2018: The Year in Villainy

It was a cinematic year that was primarily dominated by two Marvel villains, both of whom made big splashes. It’s hard to pick just one for the coveted title of Villain Of The Year, but ultimately there was one villain who just had to be given the title, and that villain is…

Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War

It had to be Thanos as Villain Of The Year. No other villain made as much of an impact on the lives of a movie’s characters. And not only did Thanos massively change (and, at least temporarily, end) the lives of dozens of superheroes, he also hugely impacted the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has become a box-office juggernaut ever since the release of Iron Man in 2008. With Thanos, Marvel showed that it is not afraid to shake up the status quo of its hugely profitable film franchise. And really, the fact that Thanos actually succeeded in wiping out half of all life in the universe makes him Villain Of The Year pretty much automatically.


Also, remember when he THREW A PLANET AT IRON MAN??? Holy crap that was awesome.

Josh Brolin did fantastic work bringing Thanos to life, and the writers, directors, and special-effects people created a character who was surprisingly sympathetic, instead of the two-dimensional power-hungry jerk the character could have easily been if he had not been handled so well. Infinity War was the culmination of a decade’s worth of blockbuster movies, and thanks to Thanos the Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same. And for the record, I am still not over that Spider-Man scene. You know the one. Sniff.

Erik Killmonger in Black Panther


In any other year, Killmonger would have been Villain Of The Year. But thanks to Thanos, he is a very strong runner-up. Michael B. Jordan was excellent and turned Killmonger, much like Thanos, into a deeply sympathetic and even tragic figure. The viewer could understand Killmonger’s point of view, even while disagreeing with his actions. He was charismatic, intelligent and badass. He was everything a great movie villain should be. I’ve got him as a very close runner-up for VOTY, but if he’s your number one I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong.

Captain Wafner in Overlord

Paramount Pictures

In stark contrast to sympathetic villains like Thanos and Killmonger, Captain Wafner was a villain with no redeeming qualities at all. He was a sadistic Nazi captain who was irredeemably evil even before he got half his face blown off and injected himself with an experimental serum that gave him ungodly strength and turned him into even more of a monster. Overlord was one of the year’s goriest thrill rides, and its villain was one of the year’s nastiest.

The Predators in The Predator

20th Century Fox

Speaking of gory thrill rides, it’s a toss-up between Overlord and Shane Black’s much-maligned Predator reboot for the title of goriest movie of the year. The Predator had its share of flaws, but I still found it to be an enjoyable, if bumpy, ride, and probably the best thing about it was seeing the different varieties of Predator that Black and his creative team conjured up. The design of the Predator in the original 1987 Predator movie was great to begin with, so Black didn’t change it too much. But he did add a few new wrinkles that were fun to see even if the Predator dog creatures were a little goofy, complete as they were with Predator dreadlocks.

The Meg in The Meg

Warner Bros.

The Meg is the film that finally answered the age-old question, “What would happen if Jason Statham were to fight an enormous shark?” The Meg is a deeply cheesy B-movie that was nonetheless quite enjoyable, and its massive shark was its crowning achievement. Or should I say sharks, because there are actually two of the giant beasts. The toothy monstrosities are enormous and, of course, hungry for nubile human flesh. The Meg is a thoroughly preposterous movie that is certainly no masterpiece, but it is quite a bit of fun and its gargantuan shark beasts should be more than enough to satisfy any fan of aquatic monster movies.

Solomon Lane and August Walker in Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise’s latest Mission: Impossible flick was the thrill ride of the year, and it had two quality villains to give Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and the rest of his team a run for their money. Sean Harris reprises his role as the diabolical Solomon Lane from the previous M:I film, and Superman himself, Henry Cavill, played August Walker, who was more than a match for Ethan in a fight. Give Lane and Walker credit: they came this close to enacting their evil plan, only to be thwarted at literally the last possible second. Being a bad guy can be a thankless task when all your hard work comes to naught. Hopefully they’ll try again in a few years, because I want more Mission: Impossible movies. Or at least Lane can try again, Walker won’t be able to participate on account of being extremely dead.

