopters, etc. who (like A-Team cast members) just shake it off. While I found it more entertaining than the last one, I believe that was because I watched that one on DVD with only one other person (after one exasperating plot twist I told her I was officially hate-watching the rest of the film) while I saw this most recent one in a theater with a large, enthusiastic crowd. Although there were plenty of laughs at some of the complications, a good time was obviously had by all. All in all, a silly but fun summer blockbuster.

  2. Glen Davis says:

    Finally watched M:I. It was about what I expected: a fun popcorn flick, filled with complications, and slightly superhuman agents. They had some of the better car chases in recent times. The car chase seems like a dying art these days. I really enjoyed the final cliffhanger. Jeremy Renner was not missed at all. The biggest flaw was the blatant foreshadowing of the traitor, but I’m not sure how else they could have handled it.

  3. Sean Kelly says:

    I took my mom to see this when I was back in Chicago and we both enjoyed it. (My daughter back in Japan was jealous, but then she just went to New Zealand so I think we’re even.) I just wish there was just a little more mystery in the plot. I think this was a fine ending should they choose to make it so.

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