Fire all the writers

Here’s what passes for creativity in the new Mission Impossible: Fallout movie: you know how it’s a standard cliche in this kind of movie to have the ticking time bomb with the red LED display counting down to the explosion and you know the hero is going to disarm it in the last second or two? That wasn’t good enough for this movie. No, they had to increase the threat by having two bombs that are synchronized, and if you don’t cut the green wire in both of them simultaneously, they’ll explode, because they’re in radio communication with each other.

But wait! Even that won’t work. The countdown timer is locked in to inevitable detonation, and if you tinker with either of them, they’ll go off. It’s impossible to stop the bomb once triggered.

Except! There is a remote detonator that triggered the countdown, and there is a bug in the software so that if you yank the key out of the detonator AND cut the green wires in both bombs at the same time, then the bombs will fizzle. Of course, the remote detonator has a red LED countdown on it, too.

No spoilers here, so I won’t tell you if the Mission Impossible team manages to coordinate this triple shutdown, and I especially won’t tell you if they do it in the last second. If you can’t figure it out, you deserve to watch this movie.

One other detail I have to share. The terrorist leader who was responsible for this intricate, complex bomb mechanism that would have Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames racing to do precisely choreographed things to the ridiculous circuitry was such a fanatic that he had suicidally decided to stay with his bombs to watch them go off and see his enemies vanquished. And I’m thinking that all he needed was one simple button that he could push that would instantly trigger the nuclear explosion. No timers needed. No fancy schmancy radio links. Just “Ah, Ethan Hunt, my hated enemy. You have landed in my base…”<click>BOOOOM!. The whole elaborate setup was irrelevant.

There were other lapses in reason. Ethan Hunt kills a pilot flying his helicopter, leaps into the seat, taps quizzically on a dial in the complex array of instruments in front of him, and says “I guess that’s my altitude” — this is apparently the first time he’s flown a helicopter — and then proceeds to go on a dizzying high speed, ground- and cliff-hugging helicopter chase through rugged mountain valleys. No problem. He finally catches up with the bad guy’s helicopter, and his solution is a kamikaze collision that has both of them smoking and on fire in shattered machines crashing onto a mountaintop. They both survive. Then the choppers roll down the mountainside and over a cliff. They both survive. Then they fall through a cliffside chimney, all herkey-jerkey like, and during the descent Ethan Hunt jumps into the bad guy’s chopper and they punch each other. The helicopters crash to the ground. They both survive. They punch and kick some more. One helicopter rolls over yet another cliff, and is hanging by a long cable. But of course they end up clinging to that cable at a terrifying height, punching and kicking each other. Then the cable snaps. Helicopter falls, finally explodes.

Only one survives. If you can’t figure out who, then this is the movie for you.

Also, Alec Baldwin gets murdered a couple of times, I lost track. He keeps coming back anyway. I could tell you that the entire cast gets vaporized in a nuclear explosion or flaming helicopter crash, and it wouldn’t matter. The key grip or the caterer would just rip off a rubber mask, revealing Tom Cruise was in disguise the whole time, and the movie could proceed.

It was predictable and trite throughout. There was only one mystery: Henry Cavill’s mustache. Cavill had appeared as Superman in that bomb, Justice League, and was shooting Mission Impossible: Fallout when he was called back for some reshoots. As Superman, he was cleanshaven; as Walker, CIA agent, he’s got an ugly stubbly beard and mustache. They decided that rather than delaying the reshoots and simply shaving, they would spend $3 million to erase his mustache with some bad, obvious CGI.

Clearly, his mustache was very important to this movie. I kept watching and waiting for the moment when it crawls off his face to do some derring-do, like a gunfight or a motorcycle chase, since it’s got a $3 million value (hey, I’ll shave my mustache off for $3 million!). Spoiler alert: it never does. It just sits there on his lip, the entire movie, daydreaming about its bank account.

There is one remaining mystery. Cavill was in one ghastly stinker of a movie, Justice League, and now he’s come back with yet another stinker, Mission Impossible: Fallout. Is his career like those falling helicopters? Boom, crash, it doesn’t matter. Crash again. Stagger out, waving his fists. Tumble off a cliff, kick, punch. But at some point, the writers will insist on a giant flaming explosion and a death he can’t survive. Probably.

(Suddenly, PZ Myers claws at a wad of latex over his face, peeling it back to reveal…the craggy, strong-jawed good looks of Henry Cavill! Cue Mission Impossible theme. Cue ka-ching, ka-ching as cash pours into his bank account. Cue next crappy movie.)


  1. zetopan says

    To be fair you have to compare that movie to other current movies; you know, the ones using comic books as their “reference” material. Then everything in the current movie industry makes the exact same (non)sense.

    PS: it’s ALL bad, which is why we haven’t been to a movie theatre in several years. Netflix makes watching bad movies far less costly and you can start and stop the movie at a whim.

  2. weylguy says

    Our hero might have resorted to using a variant of the Vaidman–Elitzer bomb test apparatus to defuse the devices, but that would have far exceeded the intelligence of the Mission Impossible crowd. No, they want to see action sequences involving Tom Cruise hanging onto the outside of jet aircraft taking off and similar impossible nonsense.