Ghost in Ant-Man and The Wasp


It was a year of sympathetic villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ghost was a young woman who was suffering from a unique condition that gave her the ability to phase through solid objects and teleport short distances, which made her hard to handle in a fight, though her powers are unstable. But she became more sympathetic once the viewer learned about her tragic backstory, how she lost her parents in the lab accident that gave her powers and how shady government types took advantage of her powers to turn her into a weapon. She was the main superpowered antagonist for most of Ant-Man and The Wasp, but the movie ends with her seemingly cured of her affliction so perhaps we’ll see her again down the road.

The Murdersaurus (technically the Indoraptor) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


You could argue that the main villains of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom were the morons who thought it would be a good idea to auction off a bunch of dinosaurs, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But those people were all idiots and dinosaurs are much cooler, so let’s talk about the Indoraptor instead. I dubbed it the Murdersaurus because it was a genetically-engineered death lizard designed specifically for hunting and killing. It gets to do a lot of hunting and killing in the second half of Fallen Kingdom, and I was kind of sad when it died because it was my favorite character in the movie.

Lizzy and Ralph in Rampage

Warner Bros.

Speaking of monster movies where all of the human characters were pretty dumb, Rampage was another deeply silly movie that I enjoyed quite a bit, it just might have been my guilty-pleasure movie of the year. The monsters were George the albino gorilla, Ralph the wolf, and Lizzy the (I think) alligator, all of whom were mutated to enormous size and exceptional ferocity. I didn’t include George as one of the villains because he ultimately becomes a good ape again, despite causing a lot of death and destruction. The monsters are fun to watch and the special effects are top-notch, and much like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom the monsters are much more entertaining the bland human characters.

The Screenslaver in Incredibles 2


For a kids movie, Incredibles 2 had a surprisingly sophisticated villain. Writer/director Brad Bird’s long-awaited follow-up to his 2008 original, Incredibles 2 is that rare movie that is fun for kids but also contains a lot for adults to enjoy. This is a movie that treats its viewers with respect, regardless of whether that viewer happens to be a kid or a grown-up. It’s a tricky balancing act, but Incredibles 2 makes it look easy. The Screenslaver is a villain who takes advantage of the world’s overreliance on technology, and manipulates the omnipresent screens that are all around us. That’s a scary idea. The Screenslaver is one of the most culturally-relevant cinematic villains of the year.

Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story


Paul Bettany is one of my favorite actors. He’s the kind of actor who elevates any movie he’s in. Since he frequently plays good guys, it’s always fun to watch him cut loose as a bad guy and really chew some scenery. He chewed scenery with aplomb in the latest Star Wars spinoff as a ruthless crime lord named Dryden Vos, who was at least part alien. Dryden is the kind of villain who acts friendly one moment but can explode into murderous rage at the drop of a hat. I like villains like that because their unpredictability ensures that the viewer is always on edge whenever they are around. Bettany’s role in the film is not a huge one, which is not too surprising if you’re aware of the movie’s behind-the-scenes drama (Bettany’s role was initially played by a different actor), but he makes an impression with a limited amount of screen time, as all great actors do.

Cable in Deadpool 2

20th Century Fox

Okay, so this is another debatable one, since Cable and Deadpool end up as allies. But much like Ghost in Ant-Man and The Wasp, Cable serves as the superpowered antagonist for much of the film, so he counts. It was a big year for Josh Brolin playing Marvel comics characters, and he was perfectly cast as the gruff cyborg Cable. He looks pretty much identical to how Cable looks in the comics, and is placed front and center along with Deadpool in the movie’s biggest action scenes. Deadpool 2 was more cluttered than its predecessor, but it benefited from a more complex antagonist, even though I haven’t forgotten that Cable and Deadpool become pals by the end of the movie and have a long history of teaming up in the comics, so perhaps we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

Mathias Vogel in Tomb Raider

Warner Bros.

Walton Goggins was another actor who had a busy year playing villains. In addition to playing the main villain in this year’s Tomb Raider reboot, he also played a secondary villain in Ant-Man and The Wasp. Goggins is an actor who frequently plays slimy bad guys, and he was well-suited to both of his villainous roles this year. In Tomb Raider he played Mathias Vogel, the leader of an expedition to find a hidden artifact with Great and Terrible Power. He was not a nice person, but he was at least somewhat sympathetic by virtue of the fact that he had been stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere for years and desperately wanted to return home. Still, he was a nasty fellow and his death was thematically appropriate and quite satisfying.

