The screen critic: Tom Cruise’s latest mission, a girls-behaving-badly comedy, and a Wham! documentary

Jul 14, 2023
Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part 1 (Paramount); Lily LaTorre in Run Rabbit Run (Netflix); George Michael & Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! (Netflix). Image: Supplied

Seven films in and world-conquering superstar Tom Cruise – now 60, would you believe  – continues to set the standard for big-screen action with Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part 1.

The job this time around for Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and recruit Hayley Atwell) is to retrieve a special key that will unlock a frightening new weapon that lies at the bottom of the Arctic Sea inside a sunken Russian submarine.

Adding to the fun and giving this mega-sized slice of escapism a strong topical edge is a rogue Artificial Intelligence program that has become self-aware and is threatening to take over the world (as they always do).

At 163 minutes the caper is long by about half an hour – and this is only the first part! – yet there’s no arguing with the film’s visual sweep and cinematic bravado as Cruise puts himself front-and-centre in some breath-taking action scenes, including a ripping car chase through Rome.

As undoubtedly enjoyable and occasionally enthralling as it is, including a nice lacing of humour throughout, MI:7 is full of stunts and ideas we’ve seen before, only here rendered with huge splashes of style and scale.

That seems to be the rule of the 21st-century Hollywood blockbuster – if you can’t dream up something original, borrow from the best and supersize it.

Speaking of which, the film’s splendid climactic train sequence includes Cruise’s already-famous motorcycle jump off a sheer cliff (a la The Spy Who Loved Me). 

The intricate preparation and execution of the stunt has been so well-publicized via YouTube and media coverage that when the moment itself happens in the film it seems a tad underwhelming, with some rather obvious digital work masking the huge ramp Cruise rode off. It’s still impressive.

There’s more raucous girls-behaving-badly comedy on offer in Joy Ride, a decidedly foul-mouthed, adults-only jape following in the newly minted naughty tradition of Bridesmaids, Rough Night, Girls Trip, Trainwreck and such like.

Adopted into a white family as a child, aspiring lawyer Audrey Sullivan (Ashley Park) heads to her native China to secure a big business deal that relies on her finding her birth mother.

With three friends along for the ride, there’s plenty of dirty talk about their voracious sexual appetites, some of which is funny, much of which just sounds like it’s straining to be funny. Vulgarity can be entertaining, but here it often spews forth for its own sake.

It’s not a bad Friday-night time killer, but you won’t miss anything if you wait for it to stream.

Only the easily scared and fans of this horror franchise will get much enjoyment from Insidious: The Red Door, the fifth and far from last in the series about the most haunted family in America. Lead actor Patrick Wilson directs from the cliche handbook, so if you’re after anything new or exciting, avoid it.

For a far more effective scare-fest, check out  Run Rabbit Run on Netflix, a nifty, sharply directed Australian psycho-thriller about 

beleaguered mother Sarah (Sarah Snook from Succession) whose young daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre, in a terrific performance) begins exhibiting strange behaviours that suggest she’s playing host to a long lost spirit. Very good stuff.

The excellent Netflix documentary Wham! takes us on a bumpy ride through the creation of the titular hit single factory formed in the early 1980s by Andrew Ridgeley and the late George Michael, two school pals who took the world by storm in four short years.

Consisting mostly of archival footage and clippings from detailed scrapbooks maintained by Ridgeley’s mother (an invaluable archive, as it turned out), the story is narrated by Ridgeley and Michael as they detail their wild journey.

Honest to a fault, they describe how the euphoria of early fame came with the bitter downside of mismanagement, depriving them of hard-earned royalties.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the tale is how Ridgeley slowly came to recognise how Michael was the real star, both creatively and as the duo’s heartthrob drawcard.

While fans will eat it up, chances are those who weren’t Wham! fans will appreciate this extremely well-made, respectful nostalgia trip through the early 1980s as director Chris Smith (Tiger King) looks beyond the froth and bubble of the band’s image to focus on the price stardom and ambition can exact.

If you’re in the mood for some satisfying silliness The Out-Laws serves up a very funny twist on the Meet the Parents scenario, only with much more shooting and car chasing.

As ambitious young bank manager Owen Browning (Adam DeVine) prepares to wed Parker (Nina Dobrev), his plans are up-ended when he discovers her parents (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin) are major underworld figures with a major debt.

As a caper comedy, the film hits all the right notes, with the daffy DeVine (Workaholics) playing a hapless Joe trying to keep control of his life while Brosnan and Barkin eat up their roles as high-end criminals, with Brosnan cracking the inevitable James Bond gag.

Spicing up the hijinks is a very impressive action sequence featuring lots of old-school, CGI-free car stunts and a merry romp through a cemetery where all the headstones appear to be made of foam.

Great fun. Catch it on Netflix.

For more visit with updates on Twitter at @jimschembri 

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