We prepped by rewatching part one, where Kittridge was a standout, just the gov’t boss who has to say all the plotty dialogue, but he turns it into a twitchy physical performance, so we were psyched for his big return. I think I got the plot here, but not the allegiances – Cruise and Kittridge are both trying to destroy the world-domination superconnected AI, but Kittridge’s guys (Shea Wigham from a lotta shows and a guy named Tarzan from Top Gun 2) keep shooting at Cruise. Thief Hayley Atwell is a welcome addition, comes fully onboard just as Rebecca Ferguson checks out. Rhames and Pegg are trying to be the tech help when tech can no longer be trusted. Weapons broker Vanessa Kirby (soon to be Joaquin’s Josephine) is excellent as herself and her mask-self. Human baddie Gabriel (Esai Morales of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit) is both an AI stooge and a boogeyman from Cruise’s pre-agent past, who falls out with his muscle Pom “Mantis” Klementieff at the last minute. After a thousand sleight-of-hand tricks, Cruise has the key and knows it unlocks a beta version of the AI in a sunken submarine… somewhere in the world.

John Woo’s follow-up to Blackjack, a Dolph Lundgren movie I’d never heard of before this moment. But he was obviously chosen based on his Face/Off experience in mask-based deception, and his ability to make dudes look extremely cool riding motorcycles, wearing leather jackets and sunglasses, kicking ass surrounded by explosions, jumping through the air whilst firing two guns.

Thandiwe Newton bounces between hero and villain (Dougray Scott of Ever After). Anthony Hopkins too embarrassed to be credited as the mission leader even though his other credit that year was the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. Aussies: Ving is joined by John Polson in the chopper and the baddie is assisted by finger-trauma Richard Roxburgh. Evil henchman William Mapother had been in Magnolia, but I think not in the Cruise scenes, and the scientist who sets off the whole plot by creating a supervirus runs the costume shop in Eyes Wide Shut. Bad guys just want to spread the virus across Sydney after securing stock options in Brendan Gleeson’s chem company that will manufacture the cure, and stock options are a boring reason to get the whole IMF on your ass, killing you and your friends, but at least they do it in style.

This was fun. Bad guy Sean Harris is back from part five, Henry Cavill is a traitorous team member, Rebecca Ferguson is a badass, Vanessa Kirby (TV’s The Crown) an arms dealer, Angela Bassett the new boss when Alec Baldwin gets killed. Ends with some more impressive-looking helicopter stunts than in part one, a clifftop battle, and nuclear weapons set to destroy a significant chunk of the world’s population beginning with Ethan’s wife Michelle Monaghan.

Rewatched for the first time since theaters (?) in prep for M:I:6:Fallout, and it was much fun. I remembered Emilio Estevez’s elevator death, but not that it happens in the opening sequence and that he dies along with the entire team of Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Béart (not really dead) and her husband and team leader Jon Voight (also not dead, and the secret double-agent mole who planned the whole thing to frame Tom Cruise and make off with the secret documents or whatever). On the side of evil Voight are Jean Reno, who dies in the preposterous helicopter-in-the-train-tunnel finale, and Vanessa Redgrave, who is just quietly arrested. I was impressed by the rubber-masks game, recalling the advanced digital trickery in M:I:4:Ghost:Protocol, and then happily, part six featured just as many rubber masks.

Dramatic camera angles, first-person shots and entire subjective scenes which play differently in flashback, because it’s still De Palma.

Team 1: Estevez (his last appearance in a theatrical film that he didn’t direct), Cruise (same year as Jerry Maguire), Béart (right between her two major Rivette films), and Burnt by the Sun star Ingeborga Dapkunaite:

Cruise and K.S.T., lurking:

Neither of us could recall what happened in any previous Mission: Impossible movie, but it didn’t seem that important. Confusing exposition scenes – afterwards we wondered why the secret accounts stored in the data vault protected by the underwater red box coded by the prime minister’s biometrics had continued to accumulate massive funds for the hypothetical secret project, when the PM thought the project had been cancelled, and if someone was routing that money counter to the PM’s wishes, why he wouldn’t have stored it somewhere more accessible. But the rest of the movie is fab action scenes and Simon Pegg quips, and that’s what we came for.