So there you have it, my favorite villains of 2018. Keep in mind that this was not a comprehensive list of every villain in every movie I saw this year, it was simply a list of my favorites. There were a surprising number of sympathetic villains this year, which makes me happy because if there is one thing I like it is a complex bad guy. 2019 is bringing us another full slate of bad guys, including the return of Thanos and the most dreaded evil clown of all, Pennywise. See you at the movies!

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the Perfect Summer Movie

Tom Cruise may be a weirdo, but you’ve got to give the man credit. It’s hard to think of an A-list Hollywood actor as willing to put himself in harm’s way for the sake of our entertainment. Cruise has been topping himself with each successive installment of the venerable Mission: Impossible franchise, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll have in store next time.

I’m already looking forward to the next Mission: Impossible movie, because Fallout, the sixth and latest film in the series, is everything I want from a summer movie. It’s fun, smart, tense, and absolutely thrilling from start to finish, and despite a 147-minute running time, those nearly two-and-a-half-hours disappear in a flash.

Images: Paramount Pictures

Cruise once again plays unstoppable superspy Ethan Hunt, still working for the Impossible Mission Force, or IMF. This time around he has to stop a group of fanatics known as the Apostles from acquiring nuclear material. That’s the most basic way of describing the plot, so if it sounds trite rest assured that the movie is much cleverer than my bare-bones plot description makes it sound. I’m being vague because I don’t want to give anything away, and I really want people to go out and see this film for a perfect example of smart, fun, exciting entertainment that doesn’t treat viewers like idiots.

Joining Ethan on his mission are familiar faces Benji and Luther, played respectively by Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames. Pegg and Rhames have been playing these roles for multiple films and they are the best kind of movie sidekicks. They’re smart, funny, badass and have great personalities, and don’t feel like stock characters or that they only exist to get captured. They are capable and valuable allies. Also returning is Rebecca Ferguson as the wonderfully-named English spy Ilsa Faust, whose loyalties are somewhat unclear. She’s every bit as badass as she was in the previous film, Rogue Nation, and is very much Ethan’s equal.

Another returning cast member is (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen any of the movie’s trailers) Michelle Monaghan as Ethan’s wife Julia, who hasn’t been seen since the third M:I movie, although technically she made a short cameo appearance in the fourth one. I love that the series hasn’t forgotten about Julia and hasn’t given Ethan any unnecessary romantic entanglements or had him casually jump into bed with every attractive woman that crossed his path. Julia’s presence provides a strong sense of continuity and the movie gives a satisfying amount of closure to Ethan and Julia’s relationship, which I hadn’t been expecting.

But here I am talking about relationships in what will very likely be the best action movie of the year. So, how’s the action? It’s top-notch. The movie was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, also returning from the previous film, Rogue Nation. Fallout is the first movie in the series to have been helmed by a returning director, and McQuarrie outdoes his previous efforts in nearly way. I loved Rogue Nation, but Fallout may be even better.

When the time comes to list the best action sequences of 2018, most of them will come from this movie. The HALO jump. The bathroom fight. The Paris motorcycle chase. The showstopping helicopter chase, followed by a brutal battle on the edge of a cliff. And many more. All of these sequences are breathtaking, and they all look totally real. I’m sure some CGI was used at certain points, but Fallout does not look like a CGI-heavy movie, which is remarkable in this age of incredibly advanced special effects. The movie’s stunt team deserves a shout-out for their incredible work in this film, every stunt is flawlessly executed.

Aside from one, of course, the infamous rooftop jump on which Cruise broke his ankle, delaying production while his leg healed. The shot where Cruise breaks his ankle is still in the film, and you’ve got to give the man credit for soldiering on and pulling himself up on to that roof despite what must have been a very painful injury. He also learned to fly a helicopter for the film (that’s really him during that pulse-pounding chopper chase) and spent an entire year learning to do the HALO jump. HALO is an acronym for High-Altitude, Low Opening, and is incredibly dangerous. The IMDb Trivia section for the movie says it best:

While Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt) is famously known for performing his own stunts throughout the franchise, he ups the ante in this installment by performing four elaborate set pieces (mostly without green screens or stunt doubles): a HALO jump, an unusually dangerous variety of High-Altitude Low Opening parachute jumps; a helmet-free motorcycle chase through Paris, including a portion in which Hunt rides against traffic in the circle around the Arc de Triomphe; an extended foot chase across London rooftops, in which Cruise broke his ankle while jumping between two rooftops; and a helicopter chase in which Cruise does most of the piloting.

