Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Greta

28 Feb

‘Greta’: Good deed introduces a mother figure, who must be survived with a surrogate sister

 

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Neil Jordan, who’s always existed somewhere between the arthouse and the cineplex, is responsible for such notable films as “Mona Lisa” (1986), “The Crying Game” (1992) and “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), for which, he famously paired heartthrobs Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The Irish filmmaker hasn’t produced a feature film in more than six years (since the 2012 female vampire foray, “Byzantium”), so it’s something of a relief that we get “Greta,” a boilerplate psychological thriller that flirts deliciously with camp but sadly enjoins cliche.

At least Jordan has Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe, who leave it all up on the screen. Moretz, so lethally infectious in “Kick-Ass” (2010), stars as the object of obsession, Frances McCullen, a recent Smith College grad from Boston living in a swank New York City loft and working at an even swankier midtown eatery. The wished-you-lived-there pad comes courtesy of Frances’s bestie from Smith, Erica (Monroe) whose dad bought it for her as a graduation present or something. Life’s good, and even though this duo don’t seem to want for much, they’re relatively down to earth – maybe with the exception of Erica’s predilection for avocado colonics.

Trouble comes in the form of a Kate Spade or Gucci handbag (I can never tell them apart) that Frances finds on a subway car and returns dutifully to its owner, a widowed French woman named Greta (Huppert) who lives in a quaint country-styled bungalow tucked down a dingy back alley. It’s an odd juxtaposition, to say the least; a Hobbit shire in the middle of the Seaport (which, given the harbor shots from his office, is where Frances’s father works) might be less conspicuous. Nevertheless, little of the action takes place on the streets of NYC; “Greta” is an intimate and cloistered affair.

Not to give away too much, but the bag’s a plant by Greta, who’s not even French (she pretends to be, even through she’s from Hungary) and leverages the return to sow a motherly bond with Frances (who coincidently just lost her mother) and wheedles her way into every aspect of her surrogate daughter’s life. What begins as cute and a tad clingy becomes creepy real fast. You could think of it as “Single White Female” (1992) – the mother edition – or “Unsane”(2018), where a frustrated stalker begins to take on the ubiquitous and near-superhuman qualities of Michael Meyers.

Much hangs on Huppert, who casts a long, menacing shadow over Frances. The French actor, who rightfully earned an Academy Award nomination for her 2016 performance as a stalked woman in Paul Verhoeven’s rape-revenge psycho-sexual thriller “Elle,” has been making films since the 1970s. She’s played opposite France’s other great thespian export, Catherine Deneuve, in François Ozon’s murder-comedy, “8 Women” (2002) and appeared with Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken in Michael Cimino’s epic, post-“Deerhunter” letdown, “Heaven’s Gate” (1980). But my favorite Huppert film to date has to be France’s 1983 Best Foreign Language nominee, “Entre Nous,” about two women trying to survive occupied France during the World War II.

Moretz holds up her end of the film. Her Frances is more actively resilient and nuanced than most victims in these types of endeavors, though plot wise she’s more the focal point for Huppert’s maniacal moonshot to orbit. The real revelation here is Monroe, who might feel like a fresh face but appeared in Sophia Coppola’s “Bling Ring” (2013) and more notably, anchored the quirky cult chiller, “It Follows” (2014). Here as the compassionate can-do roomie she exudes a tang of Sharon Stone moxie, but the real win is the sisterly bond she and Moretz form on screen – a touch of Huppert and Miou-Miou in “Entre Nous.” It’s genuine enough to raise the stakes and Jordan, clearly aware he’s playing with genre, tries to avoid the usual trappings. For the most part he does, but not completely.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

28 Jul

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’: True thrills from aging series that knows to keep it real

 

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There’s little new or fresh in the latest “Mission: Impossible” chapter, branded way too ominously  for its own good with the term “Fallout” (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”). Its star, Tom Cruise, isn’t the spry chicken he was in “Risky Business” back in 1982; the television series the film franchise hangs on was a droll, thinking person’s staple back in the 1960s and 1970s; and the stunt work here is mostly old school. These aren’t three strikes, but a gold strike: Blending the three makes for the most exhilarating filmgoing experience of the summer, with Cruise doing most of his own stunts for the painstaking realism – and boy, does it show – and director Christopher McQuarrie choosing to do each crash-bang chase they way they used to when Bill Friedkin was lighting up the screen, eschewing CGI where any “Fast and Furious” helmer would jump in with a dual core processor and a green screen.

The plot’s not all that much to bite into – there’s three mobile nukes on the loose in Europe and IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise)  feels particularly responsible because he let the weapons out of his grasp by opting to save one of his own crew (). Because of said misstep, Hunt’s team is given a watchful CIA presence, a strong-jawed slab by the name of Walker (Henry Cavill, who dons the cape as Superman in a different franchise). In Paris and London there’s a sleek assassin on a motorbike (Rebecca Ferguson) tailing Hunt & Co., as well as a racy arms dealer (Vanessa Kirby, from “The Crown”) in the middle who, without batting an eyelash, whips a stiletto from her garter belt to dispatch an onrushing hitman. Oh yeah, Lane (Sean Harris), the anarchist terrier Hunt put away in his last outing, “Rogue Nation,” factors big into the mix as well.

Needless to say, it’s a crowded affair that reaches its crescendo atop sheer precipices in Kashmir, and while that copter-crashing cliffhanger works effectively – if you hate height like me, you may experience a few churns to the gut – it’s not as raw or adrenaline-pumping as Hunt running the rooftops in London to capture quarry, or the smackdown in a Paris men’s room where Hunt and Walker get their asses handed to them by a very able foe. The scenes are so invigorating that when they’re over you need to catch your breath. The film does too, and it’s in these moments that the lines of artifice to get to the next whopper of a stunt show some. You can tell Cruise and McQuarrie, the scribe behind “The Usual Suspects” who’s worked with Cruise on nearly a half-dozen projects, are on the same page – it shows in almost every scene. McQuarrie, an obvious cinephile, layers in a slew of subtle, tongue-in-cheek film references for the enlightened, be it a nod to Rhames’ gimp scene in “Pulp Fiction” or Hunt spouting Cruise’s “crystal” line from “A Few Good Men.” And boy, can he run – and drive, fly and fall. Instead of “Fallout,” the tag for the film should have been “See Tom Run.”