    Shame on Myers for even going to see the latest installment of this tired series.

  3. willj says

    You have to be pretty bored to watch movies like this. The writers start by dreaming up flashy scenes and then try to come up with a story to connect them. It ends up being incoherent, but the audience doesn’t care. I remember Cavill as the Duke of Suffolk from The Tudors series. A total miscast, as was Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII.

  4. iiandyiiii says

    I turned of my brain and enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but then I understand that not everyone likes that sort of thing.

  5. robertmatthews says

    It IS stupid: nothing makes a lick of sense, the car chase is tired and uninteresting, and the only real draw is knowing that Cruise did all his own stunts (I don’t understand how these movies get insurance). But it’s the kind of stupid that you know is going to be stupid, so you turn off your brain and enjoy the air conditioning. I didn’t mind it much.

    However, may I recommend “The Spy Who Dumped Me”? It’s not only hilarious, it’s about two women who have a deep friendship that’s actually an important plot point: one scene stops the action (deliberately and obviously) so that one can tell the other, “I know you think you’re a fuck-up but you’re completely amazing and brave and wonderful.” The same character has not one but two scenes in which she demands that a higher-up in MI-6 take the two of them seriously as accomplished women and potential spies. Even the cookie-cutter assassin — she’s a fashion model, too! — has a back story and an emotional throughline. The car chase is actually better than the one in Mission: Impossible. And it’s hilarious!

  6. Ichthyic says

    No spoilers here, so I won’t tell you if the Mission Impossible team manages to coordinate this triple shutdown

    no worries, I already feel triple shutdown just by the description of the movie.

  7. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin thinks it makes perfect sense: Take a group of $cientologi$t$, put them on machines emitting GHGs, and watch the planet vanish in a hot puff of absurdity.


    Anything involving Tom Cruise is an promotion for the destruction of rationality and existence. He, and anyone who employs, him should be absolutely boycotted. There is no inherent difference between his nonsense and Goop, religion, or woo-woo.

  8. says

    The MIssion Impossible II was the only movie where I walked out of the theatre mid screening. In never felt the impulse to watch anything from that franchise ever since.

  9. mnb0 says

    You’re slow, Charly – I never felt that impulse after The Mission Impossible I, which I saw on TV.
    Of it course it doesn’t help that Tom Cruise tries to be as cool as Alain Delon but always fails.

  10. brett says

    I enjoyed it, but the Mission: Impossible movies are the film equivalent of roller coaster rides. The plot is just a way to string together action scenes at a fast pace, and there’s not much in the way of characterization or depth to them.

    I like that Ethan Hunt is a pretty shallow character. He does all these missions because at the end of the day, it’s what he’s good at and he likes saving people (and is unhappy when he’s not doing that). If Cruise ever decides he’s tired of doing these, they can just kill off Hunt in Mission Impossible 8 or 9 and have one of the other folks take over as the lead.

  11. says

    @mnb0, well I never saw Mission Impossible I. Mission Impossible II was my first intentional encounter with the franchise. And last.

  12. komarov says

    They decided that rather than delaying the reshoots and simply shaving, they would spend $3 million to erase his mustache with some bad, obvious CGI.

    Perhaps the work was secretly funded by a bunch of three-letter agencies. Just you wait and see what happens next time you try to sneak past a security camera wearing a false mustache…

  13. says

    Reminds me of a youtube vid comparing the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie with most of the Star Wars prequels, in which the main comments where, “And, here again, Lucas proves he doesn’t know how humans work.”, or, “The fight scene that goes on and on, with no dialog, or character development, between Anikan and Kenobi was literally written, in script, as, ‘scene changes to this…and they fight’, over and over again.”, compared to, “Pretty much every single scene, including the fight between Will and Jack, in the smithy, is series of actions, with pauses between, in which we get details about the characters, and their motivations, and hints at events that will happen later in the movie.” The guys wasn’t so big on the rest of the Pirates series, and hated the last one, where literally everyone was scum, other than the guy that, maybe was, or wasn’t, we never know, drown by the mermaid he blandly falls in love with, while being as uninteresting as possible. lol

    But, yeah, The whole original series of Mission Impossible, on TV was about complexity, and seemingly unsolvable problems. However, this seems, from PZs description, to be purely a case of, “Well, we have already had someone do two bombs, linked together, and even had a few cases of, ‘both will go off if you mess with them’, etc., so… how do we come up with something even more impossible. Oh, and we need to be able to have the bad guy’s ass kicked too, in the end, instead of getting away, or getting caught later.” Because.. that wouldn’t have been more flipping interesting, or something…

  14. albz says

    They didn’t read the fantastic “Evil Overlord List” from the ’90s:

    #15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

  15. says

    Greg Morris, Peter Graves, and Martin Landau were all less than impressed with the first film. Not surprising given that Jim Phelps gets turned into the main bad guy. Apparently there was talk at an early stage of having the original cast appear in the film and get killed at the beginning, which none of them wanted to do. Landau felt the film missed part of the point of the original, which was the elaborate plots intended to prevent the targets knowing who was behind their downfall.

