Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Written by Christopher McQuarrie
At 56 years old, age is showing across Tom Cruise’s face. Yet he still manages to convince us he is still capable of doing all of his own stunts on screen. Mission Impossible films have always raised the bar on the daring stunts Cruise does as Ethan Hunt. It is largely what propels the set pieces and action, leaving little room for any hugely intriguing storyline. Yet this film is written and directed by the same guy who delivered the previous Mission Impossible Rogue Nation film. With this follow-up he tries to bring back Etan Hunt’s ex-wife, and string together some old plotlines from the previous film to build upon. Yet this isn’t where the film makes mistakes. It is with heavy foreshadowing to the point it has become ridiculous. Give us intrigue. Give us mystery. Let us keep guessing until the last possible moment. That is fun and unexpected. This film tries too hard to spoon feed the audience and that is simply sad given that is the very things to change to make this film much better.
Here comes the spoilers.
It has been a couple years since the events that took place in Rogue Nation. Ethan Hunt is still working for Impossible Mission Force (IMF) and he accepts a mission to intercept three nuclear cores from terrorists who would turn these into nuclear bombs that would devastate cities around the globe. Ethan’s team comprised of Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) get hemmed up during the nuclear core exchange and they lose the cores. The Director of the CIA, Erika Sloan (Angela Bassett) is upset in Ethan and the IMF and she decides to insert one of her operatives, August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Ethan and make sure the mission is success at all costs. This adds some nice elements of him being younger and assumingly stronger than Hunt which when Sloane says he is the hammer to IMF’s scalpel is a perfect analogy of Ethan versus Walker. They do not trust each other and they immediately let the audience know they do not like each other. Foreshadow mistake number one. We know these two will go head to head. Yet take this as an opportunity to play with this element of the storyline. Do NOT show the pristine cell phone Walker hands Sloan as proof Ethan is a bad guy. The frame-up is too expected at this point. Perhaps the director and writer wanted us to guess when the turn reveal would be, and hoped this would create more tension but it didn’t. Let this be a ‘could he be?’ type of game. Let Walker through his shadow efforts seriously ponder if Ethan is a terrorist. I am sure they could contrast the methods the IMF takes towards achieving goals versus how the CIA does and use that to advantages and disadvantages. I think having Walker stay a straight arrow is more compelling for the character. Having him truly believe Ethan is a terrorist double agent would raise stakes more as he would try to uncover more information than Ethan was willing to share. SO it would be spy versus spy within the team. Walker could still be compelled to take down Ethan, but only as a play by Solomon Lane masterminding the two agencies to turn on one another. Again that is far more compelling and intriguing. After all they are only going by what intelligence they collect and who could be feeding them intel other than Solomon Lane and his Apostles?
Now when it comes to using foreshadow it is okay is small does. Yet this film is on foreshadow steroids. The bathroom fight scene when the gun slides across the floor. You know it is soon to come into play in this scene later. Wow they see the gun. Now they are fighting for it. Another scene Walker is prepping for a mission and inserts a knife into his belt. Oh there is that knife again being used to kill a secondary character. Oh my. Like the audience doesn’t already assume agents are not armed with knives and guns anyways. Geez. Then there is the hook. A literal hook. Foreshadow overload. All of these things could have been done as they occurred with no foreshadow and thus raise the surprise factor. Surprise! Here is that gun that was dropped and no direct shot needed to foreshadow. Oh there was a wires with a hook on that helicopter? Ahh how lucky they are! Close call! That is where you raise suspense and give the audience surprises.
In the end, I would have written to have Solomon trick the CIA and Walker for the entire film, but when Walker puts it together that they are being played Solomon backup is leveraging something Walker cares about to destroy Ethan. Since he is already tasked to recover the cores at all costs by the CIA, let that cost be Solomon telling him if he kills Ethan he will give up the cores to him. Walker is conflicted in doing so because now Ethan is not a terrorist, but this web of deceit and greater good calling is compelling him to kill Ethan to save millions. Then realizing Solomon has no guarantee he would turn over the cores, Walker could sacrifice himself to enable Ethan to get close enough to Solomon to take him out. This can still take place in the helicopters, but with Walker and Ethan still chasing. They would do the forced turn against each other after the crash. That is climax. That is no foreshadow required. This is suspenseful and compelling. Plus wouldn’t it be more fun if Lark was White Widow (just another cover of hers)? After all her mother went by Max (Nice little nod to the first film). This would mean she knew all along nobody else was Lark. Then her performance is far greater because she was Lark all along.
Thanks for reading ‘Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.