Evil Simon Pegg:

McQuarrie also cowrote Edge of Tomorrow, directed Jack Reacher. It’s a less distinctive-looking movie than the others, and less ecstatically wonderful than part four. Whichever film critic said this was equal to Mad Max: Fury Road was high. Action scenes could’ve been more coherent looking. Gripes aside, a solid movie with good shootouts and motorcycle chases, an intense-as-ever Cruise and his great comic sidekick Pegg. Jeremy Renner is reduced to a talking head, Ving Rhames is barely in the movie, and Alec Baldwin plays their boss. Swedish newcomer Rebecca Ferguson (Queen Elizabeth in a recent British miniseries) is the latest in a string of interchangeable M:I women, working for three different sides and looking stylish doing it. Simon McBurney is a slimy head of british intelligence and our evil mastermind is Sean Harris, the punk rock geologist in Prometheus, who looks upsettingly similar to Simon Pegg. Katy was annoyed that they keep referring to the IMF (“Impossible Mission Force”) and also mention the World Bank (related to the real IMF).

Definite proof that Pegg and Harris are different people:

M. D’Angelo: “[McQuarrie] found, in Rebecca Ferguson, the first woman to make a real impression in this boys’ club. Every time she removes her shoes, look out.”

AKA Live.Rinse.Repeat. I didn’t recognise a mustachioed Bill Paxton in charge of the fighting unit which disgraced PR guy Tom Cruise gets sent to. After Tom’s gruesome melty death from the acid blood of a rare alien beast, he gains its power to re-live a day over and over again, retaining memories from previous iterations. So it’s a less romantic Groundhog Day, but instead of the occasional comic death scene, it’s constant death scenes, Cruise having to get every single detail exactly right or else die, often at the hands of lesser aliens, or shot by teammate Emily Blunt (Looper), who built a super-soldier reputation because she once had the same Groundhog Day alien-blood power.

Liman made Swingers and Jumper. Based on a novel, adapted by Chris McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, The Usual Suspects) and the Butterworths (James Brown bio Get On Up).

Tom Cruise face-melt:

So, in the straightforward ending, pre-crime dept. head Max Von Sydow murdered precog Samantha Morton’s inconvenient mother and good cop Colin Farrell, while Cruise’s ex-wife springs him from The Attic to bring justice and a happy ending. But an article Katy found says the ending is too idyllic and perhaps Cruise never awoke from The Attic, but actually dreams the last half hour Brazil-style. I love that the movie works either way.

Highlights: creepy doctor Peter Stormare and the following scene with retina-scanning spiders invading his apartment complex, Cruise escaping via auto assembly line, Morton’s freaked-out performance, the still-exciting technology and how most of it is becoming real. Katy is hung up on the mismatched architecture/design styles of all the interiors.

March 2077: I’ll be on an airplane, so I grab the dumbest-looking movie I can find at work to watch through a dramamine haze. A Tom Cruise actioner from last year that I already have no recollection of: that’ll do nicely. I’m playing a feature-length game of “spot the reference,” as it seems to have been concocted from scraps of sci-fi thrillers past. It’s all a bit silly, but undeniably strong-looking, and its sleek production design (and the face of To The Wonder’s Olga Kurylenko) lingered in my mind afterwards.

Cruise plays a Wall-E type named Jack Reacher, left behind to clean up earth after everyone else has moved into space. But he’s also a Moon type, since it turns out Cruise is thousands of clones of himself (maybe that’s more Galactica), and it turns out humanity survives underground and the “people” in space are evil aliens (who blew up the moon in an obvious Mr. Show reference) using fake video images of Melissa Leo to interact with their clone slaves. But Cruise is not a slave, likes to read classic literature and builds a rustic nature shack and nurtures a potted plant and watches Hello Dolly on a creaky old tube TV. No he doesn’t, but it’s funny how the human stuff Cruise salvages for his shack is already old now – classic rock LPs and antique-looking refrigerators.

Clone Cruise has a Clone Wife (Andrea Riseborough of Happy-Go-Lucky) but dreams of Olga, and when she crash-lands after being in orbit for however-many years, they team up with the undergrounders (led by Morgan Freeman) to nuke the mothership, threatened by spherical alien drones with great bassy doom-growl voices (clearly the presence of flying death orbs in a film called OblIVion is a shout to the fourth Phantasm movie).

