Some thoughts about the Keeper, having only seen the trailer.

I should be happy.

There is a German main character, played by a German actor.
This German is the hero of the film, yet he’s not played by a Dane or a Swede.

The actor they have chosen actually looks, more than slightly, like the real life person he is portraying.

I *should* be happy.

Unfortunately, this time it’s the English half that’s causing the problem. Bert Trautmann was associated my English home town. And I’ve made my peace with them not using the two-up two-downs that are still there to film in. What I can’t make peace with is the accents. We don’t sound like that!

St. Helens’s accent is somewhat peculiar (an example – our beloved rugby league club captain who is born and bred) and varied, but it is very much ours and is significantly less Mancunian/East Lancashire than John Henshaw’s. I wouldn’t make such a fuss, but my Grandmother, who was around at the time, said that you could narrow down where someone lived to within 3 streets, just from the way they talked – and she could, which was terrifying.

Mostly I worry that my home town is going to be portrayed as the place with the bad people who are mean to our lead character, which it really isn’t and wasn’t. Read any interview with Bert Trautmann for evidence of that. He would always say how open and welcoming St Helens was, especially given the circumstances.

It’s a truth that matters to me, because I think biopics should reflect reality, and because it’ll be my home town that gets it in the neck!

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Mission Impossible: Fallout is solid, but the fight scenes are exceptional

Because I am going to focus on the fight choreography, there will be heavy spoilers throughout.

As I said in the first part, the fight scenes in Mission Impossible: Fallout are exceptional, and fight choreography is clever. I don’t just mean how crisp it all looks, and the pleasing sense of barely controlled chaos, but the characters all fight the way someone with training and with their physical attributes should fight.

I’m going to use the John Lark fight as the example of this:

Right, now, if you could all tear your eyes away from Henry Cavill and instead focus on John Lark as embodied by Liang Yang.

You’ll note that he is the smallest guy in this fight. Normally films will have everyone in a fight scene fight in the same way. You might occasionally get one of them doing something cool and different to normal, particularly if the film is a film about fighting (e.g. Bloodsport). Most of the time though, you get guy A fights in style A, guy B fights in the same style and the same way, no matter what differences in height/weight/strength. This is particularly annoying when it’s clear that if B does that, B is going to lose, and lose painfully, but we’re still supposed to believe B knows how to fight.

This fight is different!

There is a smaller, shorter guy who fights like someone who has spent his life being the smaller, shorter guy. You’ll see how every time Lark gets a chance to get a hit in, he goes for throat or ribs (including one of the best uses of piping in a fight you’ll ever see). In the immortal words of my jiu-jitsu sensei, “everyone’s got to breathe”. It’s the sensible thing to do if you’re in a fight where people are bigger than you.

The other thing Lark does is that, every chance he gets, he shoves away one of the two people attacking him. That’s also what you’re supposed to do, because it means you have fewer people to deal with at any one time. It’s so nice to see in a film.

It’s interesting to contrast how Lark fights with how Ethan Hunt fights. Now, while, in real life Tom Cruise is of average height, if not slightly below, we accept that Ethan Hunt is taller than him and stronger than him because he’s the lead character. And so he fights more like a lead character. But, as another sign of the thought has gone into the staging of the fight sequences, they deliberately never have him face off mano-a-mano against August Walker so that we don’t ever have to question that. They let August Walker be obviously bigger and taller, because Cavill is enough bigger than Tom Cruise that it’s hard to hide. And then in the big end fight, they make it clear that Ethan Hunt wins by being sneaky, clever and lucky. Which are always better than being bigger and stronger!

The other character with an interesting fight style is Ilsa Faust. The interesting thing about her fight style is that it’s that of someone whose been taught to fight. Too often female characters who get to fight do so in a very flippy-flippy, kicky-kicky style, which leaves you open to counter-attacks. Ilsa doesn’t. She fights like someone who’s been taught how to hurt someone without being hurt yourself. It’s very simple, very direct, very effective. In the last fight against Solomon Lane, the way she slices through his hamstring is poetry because it’s so simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re the weaker person in the fight if the other person can’t reach you to cause more damage.

