Tag Archives: christopher mcquarrie

Movie Review: Mission Impossible: Fallout

IMI Fallout postert’s rare for a franchise to almost completely reinvent itself in almost every outing. It’s even more rare for it to deliver, arguably, its best film twenty years in. Writer and director Christoher McQuarrie delivers his best film ever, as though he’s taken everything he’s learned from his past two and a half decades of experience, writing such classics as The Usual Suspects and being frequent Tom Cruise collaborator, to craft a great movie about the stakes of failure.

Failure is one of the great recurring themes in the film, as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt just wins by sheer luck. Several times in the film you think the good guys lose — because they do, repeatedly — and wonder if maybe this film will end with them losing, or with a noble self-sacrifice.

Our story begins with some stolen plutonium, and a failed recovery plan where Ethan chooses to save the lives of his longtime teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) rather than recover the nuclear materials. So the CIA Director (Angela Bassett) does her best Amanda Waller impersonation and assigns one of their most deadly agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), to provide “oversight” on the IMF team. Translation: he will kill anyone who gets in their way, including Hunt and his team if they go rogue.

Their clashing styles and the chemistry between Cruise and Cavill provide some of the best material of the film. Cavill is an imposing presence and director McQuarrie somehow makes it look like he hits harder here than as Superman. Cavill is also just really good as a spy and an action movie star, but somehow in a completely opposite way from his turn in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But the emotional core here is with Pegg and returning actors Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Monaghan. First, all three of them give great performances. Pegg has perhaps the most interesting character arc of any person in the franchise, going from computer geek in MI:III to hero-in-his-own-right in this outing. But it’s each of the characters’ connections to Hunt and his need to protect them that make the stakes of this so much higher and more personal than in previous outings. PS- If you need more reason to love Simon Pegg, you should see his recent apology for mocking Jar Jar Binks here. Really insightful stuff.

The last Mission Impossible film was full of bombastic stunts and plot, but two years later I couldn’t tell you a thing about it or what happened. Its villain, Solomon Lane, was supposedly so much smarter and always a step ahead of Hunt, but you never really felt that. In Fallout, you feel very much like the good guys are constantly being outsmarted and the stakes for failure — nuclear annihilation for a huge portion of the world’s population — are possible.

McQuarrie writes this in the same way as his tour de force The Usual Suspects, with layers upon layers of misdirection and snappy dialogue. He builds tension and releases it, hiding important exposition n moments of humor to help the explaining go down. Like Usual Suspects, there’s real humor in here. And if you’re familiar with the principle of Chekov’s Gun, he loads and cocks so many guns and leaves you waiting for the payoff. Even when you see something coming — especially when you see it coming — you just are left waiting in anticipation for sweet release of the payoff.

He’s also willing to take some risks. There is a point about two hours into the movie when I was convinced it was over, and this would be The Empire Strikes Back of a trilogy about Ethan Hunt and Solomon Lane. Indeed, in a world where Hobbits, Hunger Games, and Harry Potters are split into multiple movies for financial reasons, you can imagine wanting to extend this franchise in that way. But it doesn’t, and gives you this brilliant denouement of a final thirty minutes that gives specific payoff to everything not only from the previous two hours but the last twenty years. Yes, this is two and half hours long. It doesn’t feel like it. Bravo, Chris McQuarrie, bravo.

And then there’s his visual style. Wow, just wow. The cinematography here is brilliant. The pacing is unbelievable. There’s an extended chase scene through Paris that goes on for what seems like twenty minutes, and there’s never a dull moment. Eat your heart out, French Connection. 

This may be the best Mission: Impossible movie. And it is certainly the best spy thriller we’ve had in a long time. This is a cure for what ails the late summertime blues and the rare summer blockbuster that doesn’t require you to turn off your brain to have fun with it.

4.25 out of 5 stars

10 Questions with writer Mark Long

Rubicon GN CoverTake the classic movie The Seven Samurai, mix in some SEALS and set it all in Afghanistan and you have Rubicon, the graphic novel published by Archaia. Rubicon marks the second collaboration between Archaia and Meteor Entertainment, the first being Hawken: Genesis.

Rubicon is the story of a paramilitary SEAL team who defend a remote mountain farming village in Afghanistan from the torment of marauding Taliban. Rubicon blends timely themes of fate, hope, and courage with relentless action into a triumphant tale of honor won with loyalty and death.

This powerfully realized book is written by New York Times best-selling graphic novel author and Meteor Entertainment president Mark Long, from an idea by Oscar-winning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, and from a story by SEAL Team VI and Red Cell veteran, Dan Capel. It’s illustrated by newcomer Mario Stilla.

With a story that packs a punch, we had a chance to subject Mark Long to “10 Questions” and you can read our review here when you’re done.

Graphic Policy: How did you come to work with Archaia on this project?

Mark Long: We produced Rubicon ourselves so we had the benefit of seeking the best publisher for the book. Archaia was our first choice. They’re producing some of the most beautiful graphic novels published today and we really liked their passion for Rubicon.

