Review of ‘Mission Impossible 5’ and ‘Trainwreck’. Part of an occasional movie review series.

Why, oh why, choose ‘Mission Impossible 5’ (‘MI’ hereafter)? A moment of madness on another long haul, which I put down to a fortnight of bad sleep, unable to adjust to Japan time. Spookily peopled exclusively by dwarves (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Tom Hollander), this movie is unrelenting crap. In fact, I will use the term ‘gobshite’, brought out only on special occasions. This is despite the fact it was largely filmed in the UK. Whoever bankrolled this should be put against a wall and shot, or at least forced to watch the entire ‘MI’ oeuvre with eyelids held open forcibly, ‘Clockwork Orange’-style. The guilty, judging by product placement, include BMW and Tissot. ‘Casino Royale’, with dear, dear James, worked hard at advertising, but somehow made it classy and ironic. But ‘MI5’ takes things too far, feeling horribly intrusive; at one point, car chase action breaks away to show the proximity alarm on the BMW dashboard. At several stages, BMW palm print security is used to open car doors. Really? Is this what it has come to?

Right, that’s the rant over. Let’s talk in more detail. First, the dwarf thing. I have nothing against dwarves. Some of my favourite actors are dwarves: think of Peter Dinklage in ‘Game of Thrones’, Warwick Davis in the monumental ‘Willow’. Granted, I am freakishly tall, which means a skewed life view. But to make an entire movie with the sole aim of making Tom look average height is just plain wrong. Never have I seen such an ensemble of short actors, clearly to avoid eclipsing Tom. Let’s hope they didn’t film ‘MI5’ in the UK winter; they must have poached dwarves from pantos the length and breadth of the land. And don’t get me started on the whole British thing. It just makes the movie look more like ‘Austin Powers’. Plotlines that stretch plausibility are expected in ‘MI’, but having London filled with red telephone boxes, and have them work, is a step too far. We all know that the final remaining boxes are only for use as urinals and/or advertising space for working girls. Jarringly, most street lighting in ‘MI5’ seems to comprise Victorian gas lamps; roads are paved with cobbles, red post boxes occur on every corner. Which part of London was this filmed in? I am guessing the set of ‘Ripper Street’.

Need we discuss plot? I think you can guess. There is a deadly new threat to the world, in the shape of a Spectre-like organization. Yawn. Remember that major air crash, Indonesian assassination, and financial crash in Hong Kong? They were all engineered, apparently, to cause anarchy. Blah, blah, blah. And, to resolve this sad state of affairs, Tom/Ethan Hunt goes rogue (again). Tom/Ethan Hunt is disowned by his own organization (again), and I don’t mean the Church of Scientology. Tom/Ethan Hunt meets a beautiful, but deadly assassin who initially tries to kill him, but ends up loving him (again). Oh, and Tom/Ethan Hunt rides a powerful motorbike (again). The writing is by numbers and instantly forgettable.

The film is remarkably coy, surely going beyond the requirements of a 12A certificate. Not a drop of blood is seen, despite the high body count and numerous headshots. There is no nudity. There is even a moment when said deadly assassin emerges, dripping and bikini clad, from a pool. Any filmmaker worth his/her salt would have shown a lingering foot-to-face panning shot. It is de rigueur for spy movies. Not in this film. Clearly, the heavy hand of Tom prevailed in the editing suite.  And, I won’t spoil it by revealing no kiss is exchanged, only a hug. Maybe Tom still has latent feelings for Katy, but I suspect his tastes lie elsewhere?

By the way, have you heard that Tom does all his own stunts? Right. And I own a Ferrari and start work for Médecins Sans Frontières next week………..

Second film. ‘Trainwreck’. I watched this because I enjoy Amy Schumer. She falls clearly into the sassy generation of female comics pushing the boundaries of taste, along the lines of ‘Two Broke Girls’. Nothing is off limits in her routines, as she over-shares her own sexual misfortunes. Watch the celebrity roast of Charlie Sheen on Youtube to get an idea.

I have talked about the maths of independent films before. Something similar exists in the comedy-romcom world. It is the well-known Judd Apatow formula. Think of the ’40 year old Virgin’, ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Bridesmaids’, all of them successful and funny. The mainstay is the exceptionally dry delivery of very rude conversations, normally in inappropriate places, such as classrooms, restaurants and doctor’s surgeries. Words are spoken by unexpected people, such as children or pensioners. Gross out situations are contrived, normally in the bedroom, though in ‘Bridesmaids’ a wedding dress studio and street sufficed.

The plot of ‘Trainwreck’, for what it is worth; as a child, Amy is brainwashed by her bitter, divorced father into thinking monogamy unnatural. Like some of my geo colleagues, she pursues an orgiastic and irresponsible life, full of one-night stands and substance abuse. Her sister chooses a conventional path, marriage to a dork and saccharine kids; she is the foil to Amy, the Laurel to her Hardy. Of course, Amy then meets a doctor who seems to be ‘The One’. Admirably, this ‘knee surgeon to the stars’, is played by a distinctly unconventional Hollywood type, Bill Hader. Pigeon-chested, his arms are skinnier than mine and he has a little paunch. His face has a Jim Carrey-like plasticity. He is the one (small) saving grace. The film also features a ball-breaking British boss (Tilda Swinton, a near neighbour in northeast Scotland), a Dad with dementia, and a nursing home riddled with foul-mouthed geriatrics. Hilarity ensues, or should ensue.

The Apatow formula is applied in ‘Trainwreck’, unrelentingly. But here, instead of the hilarious Paul Rudd, a most underrated comedic actor, the words come from Amy’s mouth. And it doesn’t quite work. I cannot put my finger on it, but, unlike Steve Martin, who made the transition from stand-up to film brilliantly, Amy Schumer does not. The jokes fall flat or seem forced. The plot arc follows the Apatow or Bridget Jones formula: girl or boy meets, or becomes allied with, a badly behaved or socially inferior partner. They have a crisis, normally induced by: a) infidelity, b) falling off the wagon, or c) revealed secrets. Separation, self-pity and substance abuse follow until, finally, a reconciliation wraps up the movie. It involves the hero/heroine rushing to catch their partner before they board a plane, train or bus. Otherwise, this reconciliation occurs in some other public arena, such as a subway, football stadium or dance competition.  A microphone is generally involved. Cue kiss, zoom out to show big city overview, and roll feel good soundtrack. End credits.

Final verdict, ‘Trainwreck’ is a huge disappointment. Unfortunately, Amy’s vagina- and pooh-centric stand-up jokes simply get recycled. With every passing minute, it becomes obvious that the film cannot decide if it is a romcom or a gross-out comedy. It therefore falls between two stools, no pun implied, failing at both. The finale, which sees nonathletic Amy join an overly choreographed cheerleader routine, is embarrassing. Ugh, lazier writing cannot be imagined. Amy should stick to stand-up comedy until she gets better scripts. Ironic, because she wrote this one.

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