Everyone in this film fights with superhuman strength, power and resistance to damage, but it works because they fight in a way which is plausible within their characters. We still feel the tension and the danger because there is a desperation in the way our heroes fight. There’s risk and being worn down till only the things beaten into you during training are left. It makes it a very different film in feel to a lot of blockbusters.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is a good, solid film

This is very much a review of two halves so I have split it into two parts. The first is a more general review of Mission Impossible: Fallout, and the second is me raving about the fight choreography in the film.

The plot of the film is significantly baroque, with lots of frills and twists and twiddly-bits. I think they realised that they had a lot of set pieces and not a lot of plot and back-filled from that to try to link them together.

The bit with Wolf Blitzer is very like the series in a way the films often aren’t, but it’s an example of how the film is very bitty. There’s a cool bit, tenuous link, another cool bit and so on. Every bit works, but I’m not sure they all hang together.

One thing I liked was the sense of place. Yes, there is no way there is that little traffic in that part of Paris at any time of day or night but it’s still recognisably Paris and not just tourist Paris. It’s something they did well in the last one too. Although I know you can’t actually run that quickly along the route in London (or drive across part of the race through Paris), I acknowledge their attempts at realism with joy, especially as they choose some of the less obvious bits of London and Paris (and Vienna in Rogue Nation).

What I also liked about the Paris bit is how many of Ethan Hunt’s problems were brought about by aspects of his character that were established all the way back in Mission Impossible 2.

The acting was uniformly solid, even if Wes Bentley playing nice but dull husbands makes me feel old. Very old. The film-makers make good use of their solid cast. I think having Tom Cruise helps, if you’ve got him, you know the anchor of your film will be sorted so you can concentrate on giving other people stuff to do. When those other people include Sean Harris, good things ensue.

SPOILERS START HERE AND ARE VERY, VERY SPOILERY

An example of how the film-makers give every character their own thing to do, is the ending in Pakistan.

The tech boys were so happy to see Julia, while recognising how awkward it is going to be for Ethan, referencing their shared history. Meanwhile, Ethan and Julia were all “hi, I still love you but we’ve both moved on and it’s kinda awkward and kinda great at the same time,” which reinforces what the rest of the film has said about Julia being important to Ethan. There’s a reason his subconscious has Solomon Lane threatening her as his worst nightmare. The other characters also got nice touches such as Erik knowing Julia is lying about something and more or less guessing correctly what it is. Then you have Julia and Ilsa both recognising who the other is or was to Ethan immediately. Although really, Ethan Hunt has a type and he has a type hard, because I can’t tell the actresses apart without a few clues. If she’s kicking someone, it’s probably Ilsa.

On team bad guy meanwhile, you get August Walker and his determination to see his plan through while thinking enough of his accomplice to ask if he’s sure about being left behind. It’s a nice touch, he’s a professional genocidal maniac. He likes to work with good people. He sees someone with whom he shares goals and methodology. There‚Äôs also that lovely bit of business earlier with August Walker, when he talks about Hunt’s motivation for turning traitor in the particular direction of the Apostles. It’s really his reason and there’s enough of a frisson that it’s obvious to us what is really going on, while it might not be to other characters.

Solomon Lane gets the moment of zen calm that is normally associated with heroes. He really doesn’t care what comes next as long as everything Ethan Hunt loves dies with him. It’s disconcerting in its totality. From this, we know that there’s is nothing the bad guys won’t do to win, and that if our heroes don’t succeed, they will be the first to be vaporized.

I was able to watch this in the cinema, so I got to see audience reactions. This time, watching this in the cinema gave me a better understanding of the whole “we all watch different films” thing. It was the bit the start where the bad guys are threatening Luther. My reaction was “oh no, they’re going to kill off a secondary character I am fond of to make the hero feel bad.” I was a bit miffed, because I think it’s a cheap ploy in films and I’m quite fond of Luther. In front of me were a bunch of enjoyably rowdy black teenagers who were, justifiably, more pissed off, because once again, it was going to be the black guy that got killed. They were very pleased when Luther did not get killed off. Pleased and amazed. Dear Hollywood, note the amazed there and maybe do something about it.
In short, most of Mission Impossible: Fallout is enjoyable and solid.

But the fight scenes are exceptional.