Paramount is an oddly run studio. When I went to the screening at Paramount for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), I asked for a list of cast and crew. I was told there wasn’t one. I asked why not. They said they were trying to save money. The film had a budget of over $100 million and they were saving 25 cents by not printing out the cast and crew for critics? There’s some sort of common sense here?
I didn’t get an invite to a media screening for this, so I asked around. Nobody I know got an invite to a screening and Paramount’s reply was that there “were no more,” which is a Clintonesque statement that implied there had been some, but I couldn’t find anyone who went to one. One person told me that the press day was in Dubai. That would be a helpful place to have it if you were trying to keep most reviewers from seeing the film since most reviewers are located in Los Angeles and aren’t employed by people who can afford to send a critic to Dubai. And there were reviews that appeared opening day, so there were some favored critics who somehow got to see it before it opened. Generally when a studio acts in this manner, the film stinks and they know it, so they don’t want unfavorable reviews to spoil the opening weekend, when they expect to get all their money.
But that’s not the case here. I paid my way in to see it and it was worth the price of admission. The plot is ridiculous, but the situations and stunts are rewarding. The tension is non stop and the cast, Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Paula Patton, does a good job, especially Patton.
All the Mission: Impossible plots are, well, impossible, but this one is unusually outlandish, something about a bad guy who has stolen Russian nuclear launch codes and Tom and the gang have to get to the guy before he uses them.
It abounds with plot holes. The beginning in which Cruise is sprung out of prison and then invades the Kremlin has them coming so fast that you just forget about reality and realize what you’re seeing is as ridiculous as a Donald Duck cartoon. But that’s why you go to see Mission: Impossible films, to see Cruise and his pals accomplish the impossible, taking on odds that are worse than a million to one; not once but time and again. Just as one example, they’ve been disowned by the U.S. government and are absolutely all alone, but, lo and behold, they actually hop on a freight train in Russia that has a car that is filled with all their space age gear, and then they find the wherewithal to get to Dubai with a bunch of gear to confront the villain!
But, who cares? The cinematography is rewarding enough for a travelogue. The good guy vs. the world with a hateful bad guy is involving. This is another film where you should just leave your brain at home, relax, and enjoy it.
Diablo Cody could be the best scriptwriter in Hollywood. After her groundbreaking debut with Juno, now she follows up with a tale about a dysfunctional, gorgeous young woman approaching middle-age, Charlize Theron. This starts out to be a story about an unhappy young woman who returns to her small town where she was the beauty queen while in high school. There she sets out to take her high school beau away from his wife.
While this might sound as a standard soap opera, it is anything but. As this movie progresses it becomes deeper and deeper. Buttressed by an outstanding cast with terrific performances by Patrick Wilson as the object of her affections, and Patton Oswalt, as her former high school nerd classmate with whom she becomes reacquainted in a bar.
Watching Theron pursue Wilson as her relationship with Oswalt develops is a thing of beauty. But better than the acting, the film is a thought-provoking study of the morality of a young woman who, in the eyes of her contemporaries, has everything. Directed by Jason Reitman, with whom Cody collaborated on Juno, all three give award–quality performances. Also contributing with a fine performance as Wilson’s wife is Elizabeth Reaser.
While this is a serious movie, there are some uproarious lines in it. I’m told that the one I thought was the funniest is in the movie’s trailer. Had I heard it in the trailer, I wouldn’t have thought it funny, and it couldn’t have had the impact seeing it in the trailer, since it would be completely out of context. My feeling is that the numbskulls who create the trailers for movies and either show the entire story encapsulated into a minute or show the three or four best lines in the movie should be subject to Capital Punishment without benefit of trial. No trial is needed because there is no defense for ruining a good movie by showing its best parts in a trailer.
While some movies rely on ridiculous but eye-popping special effects or gutter language to keep the audience’s attention, this one relies on wonderful dialogue and a challenging situation to do so, and this is a much more rewarding way to become involved in a movie. While this might not be for everyone, it most certainly was for me. I’d give Oscar® nominations for Cody, Reitman, and the four leading cast members.