GP: Rubicon is an updated storytelling of Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, The Seven Samurai, set during the Afghanistan War. Where did the idea come from? The graphic novel is also a collaboration with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and Seal Team VI veteran, Dan Capel. How did that group come together?

ML: Chris, Dan, and I were having dinner in LA and the conversation turned to passion projects. Chris said he wanted to do something with SEALS in Afghanistan. A movie like Zulu. When I got back to Seattle, I emailed Chris and said I couldn’t get his idea out of my head, but suggested Seven Samurai instead. He liked it and I asked if we could write and produce it. Dan and I had been searching for a project to do together. Chris agreed and offered to collaborate.

GP: What type of research went into putting the story together? How detailed and “set in reality” is it?

ML: Well, we had the best technical advisor you could hope for in Dan. He’s both a SEAL Team VI and Red Cell veteran with operational experience that spans what he calls the “hairy frogman” era up to the modern anti-terror present day. But Dan’s real interest was in was emotional authenticity. Dan says the stoic SEAL portrayed in most movies is bullshit. He and his teammates grieved openly for the men they were often closer to than their own family. They also cultivate a droll wit and in Dan’s case, are outright funny. If Seth Rogen was a Navy SEAL, he’d be just like Dan—loud, hilarious, profane, irreverent.

GP: You’re also the CEO of Meteor Entertainment which partnered with Archaia on Hawken Genesis, a video game tie-in. How do you see technology shaping the comics industry?

ML: I think we’re going to see comic reader apps like comiXology feature more titles with motion graphic treatment and sound design. I plan on releasing a creator’s commentary feature when we release our eBook, with anecdotal explanations of where certain scenes came from and notes on underlying themes.

GP: You also wrote the graphic novel, The Silence of Our Friends which took on the civil rights struggle. Is there something about “real world” events you enjoy writing about?

ML: I think it’s in part a response to working exclusively in genre and action themes in game design. But I recall asking Sherman Alexie a similar question. His novels and stories are fiction, but very obviously drawn from personal experiences that are sometimes raw and difficult to read. Sherman said he couldn’t help himself. And I think that’s the secret to the best material. If it makes you uncomfortable to write, but you can’t help yourself, you’re on to something good.

GP: What types of hurdles have you met creating comics, and any lessons learned you can share?

ML: OGN’s (original graphic novels) are really unique media in that they take years to come to fruition. There aren’t many endeavors in your life that take long to complete. It’s one of those, “It’s the journey that’s the reward” experiences. And can be profoundly satisfying as a result.

Review: The Reason for Dragons, The Dark Crystal Creation Myths Vol. II, Cyborg 009, Rubicon

The Reason for Dragons

Front Cover-The Reason for DragonsWendell lives a lonely, suburban existence, losing himself in books in order to avoid his motorcycle-driving stepfather, Ted. When the school bullies convince Wendell to venture into the forest around their neighborhood and explore the long-abandoned Renaissance Fair grounds they all believe to be haunted, Wendell is surprised to find a man living in the barn—and even more surprised by the man himself. Believing himself to be a medieval knight named Sir Habaersham tasked with the duty of slaying the dragon he insists is wandering the woods, Wendell’s new acquaintance seems the definition of crackpot. But when Wendell starts hearing rumblings—and listening to Habaersham’s stories—he starts to wonder if perhaps it could all be true. In a heartfelt coming-of-age story, Wendell must defy logic in order to follow his heart…and face the dragon of the forest!

Released the same week of San Diego Comic-Con, The Reason for Dragons is an excellent graphic novel was drowned out by the noise from the convention. What people missed is an excellent coming of age story in a fantasy world.

The first thing to enjoy about this graphic novel is the main character Wendell and what he deals with. Bullies at school, a stepfather he can’t relate to, these are things many people experience every day. That makes Wendell’s reactions and struggles all the easier to relate to.

And the fantasy setting makes those issues fun to deal with in a way. The fantasy like setting is great, allowing us to escape into a world where knights and dragons might exist. Chris Northtrop‘s writing keeps us guessing in that department. It’s not until the last act do we have an idea of what is fantasy and what’s real.

In addition to Northrop’s solid writing is Stokely’s art which is a perfect fit. The style adds to the fantastical feel of it all and his style is a true find.

Overall, The Reasons for Dragons is an excellent graphic novel taking on issues many children face with. It’s a great read for the entire family.

Story: Chris Northrop Art: Jeff Stokely
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

The Dark Crystal Creation Myths Vol. II

Dark Crystal Creation Myths v2 GN CoverThe Great Conjunction is at hand in this dramatic second volume of Archaia and The Jim Henson Company’s prequel graphic novels that tell the origin of the Dark Crystal. Aughra, the beloved guardian of Thra, has gone into hiding, while her son, Raunip, leads a team of emissaries to the Crystal Castle. There they will bear witness as the visiting Urskeks attempt to use the Conjunction to power their voyage home. But pain and mistrust fostered by the group leads to events that will corrupt the world to its very core and transform the Urskeks into two distinct races: the gentle urRu and the terrifying Skeksis. Brian Froud, legendary fantasy artist and conceptual designer of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal film, returns to oversee this crucial chapter that reveals the tragic events that caused the Bright Crystal to darken and shatter. This book also includes an Afterword written by David Odell, never-before-seen production stills from the film, and a Brian Froud concept sketch gallery!