Credit to IMDb.

That’s INSANE. The guy literally put his life on the line multiple times, and the end results are spectacular. Fallout is indeed the Mad Max: Fury Road of 2018. It sets a very high mark for on-screen action and stunt work and will be the action movie to beat for a long time. If you’re like me and love intense, fast-paced movies that get your blood pumping, Fallout is a dream come true.

And I haven’t even mentioned the villains. Sean Harris returns as the diabolical Solomon Lane, the ruthless head of the Syndicate from Rogue Nation. Harris’ raspy voice is deeply menacing, and the movie has stakes that feel very real, despite all the times Ethan and his team have saved the world in the past. The movie has a solid emotional core, and I actually felt myself being moved by it a few times. It does a lot to humanize Ethan, and shows that he’s not just a superhuman stunt machine. You really care about the guy.

New to the series is Angela Bassett as CIA director Erika Sloane, who doesn’t trust Ethan and the IMF, and so assigns one of her own agents to accompany Ethan on his mission. That agent is August Walker, played by Henry Cavill, whose mustache caused so many problems for Justice League reshoots. I’ll be honest, Cavill’s not the best actor in the world, he can be a bit flat. But what he lacks in charisma he makes up for in physicality. Walker is noticeably bigger than Ethan and his presence causes unforeseen complications which I won’t elaborate on in the attempt to avoid spoilers.

I loved this movie. It’s whip-smart, has an excellent cast, a plot that keeps you guessing, and the most thrilling action of the year. The first Mission: Impossible movie came out all the way back in 1996, and it is amazing that after more than two decades the franchise is still going strong. Heck, I was eight years old when the first movie was released, now I’m nearly thirty. The series has stood the test of time and continues to deliver top-notch entertainment.

May it continue for another couple decades. I can’t wait.

2015: The Year in Villainy

Another year, another roundup of baddies. There were a lot of big-franchise movies this year, with a lot of big-name villains, as well as a couple of memorable new (evil) faces. Without further ado, let’s get to the villainy!

Richmond Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service

2015 villains valentine

Samuel L. Jackson played one of the most unique villains of the year. A billionaire who wants to destroy humanity because he believes they are a disease that must be exterminated in order to save the planet, he speaks with a lisp and grows nauseous at the sight of blood. He’s also got a first-rate evil lair hidden in the mountains, protected by surface-to-air missiles and an army of henchmen. He may not be the scariest villain of the year, given the film’s comedic tone, but certainly one of the most entertaining.

Deckard Shaw in Furious 7

2015 villains shaw

I love Jason Statham, and he doesn’t usually play bad guys, so it was really fun to watch him cut loose and turn to the dark side for a while. I’ll admit that his character didn’t have all that much personality, but every time he showed up in the movie, his appearance was accompanied by a fight, shootout, or ridiculous car chase. He kicked plenty of ass, and probably got his hands dirty more than any other villain on this list, which earns him a spot as one of my favorite villains of 2015.

Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron

2015 villains ultron

For a while, Gollum was the most realistic digital character around, but some of the recent Marvel movies have given old Smeagol a run for his money (Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy are other examples of this). But in terms of digitally-created villains, Ultron steals the show. Age of Ultron was a mixed bag, the story was a bit of a mess and the whole film felt overstuffed, but it was still plenty of fun and James Spader gave a fantastic performance as the titular villain. He gave Ultron distinctive mannerisms that made him feel like much more than just your average everyday murderous robot. When you’ve got five or six superheroes in one movie, you need a villain capable of standing up to all of them, and Ultron fit that description perfectly.

Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road

2015 villains immortan joe

I may be biased here because Mad Max: Fury Road was far and away my favorite movie of 2015, but Immortan Joe was also my favorite villain of 2015. A classic dictator and a first-class bullshit artist, Immortan Joe was the kind of villain who would scare the pants off you, but he was so magnetic you couldn’t take your eyes off that terrifying visage. He was the kind of villain you love to hate, and his was also one of the most viscerally and emotionally satisfying deaths of the year. When Charlize Theron’s equally-badass Furiosa hooked his mask to the wheel of his truck and ripped half his face off, it was enough to make you want to stand up and cheer.

