Tom Cruise is the greatest movie star to ever live. Quite a statement to make of course, but after watching and rewatching several of his movies (including the entire Mission Impossible franchise) over the past few months, I've come to this conclusion, and Fallout only reinforces this belief. Fallout is a perfect culmination of the entire MI franchise, taking to heart every lesson learned along the way about what does and what doesn't work. It knows when to play things seriously, when to inject a few laughs, when to end an action scene and when to start a new one, when and how to play with the audiences expectations, and most importantly: it knows how to enjoy itself. In this impeccably made blockbuster of a film, Cruise goes all out, showcasing his charisma and his stuntwork to degrees previously unseen, and anchoring the entire production in a way that no one else on Earth could. Tom Cruise is the Mission Impossible franchise, he has a star power that brings people back over and over just to see him. We all heard the stories about him breaking his ankle and then finishing the shot anyway, we all know by now how he does every single one of his own stunts, how he is the one flying that helicopter, making that HALO jump, driving that motorcycle. The entire franchise is one giant, well-funded reason for audiences around the world to watch Tom Cruise do insane stunts, and I will never, ever grow tired of watching the results.
Film as an art form is one that has evolved in so many striking ways over the last century, as people have discovered new ways to use the medium to convey to the audience what they want to say. So many things have changed about how movies are made and watched, but one thing that we have collectively understood and embraced since the very beginning is the power of a film to deliver a message. Going all the way back to movies like Intolerance or The Great Dictator, filmmakers have made powerful and relevant statements through their movies, with the desire to stir the audience to some sort of action. Blindspotting proudly carries on this tradition, drawing some deserved comparisons to Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing in it's bold and scathing criticisms of racial relations. In some ways, Blindspotting is a weaker film, not as technically or narratively tight, and sometimes failing to establish enough thematic consistency to feel as elegant as Do The Right Thing is. In other more important ways though, Blindspotting delivers a punch to the gut nearly as powerful and equally as relevant, and more than any movie in a long time, it makes me mad. It makes me want to grab every single upper-middle class white American I know and drag them to the theater so that they can for a single moment understand the terror that people like Colin live with every single day of their lives.
Paprika is the final full-length film of the visionary director Satoshi Kon, who passed at the young age of 46. His previous movies like Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress captures the attention and imagination of his home country, but Paprika left a lasting impression that still seems to resonate with a wider audience than he ever reached before. This may partially be due to the emotional complexity and sometimes extremely dark themes of his other films, but even beyond that, Paprika is in a way a culmination and perfection of the visual style he spent so long working towards. Visually, Paprika is a masterpiece. It is brilliantly inventive and playful, doing things with the camera and with the actors that a live-action film never could, and using these things to establish a dream-like atmosphere that is perhaps as close to actual dreaming as I've ever seen in any movie. This film should be required viewing for anyone who believes in the camera's ability to transport an audience to other worlds, and anyone who lacks an understanding of the magic that animation can bring to a film when utilized by a master like Kon.
It didn't really hit me til the next night. I had gone to see Hereditary, but unfortunately my movie-going experience was less than perfect and that became the overriding narrative of the evening. I enjoyed the movie immensely, and while I was watching it I was extremely unnerved, but my thoughts didn't dwell too much on it. I got distracted. It wasn't until the next night that I lay in bed thinking about some of the brilliant imagery of the movie, that I really started to feel the fear creeping in. My chest tightened thinking about the things that happened in Hereditary, my pulse elevated, and suddenly I felt the incredible urge to look around my room to make sure I was the only one there. This movie didn't destroy me or make my brain explode like some claim, but it did leave me with something that no other horror movie has been able to do to me thus far: a lingering fear that extends past the day of. Maybe fear isn't the correct word, maybe dread, or maybe there just isn't a single word for the feelings I get when I think of this movie and of the many memorable scenes it includes. One thing is for sure though, in terms of imagery alone, Hereditary is memorable, and it's scary.
To steal from a podcast that I listen to, tone management is one of the most important jobs that a director has. Many first time directors seem to struggle for this, not quite accomplishing a consistent tone across their film, which can confuse audiences as to how they're supposed to be feeling. Tonal consistency is how Martin McDonagh movies can make you laugh, then have a heart-wrenching scene a few moments later and still remain effective. Both those emotions come from the same place, and it's important to keep such things in mind. Pearce here has not gone for anything quite as crazy as McDonagh's sometimes wild roller-coasters of emotion, but he has managed to achieve something that other inexperienced directors seem to not quite get, and that's the ability to toy with your audiences emotions without muddying the tone and themes of your film. Make no mistake, Beast is a movie that constantly pits your own expectations against you and fills you with doubt, confusion, and dread, but only in terms of the actual narrative. The core of this movie remains unflinching, and though it evolves over the course of the film (as it should), it remains solid in it's message and undeviating in it's central themes.