“Copy 4-0-9, tasking 1-8-5 to grid 2-2.” The movie likes saying numbers aloud, and its mix of all-knowing and easily-fooled technology is nearly plot-hole-worthy – for instance, after Cruise goes for a walk the robots can track his DNA from the air at speed, a light-up trail tracing his exact path, but they always take ten seconds of him yelling his name at them before they stop threatening him with guns. And the planet seems to be all mapped into robot-patrolled grids within alien-drawn neighborhoods, each manned by a Tom Cruise, but his entire Walden shack goes unnoticed for years, and when he follows a homing beacon all the way from base, he doesn’t even know what kind of structure the signal is coming from until he walks right up to it. So they’ve gotten both better and worse than google maps. But I like the all-white Apple-like alien tech with its triangular motif, and the effects are cool and the M83 music pretty great.

We have the technology. The time is now. Science can wait no longer. Children are our future. America can, should, must and WILL blow up the moon! And we’ll be doing it during a full moon, so we make sure we get it all.

Thinking about this movie again thanks to Room 237. It’s nice to sit down with a “proper film” like Wolf of Wall Street, an austere classic like Winter Light, an idiosyncratic puzzle like Upstream Color, but in some ways, Kubrick knocks them all on their asses. From the start it has a commanding power and grace that seems unreal. It’s a motherfucker of a movie.

At a party, Dr. Bill meets his med school friend (Pianist Nick) and two hot babes, but he escapes upstairs to help save host Sydney Pollack’s prostitute from an overdose, while Bill’s wife Alice (for once, seemingly not a Lewis Carroll reference) dances drunkenly all night with a suave Hungarian.

That night, Alice accuses Bill of infidelity, mocks his total confidence in her by confessing an infatuation with a naval officer last year.

Called away because friend Marion’s father has just died, she confesses her love for Dr. Bill just before her boyfriend arrives.

After being pushed aside by rowdy homophobes, Bill allows himself to be taken inside with prostitute Domino (Vinessa Shaw of The Hill Have Eyes Remake), who has masks on her walls, foreshadowing many masks to come, but after a call from his wife he leaves.

Bill comes across the bar where his pianist friend (Todd Field of The Haunting Remake) plays, and wrestles the details of Nick’s next engagement out of him.

Fully flowing wherever this weird evening will take him, Bill goes to a costume shop to get a mask and cloak, awakens the proprietor (Rade Serbedzija, Boris the Blade in Snatch) who discovers his young daughter fooling around with a pair of Japanese men in wigs.

To the masked ball, where it turns out Bill is immediately suspected for having arrived via taxi. Much nudity, an actually-pretty-tame orgy, and taunting masks everywhere as Bill gets caught and kicked out.

The next morning things aren’t going too well for people Bill met last night. Nick has disappeared (according to hotel clerk Alan Cumming), the costume shop man has reached an “arrangement” with the wig men and offers to rent out his daughter to Bill, Domino got news that she’s HIV positive, and Pollack’s prostitute (who Bill suspects was his rescuer at the masked ball) has turned up dead.

Pollack has Bill over to talk him down, and Bill arrives home to see his wife has found the mask, so he tells Alice everything.

The next day they go toy shopping with their daughter. Alice: “Maybe I think we should be grateful – grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.”

Cruise plays so overconfident that his character seems on the verge of being a huge asshole, flashing his doctor’s license all over town like a cop, but he also plays unhappiness and remorse so well that it’s hard to judge. Kidman spends too much of her screen time drunk or stoned, moving and speaking very slowly, but nails the last few scenes.

I enjoyed Rosenbaum’s article, and a detailed analysis of symbols on Vigilant Citizen. I knew I’d easily find such a thing, based on the level of Kubrick analysis/lunacy displayed in Room 237.

From an amazing article by Tim Kreider in Film Comment (although note that he buys into the Room 237 theory of The Shining being about the massacre of the Native Americans):

The real pornography in this film is in its lingering, overlit depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of end-of-the-millennium Manhattan, and of the obscene effect of that wealth on the human soul, and on society. National reviewers’ myopic focus on sex and the shallow psychologies of the film’s central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element in the film – the trappings of stupendous wealth, the references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, the Christmastime setting, or even the sum spent by Dr. Harford on a single illicit night out – suggests more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Stanley Kubrick’s inadequacies as a pornographer. … Kubrick’s films are never only about individuals. (Sometimes, as in the case of 2001, they hardly even contain any.) They are always about civilization, about human history.