John Connor in Terminator Genisys

2015 villains connor

You’ve got to give the makers of Terminator Genisys some credit. It took some serious cojones to make John Connor, the savior of humanity in the previous Terminator films, the bad guy in the most recent installment. That would be like making Harry Potter a dark wizard. But what one hand gives, the other hand takes away, since the reveal of Connor as the bad guy was relentlessly spoiled in every bit of the film’s advertising. Posters, trailers, you name it, all of it gave away the big twist. It was really too bad, since it hugely undermined the film’s big reveal of the villain. Jason Clarke still did solid work in the role, but the damage was done and the twist didn’t have as much of an impact as it should have. Still, it took balls, and I do have to give the filmmakers some credit for that.

Yellowjacket in Ant-Man

2015 villains yellowjacket

Ant-Man was great fun, one of the most purely entertaining movies I saw this year. And it just makes sense that Ant-Man’s nemesis would be another insect-based character. Yellowjacket had the same shrinking abilities as Ant-Man, but of course he added more laser guns, as any self-respecting villain probably would. The climactic battle between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket is one of the most unique in all of cinema. You will not find anything else quite like it, and that alone makes the movie worth checking out.

Solomon Lane in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

2015 villains lane

The fifth installment in the venerable spy series was all about providing Tom Cruise’s superspy Ethan Hunt with equals. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson neatly stole the movie as slinky, sexy spy Ilsa Faust, who was every bit the equal to Cruise’s character, but she’s not on this list because she was not the villain. That title belongs to Solomon Lane, the devious criminal mastermind who managed the difficult task of frequently out-maneuvering Ethan Hunt himself. He’s a shadowy figure for much of the film, speaking in a silent, raspy voice that drips with menace. The villain in the previous Mission: Impossible movie was a bit flat, but Solomon Lane more than made up for that.

Franz Oberhauser in Spectre

2015 villains oberhauser

Spectre was a bit of a comedown after the awesomeness that was Skyfall, and that included the film’s villain. Christoph Waltz is an amazing actor, and it’s always fun to watch him be evil, but his character was not quite as memorable as Javier Bardem’s was in Skyfall. Still, Waltz is more than up to the task of being a Bond villain. Few actors provide more reliable villainy than Waltz, and he does so again here. There’s nothing really wrong with his character or his performance, but it would be tough for anyone to follow up Javier Bardem’s villainous turn in Skyfall, even an actor of Waltz’s caliber. But it’s still a kick to watch Waltz do his thing, even if his character wasn’t all it could have been.

Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2015 villains kylo ren

Don’t worry, this entry will be spoiler-free. Although, given the ridiculous amount of money Episode VII has already made, most people reading this will have probably already seen it. But on the off chance that you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t give anything major away. Suffice to say that Kylo Ren’s true identity drops a pretty big bombshell in the middle of the Star Wars mythos. He’s played by an actor named Adam Driver, who I was unfamiliar with, but I thought he did a pretty great job playing a role that he must have known would be carefully scrutinized by legions of rabid fans. The Force Awakens was a hell of a ride, and it did exactly what it was supposed to do, in that it left you wanting more, and wanting more NOW. It’ll be a few years before we get to see the continuation of the story, but I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for everyone’s new favorite dark Jedi.

So there you have it, the best of the best of 2015’s villainous vagabonds. There are plenty of big movies coming in 2016, including a whole slew of comic-book movies that feature some truly iconic baddies (does the name the Joker ring a bell?), so I’ll see you at the movie theater.

Popcorn Perfection

I am on the record as saying that I like many of Tom Cruise’s movies. He may be a weirdo in real life, but he’s a fantastic entertainer. He’s very good at what he does, and his latest film, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”, is probably my second-favorite summer movie this year.

I’m a big fan of the Mission: Impossible series. Last week, I re-watched all four of the previous films in anticipation of the new one, which I then saw on Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, with only one possible exception.

The first film in the series was released all the way back in 1996. Cruise was in his mid-thirties then, but man, the whole time I was watching the first movie I kept thinking he looked like he was about 17. I didn’t use to like the first movie all that much, but I have a newfound appreciation for it. It’s fairly light on action but is more concerned with intrigue and the many twists and turns of the plot.

