The Morning After: Aug. 20, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Twenty-two years after Tom Cruise brought the television show Mission: Impossible into the modern age, the sixth film of the series pulls together all of the plot details and information of all prior installments to create a rousing, if predictable adventure.

Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, an undercover operative for the IMF, a secret organization dedicated to protecting the world from various shady characters. Hunt is a conscientious and seemingly careless spy who puts himself in grave danger to protect those around him while finding increasingly creative ways to get the upper hand on his enemies. More often than not, luck plays a major role in his ability to overcome any situation and the one he’s facing now is his most critical yet.

The story revolves around a plot by an anonymous band of shadowy figures called The Acolytes who want to free terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and set off three nuclear devices. Their plans face stiff competition as Hunt and his crew (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) try to head off the inevitable attack. There attempts are frustrated by the forced inclusion of a CIA assassin (Henry Cavill), forced onto the team by CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) over the objection of IMF team leader Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Also back for this affair is former ally Rebecca Ferguson as the ex-MI6 agent who now appears to be working against Ethan and company.

This is a raucous adventure across the globe that reminds us at once of the grittier world of Jason Bourne and the glitzier universe of James Bond. Comparing favorably to both and itself, this is their best outing since Ghost Protocol and reminds the audience just how much fun the films are. That they are trading on predictable plotlines and tropes doesn’t make them any less enjoyable.

Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

Based on a series of young adult spy novels, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker adapts the first book of the series into a feature film starring Alex Pettyfer as the titular Alex Rider, a fourteen-year-old boy who gets pulled into the world of superspies after the death of his uncle (Ewan McGregor).

The first novel is about Alex’s infiltration of a wealthy entrepreneur’s (Mickey Rourke) compound where he uncovers a dangerous plot involving the dissemination of free computers to British schoolchildren, which hold a deadly secret. This was a series ready made for youth consumption on the big screen and was one of the earliest attempts to capture the Harry Potter zeitgeist.

Adapting his own novels to the big screen, author Anthony Horowitz showcases why major writers often take on the task of adapting others’ work for the movies. While it stays modestly faithful to the first novel, there are a number of egregious changes that seem tailor-made for cinematic interpretation, but add little value to the film itself, most notably a scene where the villain’s henchwoman (Missi Pyle) attacks Alex’s guardian (Alicia Silverstone).

Compounding matters are a series of top flight actors delivering meandering, unappealing performances. McGregor, Silverstone, Rourke, Bill Nighy as the MI6 director, Sophie Okonedo as his associate, Stephen Fry as the gadgeteer, and Damian Lewis as an assassin all give cringe-inducing performances. These actors seem convinced they are in a film that’s lighter in tone that it appears and more action-heavy than it needs to be. Like a kid getting to put together a cinematic adventure, the film ultimately talks down to the audience to which it was supposed to appeal, leaving adults even more miserable.

Pettyfer is an affable lead and is the only individual worthy of individual praise in this film. He seemed to be acting in a movie far different in tone and style than he ultimately appears. It’s a serious misfire from almost everyone involved. While the books are surprisingly engaging, the film is anything but, a graceless excursion in pop exploitation that gets in its own way.

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