The Dark Crystal is a movie I remember from my childhood, a movie that scared the crap out of me. But, other than the fact I was a bit terrified of the film and it’s amazing visuals, that’s about it.

This second volume continues the “origin” story continuing to introduce us to this world and the events that lead up to the world of the film. It again made me want to re-watch the film.

If you’re a fan of the film and world, this is an absolute buy like the first volume. It’s a great point to get kids interested in the world and reading and has a nice factor of nostalgia for those of us who remember this from our childhoods.

Story: Joshua Dysart Art: Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John
Story: 7.25 Art: 7.25 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Cyborg 009

Cyborg_009_GN_CoverAwakening in a futurist military installation with no memory of who he is or how he got there, a young man known only as Cyborg 009 has been stripped by his captors of not only his freedom but also his humanity. His body augmented by cybernetic technology, Cyborg 009 joins forces with 8 other men and women, Cyborg 001-008, and sets off on a journey to learn the truth of why they were turned into weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent a conflict that could very well be the start of World War III.

I didn’t know a whole lot about the series until recently. After reading this graphic novel, I want to go back and find out what I missed! This graphic novel continues on from the zero issues Archaia teased us with in may.

The story is solid full of excitement, never a dull moment at all. This is going full throttle with an interesting mix of characters and moments that is beyond entertaining. It’s everything I want in a story and more!

Then there’s the art, which is amazing. There’s an updated look to these classic characters, an East meets West manga style that’s just beautiful to look at. The use of panels, the flow, everything is spot on and had me lingering checking out each page.

That art is enhanced with a beautiful presentation. Archaia is known for that but the cover has an acetate dust jacket and layered cover art revealing the inner workings of the cyborg in peel-away layers! That alone will catch folks’ eyes and become a topic of conversation.

I’m hoping this is just the first of a long line of releases. The first volume has me hooked and wanting more…. now!

Story: F.J. Desanto and Bradley Cramp Art: Marcus To
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Rubicon

Rubicon-GN-CoverFive paramilitary Navy SEAL operators defend the residents of a remote mountain farming village in Afghanistan from attacks by marauding Taliban. Led by the war-weary Hector, the operators and villagers form mutual bonds of honor and respect leading up to a climactic battle where the “Lions of Panjshir” are desperately outnumbered.

Written by Mark Long from an idea by Christopher McQuarrie and story by Dan Capel, Rubicon is basically Seven Samurai set in Afghanistan.

The story is straightforward and not all that complicated. The characters are cookie cutter and what I’d expect from this type of tale. What really drew me in was the interaction between all of those characters. It gives a bit of an insight into the mindset of them all and a glimpse of what mentally goes into being a Navy SEAL.

This tale is about brotherhood and honor and doing what’s right no matter the odds. It doesn’t go into the political hotbed that is the war in Afghanistan and how it’s being fought, instead it’s focus is the men that are fighting it.

There’s also an interesting twist in that it brings us into the tactics that might be deployed in this sort of battle. It’s fascinating to me to see what might be done and how things would be handled. The fact this was put together by military men makes it even more interesting.

The art by Mario Stilla is solid and fits the grizzled feel of the story. It’s a cool look that almost has a bit of an anime vibe about it.

The graphic novel also Includes an envelope of printed artifacts from inside the story world, expanding the narrative experience, again showing off the excellence in packaging Archaia is known for.

Rubicon is a fantastic read for anyone that enjoys a good war story or fans of the classic movie Seven Samurai.

Story: Mark Long Art: Mario Stilla
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Archaia provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review

Archaia and Meteor Announce Rubicon

After their successful collaboration on the video game turned graphic novel Hawken: Genesis, Archaia and Meteor Entertainment have announced Rubicon, a hardcover, original graphic novel that re-imagines one of the greatest movie epics of all time: The Seven Samurai. Rubicon is the story of a paramilitary SEAL team who defend a remote mountain farming village in Afghanistan from the torment of marauding Taliban. Rubicon blends timely themes of fate, hope, and courage with relentless action into a triumphant tale of honor won with loyalty and death. This powerfully realized book is written by New York Times best-selling graphic novel author and Meteor Entertainment president Mark Long, from an idea by Oscar-winning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, and from a story by SEAL Team VI and Red Cell veteran, Dan Capel. It’s illustrated by newcomer Mario Stilla. In addition, the book features a Foreword by New York Times best-selling author and the original Commanding Officer of Seal Team VI, Richard Marcinko.

The Rubicon hardcover graphic novel will also come packed with a pouch envelope containing exclusive artifacts and creative collateral from the world of Rubicon, including a reproduction of the tactical map the team uses, commendations and citations, and private correspondence.

A very special, slipcased limited edition is available for purchase only on Archaia’s webstore and Meteor’s Hawken website, where collectors receive an additional $10 in Meteor Credits with purchase.

Limited editions will also be available at the Archaia booth at San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con, while supplies last.

Rubicon will encompass 128 pages and retail for $24.95.

Rubicon GN Cover