MI1 psotre

The plot is complicated and there are still some things about it that are slightly baffling to me, but I can see how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together, even if some of the details continue to elude me. It’s a tense, well-made spy thriller that contains one truly iconic sequence: the famous vault heist, where Cruise’s superspy Ethan Hunt is lowered from the ceiling into the CIA’s most secure vault. It’s a wonderfully tense scene that still holds up as one of the best, most suspenseful sequences in the series.

Unfortunately, its sequel, Mission: Impossible 2, is by far the worst film in the series. The first entry was directed by Brian de Palma, who crafted a tense, complex spy thriller. MI2 was directed by John Woo, well known for his particular brand of super-stylized, slow-mo, firing-two-guns-whilst-flying-through-the-air action filmmaking. Now don’t get me wrong, Woo’s films can be great fun (if you haven’t seen Hardboiled you really should, it’s amazing), but his style is not suited to a Mission: Impossible movie.

In stark contrast to the first film, MI2 is a much more straightforward action movie, lacking the twists and turns of the plot, which is of the fairly dull “Stop the bad guy from selling the incredibly lethal supervirus to the highest bidder” variety. The first half of the movie is mostly buildup for the second half, which is full of ludicrous shootouts and slow-mo flip kicks. Seriously, this is the kind of movie where, instead of simply punching a henchman, the hero performs a ridiculous-looking slow-motion backflip kick.

MI2 doesn’t even feel like a Mission: Impossible movie, it’s title could have been “Generic Action Movie” and that would have been entirely appropriate. At one point near the end of the film, I noticed that the villain has these big containers in his lair, which are clearly labeled HAZARDOUS WASTE. Geez, dude, you probably shouldn’t just leave that kind of stuff lying around in your hideout, you just know a grenade is eventually going to find its way over there.

MI2 psotre

The movie’s final showdown is a mess of over-the-top kung fu and those ridiculous slow-mo flip kicks that John Woo couldn’t seem to get enough of. Tom Cruise has an awful hairdo in this movie, and his stupid emo hair flops around all over the place during the final fight, which is just silly. Oh, and this is preceded by a truly absurd scene where Ethan and the villain do this kind of motorcycle joust, where they drive at each other on motorcycles and then throw themselves off the motorcycles and collide in midair, and the motorcycles fly through the air and explode for absolutely no reason.

To top it all off, the end credits feature tracks from Metallica and, uh, Limp Bizkit. Wikipedia informs me that the soundtrack also featured such “artists” as Rob Zombie, Godsmack, and a band called (I kid you not) Butthole Surfers. Good luck getting that image out of your head.

Let’s move on, shall we? The third Mission: Impossible movie is one of my favorites, not just in the M:I series, but, well, generally. It’s a top-notch action thriller that also features the series’ best villain: Owen Davian, a ruthless arms dealer played brilliantly by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. The third film was the film directorial debut of J.J. Abrams, who gets a lot of flack from various corners of the internet, but I’ve always been a fan.

He fills the movie full of action, but gives it a much more grounded feel than the second entry. It’s less stylized and much more engaging. The plot is full of twists and turns, but crucially, they are twists and turns that still make sense. The movie also gives Ethan a personal life, and gives solid character development to him and his wife Julia. It’s nice that the movie acknowledges that Ethan the superspy can still have a personal life (although this is largely abandoned in the subsequent films) and it humanizes Ethan quite a bit.

MI3 psotre

The movie is so full of action that it might be a bit overwhelming for some viewers, but I loved every second of it. It’s a tremendously exciting film that is one of my favorite summer action blockbusters. The bridge sequence, where Ethan and his team are attacked by bad guys with a predator drone, is one of my favorite action sequences of recent years. The movie also features one of the most satisfying villain deaths I’ve ever seen in a movie, where Philip Seymour Hoffman’s villain gets run over by a truck. That sounds a bit anticlimactic, but it’s actually incredibly satisfying. The movie’s ending is great and its opening is also great: the first line of the movie is “We’ve put an explosive charge in your head.” Oh, SNAP. You know shit just got real when there’s an explosive charge in your freaking HEAD. Now THAT is how you start a movie.

The fourth movie, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, is similarly excellent. Ghost Protocol was the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird, who previously directed several acclaimed animated films (such as The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles). Bird proves to be a sure-handed director of live-action, and orchestrates several impressive action sequences. This is the movie with the famous Burj Khalifa sequence, in which Tom Cruise scales the tallest building in the world (yes, Cruise actually did that).

