Spy vs Spy

Well, I saw Mission Impossible 19. There was Buzz. I'm extremely susceptible to buzz. "one of the best action movies of the decade" they said! "Ooooh, I wonder what all that action will be," I said.

Turns out a lot of it was running. Though that was not unimpressive.My God, can fifty-six year old Tom Cruise ever run! He has excellent form.

Still, in the end MI # was as by the numbers as an action/spy film gets. I was disappointed.

After some thinking, I realized those numbers are tough to get away from in the spy/action movie. You need a McGuffin. It has to have big political ramifications, so it's usually a nuclear weapon, or a bio weapon, or two nuclear weapons and a button you need to push while cutting the wires on both simultaneously. You need a few expendable characters who are around long enough for the audience to care about before they start dying and almost dying. You need a car chase, a foot chase, a hand to hand fight in an enclosed area with a gun not far away, and something involving a helicopter. 

Then, I thought some more and concluded you can change some of the numbers.

I vaguely recalled The Man From UNCLE. I remembered liking it, but didn't remember why. So, I watched it again. 

Brief summary...Hot Russian Super Spy and Hot American Super Spy team up with a Hot East German auto mechanic/daughter of notorious Nazi scientist to keep some bad guys from perfecting a new, quick, cheap, process for enriching uranium. Car chases, hand to hand fights in enclosed spaces with a gun near by, something with a helicopter ensue.

There are some numbers it goes by, but it's tougher to see the numbers in this one than it is in MI.  

For one, there's another McGuffin. The Hot Russian Spy gets his father's watch stolen, while trying to maintain cover as a guy who doesn't kill men with his bare hands. Both spies  are quietly looking for that watch for the rest of the movie. It becomes surprisingly important. I love a surprisingly important plot device when I don't see it coming. 

More importantly, the action scenes are as much about establishing the characters as they are about fast cars and narrow streets. 

There are only so many ways you can do a car chase. All of them are fun. It's tough not to enjoy them. If a movie is terrible but has a good car chase in it, then it isn't as terrible. With that in mind, in The Man from Uncle, the car chase becomes a foot chase when they drive the car down an alley that's too narrow and it get's stuck, forming a road block for their pursuers. While, in MI # the car chase turns into a motorcycle chase when they drive a TRUCK down an alley that's too narrow and it get's stuck, forming a road block for their pursuers.  

So, you have two fairly identical scenes, but I only really cared about one of them. The Man From Uncle spends its car chase establishing the characters.. That's the trick of a good action movie. The movie has to keep happening during the action. MI # doesn't get that. It's action scenes are pretty much "Hey...wanna see Tom Cruise jump out of a plane for real?" He really doesn't even have a character other than "Nice Guy". It's action porn.

Which is fine. Everyone likes porn, but everyone just likes it for the good parts.

So, The Man from Uncle was a whole movie. Go back and have a look at it if MI leaves you wanting. I understand it did well on video so there may yet be a return to the characters. That said, the action is a bit better in MI. 

Life is all about compromise, isn't it?