  16. The Mellow Monkey says

    Huh. While reading this I realized that, despite the fact that I do think Henry Cavill is a very striking man and just the sort I might enjoy seeing on a twenty foot tall screen, I have not seen him in one single movie since I watched The Count of Monte Cristo as a young’n.

    Guess I’ll keep that streak going for a few more decades.

  17. Matrim says

    I haven’t watched a Mission: Impossible film since the first one where they screwed over Jim Phelps. They lost me completely with that move, and I’m not about to give the series another shot until Cruise is no longer involved.

    That said, I’m not going to shit on people for their taste in movies. There is zero wrong with enjoying action schlock.

  18. says

    I find it difficult to believe that this movie has 97% on rotten tomatoes and 98% with top critics. Film journalism has certainly gone downhill in the last decade.

  19. Gregory Greenwood says

    (Suddenly, PZ Myers claws at a wad of latex over his face, peeling it back to reveal…the craggy, strong-jawed good looks of Henry Cavill! Cue Mission Impossible theme. Cue ka-ching, ka-ching as cash pours into his bank account. Cue next crappy movie.)

    I imagine that might come as something of a surprise to your family…

  20. says

    Y’know, one of these days, someone is going to produce an action film where the villain appears to have at least read the Evil Overlord List, even if they haven’t taken any of the advice in it, and nobody will know what they’re looking at.

  21. andyo says

    You’re watching it wrong.

    This is the correct way to watch it (a few people can skip step 1):

    1) Buy a plane ticket to your nearest IMAX® WITH LASER theater, preferably to the Universal Citywalk one in LA. I hear the NY one is also good.
    2) Be $27 poorer after you buy the ticket (you can always get discounts on Tuesdays with AMC’s free Stubs subscription, or matinees).
    3) Choose seat G13 (G14 will also do).
    3) Make sure to get your parking rebate or you’ll be $25 poorer further.
    4) Watch the movie the correct way.

  22. Dunc says

    I’m waiting for the post where PZ goes to a swimming pool, and is disappointed to find it full of water – and even worse, the water is wet.

    Seriously, if you don’t like formulaic action movies, why do you keep going to see them? I don’t hate them nearly as much as you seem to, but I wouldn’t dream of paying money to watch one in the cinema.

  23. answersingenitals says

    In the thriller movie script I’m writing, two members of the local police force, who are not bomb defusing experts, rush into the room where an anonymous tip told them the bomb is located. The tip only told them that the bomb is in the women”s rest room in the water tank behind one of the toilets. Though the bomb is small, it contains 1.5 pounds of HyperC12 HydroChloride, which is enough to level the whole building complex and kill all 83,000 inhabitants, and is also an excellent laundry bleach . They immediately figure out which toilet the bomb is in because the seat was left up. They remove the tank cover, then remove the bomb cover, which was only attached with duct tape, and are relieved to see that the timer shows that they have 7 hours, 32 minutes, and 8 seconds before the bomb explodes. This leaves them plenty of time to call in true bomb experts to defuse the bomb. However, in 17 minutes, with the timer still reading 7 hours, 15 minutes, and 4 seconds, the bomb explodes, vaporizing the two officers, leveling the entire building complex, and killing all 83,000 inhabitants. The terrorist who made and placed the bomb now has “Providing False Information to Law Enforcement Officials” added to the list of charges brought against him.

  24. says

    As an antidote, go and see The Spy Who Dumped Me.
    Very funny with two female leads who hardly ever need saving (plus no red LEDs, at least none that I noticed).

  25. Peter Bollwerk says

    I realize these movies have terribly written plots, but I still can’t help but enjoy them. I suppose it’s easy for me to turn of my brain when watching movies. But I tend to find something to enjoy in most movies. =)

  26. says

    Unfortunately, it’s made a shitload of money so they’ll keep on making them ad naseum. I saw the first one when it hit cable and never went back. And I just plain don’t like Tom Cruise being so damned full of himself.

  27. Nentuaby says

    As ridiculous as the $3,000,000 Moustache is on the surface, it’s not really down to anybody on either side placing inordinate importance on it… It’s just that they were already both [i]mostly[/i] shot so that they couldn’t just have him take up the other film’s grooming chaices; and rescheduling either film would have cost [i]more[/i] than 3 million. (You eat an ass-ton of sunk, time-dependant spending when you reschedule a film in late production.)

  28. Richard Smith says

    PZ’s in the vent (-ing mood).

    I’ve seen one or two of the franchise, on TV, so maybe this got edited out for time, but has anyone, in any of them, said that old classic line, “Another visitor. Stay a while. Stay forever!”? Wups, IM/MI mix-up…

  29. abb3w says

    And I’m thinking that all he needed was one simple button that he could push that would instantly trigger the nuclear explosion.

    Yes, but you apparently don’t suffer from Malign Hypercognition Disorder. The behavior sounds practically like a textbook example….

    At least, it would if the textbooks actually recognized Malign Hypercognition Disorder these days; at present, they don’t. But one day, those authors and the DSM-V committee will come to rue the day that they omitted it! I’ll show them!! I’ll show them ALL!!!