The plot sounds simple, with Ethan and his team trying to stop a rogue nuclear extremist from inciting nuclear war between the US and Russia. In contrast to the second and third films, in which the villains had small armies of henchmen, Ghost Protocol is notable in that its villain has a grand total of one henchman. And yet, these two guys almost cause nuclear war. I really like this movie’s more stripped-down approach. The stakes in the film are very high, since Ethan and his team have no backup and have to rely mostly on each other because their equipment keeps malfunctioning.

MI4 psotre

One of the things I like most about these movies is the way that they emphasize teamwork. Sure, Ethan Hunt is a badass, but he wouldn’t get very far without his teammates. Every member of the team is important, and every one of them contributes. I really like that.

This trend continues in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the triumphant fifth entry in the series. In it, Ethan and his team must track down the Syndicate, a rogue terrorist organization responsible for all sorts of dastardly deeds. They must once again do this with no backup, since the Impossible Mission Force, or IMF, has once again been disbanded, this time by a pompous bureaucrat played by Alec Baldwin, who is admittedly pretty great at playing pompous bureaucrats.

MI5 psotre

If I have one complaint about this series of films, it’s that they tend to fall back on the same plot elements a bit too often. Ethan and his team have gone rogue or the IMF has been disavowed in four of the five films. That aspect of the plot is a bit repetitive, but the movies are so consistently entertaining that I can forgive a little plot rehashing.

Rogue Nation was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who worked with Cruise on Jack Reacher and also co-wrote Edge of Tomorrow, which was one of my favorite movies last year. His film strikes a perfect balance between thrilling action and international intrigue.

One of the film’s strongest assets is the character of Ilsa Faust, a slinky, sexy secret agent played by a Swedish actress named Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson is a relative newcomer, but I certainly hope this is a star-making role for her, because she’s awesome. She plays a character whose loyalties are in question for pretty much the entire movie, and Ferguson really nails the conflicting aspects of her character. She’s also great as a foil for Ethan, since she proves herself capable of doing anything he can do on multiple occasions. She’s also not overly sexualized and exists as more than just a potential love interest for the hero, and it’s really refreshing to see such a strong female character portrayed in this way. Ferguson gets my vote for breakout star of the year, she tackles a tricky role and absolutely kills it. She niftily steals the movie right out from under Tom Cruise’s nose.

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The film’s action sequences are also excellent. McQuarrie proves himself to be a more than capable action director, deftly avoiding the extreme close-ups, shaky camerawork, and rapid-fire editing that can make action sequences hard to follow. The action scenes in the film benefit from a strong sense of spatial relationships, in that you always understand where things are in relation to each other. This is especially important in the riveting Vienna opera house sequence, in which a complex cat-and-mouse game plays out. It would have been easy to get lost in such a complex sequence, but McQuarrie’s confident direction ensures that the viewer is always able to follow the action.

Other highlights include a thrilling motorcycle chase, an underwater heist that is as nail-bitingly tense as the vault heist in the original film or the Burj Khalifa sequence in Ghost Protocol, and the much-hyped plane stunt, in which Ethan desperately clings to the side of a cargo plane as it takes off. All of these sequences look great and are riveting to watch. Cruise proves once again that he’s game for all manner of insanely dangerous stunts, and his commitment enhances the film’s realism and makes it all the more exciting to watch as a result.

Other than Cruise and Ferguson, the supporting characters are also great, with solid work from Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and the always-great Simon Pegg. All of these actors have great chemistry and there’s a sense that they’ve all been through this kind of thing before, they understand the stakes but they know what they’re doing and they know that they can rely on each other.

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The film’s villain, the head of the Syndicate, is a bespectacled baddie by the name of Solomon Lane. Lane is played by an English actor named Sean Harris, whose raspy voice practically oozes menace. There’s also a terrifying henchman nicknamed the Bone Doctor, who you just know is seriously bad news.

I really love the Mission: Impossible movies. They are perfect popcorn movies, and Rogue Nation continues the series in fine fashion, offering tense and thrilling action, a plot that keeps you guessing, great acting, and a fine performance from one of the breakout stars of the year. What more could you ask for?