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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Fallout

In the pantheon of spy movies, there have been some impressive set pieces that take place in public bathrooms. Mission: Impossible – Fallout adds to this legacy with an inventive and visceral sequence that incorporates needles, laptops and various methods of unarmed combat with basins, mirrors, pipes and cubicles. The scene is typical of the film as a whole: gripping, visceral and intense, as writer-director Christopher McQuarrie delivers a ruthlessly efficient script and muscular direction. The plot, unusually for this franchise, follows on from the events of the previous instalment. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is haunted by his past missions, especially memories of his wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and malevolent adversary Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). When the remnants of the Rogue Nation pursue weapons grade plutonium, Ethan and his team of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) are given the mission (should they choose to accept it) to intervene, and lumbered with CIA observer/assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill). From this set-up, intrigue, disguises and quadruple crosses abound, amid an array of quite astounding set pieces. The M:I franchise has prided itself on ever-escalating action sequences, and in the contemporary era of superhero exploits, it is impressive that this sixth instalment pulls off scenes with heft and physicality without the benefit of superpowers. Curiously, several of these scenes appear to re-stage sequences from previous films. The aforementioned bathroom scene echoes True Lies and Casino Royale, while a mountain climbing sequence recalls M:I II as does a motorbike chase, which is also reminiscent of similar chases in Rogue Nation and Skyfall. Speaking of sky fall, in the movie’s bravura set piece, McQuarrie flexes his stylistic flair, as two characters perform a sky dive in a continuous take, the viewer spiralling and tumbling along with the figures on screen. It is a breathtaking sequence with a genuine sense of peril, and one of the finest action set pieces this year. There is also emotional turmoil to match the physical, as themes of regret, guilt and responsibility pulse throughout the narrative, while the convolutions of the plot ensure that one’s brain is engaged as well as guts, leading to a film that is exhausting on an emotional as much as a physical level. As a result, despite these missions running for over twenty years, I would certainly choose to accept further ones.

MIF bike

Macbeth

Macbeth

Film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays face both a problem and an opportunity. Deviate too far from the source material and you will both anger the devotees and the dialogue will jar with the images. Stick too close and your film may be too static and uncinematic. Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth negotiates this issue impressively by mining the source text for meaning and expressing this meaning in gorgeous cinematic form. Kurzel and screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Leslie and Todd Louiso use Shakespeare’s language with compelling intimacy, dialogue scenes framed in close-up while the performers largely whisper as though weighed down by the landscape around them. And what landscape, DOP Adam Arkapaw lensing the Scottish highlands in compelling depth and often colouring shots in deep, brooding red. Mist regularly shrouds the moors and mountains, through which the characters move as if in a dream, especially the witches whose supernatural qualities are merely suggested. This suggestion adds to the damaged psyche of Michael Fassbender’s mesmerizing Macbeth, traumatized by deaths on the domestic and military front. The film does not clarify whether Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) are motivated by supernatural forces or their own psychological torment, a major aspect of the play that receives distinctive cinematic form. There are many such aspects in this production, which combine into a brooding, bloody and ethereal experience, of a type that is best achieved on screen rather than stage. Macbeth thus demonstrates the continued potential for the Bard in cinema.