James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (25th Anniversary Edition)
Rated PG-13, 110 minutes
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Ving Rhames, and Jean Reno
Brian De Palma’s MISSION IMPOSSIBLE is easily one of the most successful action films of the 1990s. The film opened in the Summer of ’96 and became a piece of Hollywood history. This was the first film Tom Cruise ever produced and developed an authentic voice for being utterly profound, yet provocative and most importantly, filmmaker friendly.
De Palma put his artistic stamp on the picture without ever veering far off from what would please general audiences. At the time, filmgoers were hungry for the ultra-sleek and stylish look that the film gives off and an equally appealing cast to set the stage for what has become quite possibly the best action franchise of all time.
Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, the hotshot team leader of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). Against all odds, Ethan has to uncover what happened to his team after they were killed during a routine mission.
Aside from the memorable opening sequence, the film has created the template for the franchise in creating stunning set pieces and being impeccably acted. In the first film alone by Cruise, Jon Voight, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Redgrave, Kristen Scott Thomas, and the Mighty Ducks man himself, Emilio Estevez. If you haven’t seen this film yet, what are you doing?
Special Features: Studios love to get fans to double-dip their most popular films. With the 25th anniversary, this allows those were didn’t capitalize on the 4K to bring the film home. The special features are the same as the 4K, so there’s no new content there. But artwork and slipcase add something extra for those interested in aesthetics.
- Mission,: Remarkable: 40 Years of Creating the Impossible
- Mission : Explosive Exploits
- Mission: Spies Among Us
- Mission: Catching The Train
- and much more
Rent/Buy? Let’s make this simple: If you don’t own it already, buy this immediately. It’s easily one of the best action films of all time.
JUDAS & THE BLACK MESSIAH
Director of JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, Shaka King, confidently announced himself as an artist with a style and perspective. The biopic (with all due respect to this film) discusses the untimely murder of Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of the FBI.
King and screenwriters Will Berson – with a story by the Lucas Brothers – laser focus their efforts on how young black activists were targeted by the FBI to bring down their community. Through the lens of petty criminal Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), the story is told, who is forced into undercover work to infiltrate Hampton.
The film is ultimately heartbreaking and anger-inducing, but King’s deft direction morphs the tone into a crime thriller mixed with a riveting history lesson. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is a truly remarkable film that distinguishes itself from the pack of “based on a true story” films with pitch-perfect performances and superb technical craft. It’s easy to see how and why JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH deserved its six Oscar nominations.
- Fred Hampton For The People
- Unexpected Betrayal
Rent/Buy? JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is a painful film to watch, but it’s essential for American People. It’s a film that should be shared, discussed, and praised. Buy this thing immediately.
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch
THE MAURITANIAN is a strange film. It’s a noble story about the imprisonment of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 until 2016.
While falsely detained with zero charges to his name, the Mauritanian citizen was stripped of his personhood and tortured, yet his spirit remained.
Slahi is genuinely an incredible human being, and it’s fantastic to see his story told, which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster). Hollander chose to represent Slahi not because she thought he was innocent but to protect habeas corpus and the United States Constitution.
The film, directed by Kevin MacDonald, has loads of backstory. While the film’s heart is admirable, the way that the film unfolds is entertaining yet misguided, and the storytelling is all out of whack.
The ethics on display are above the pay grade of this review, and the script by its laundry list of screenwriters use the privilege of hindsight as the base to get its audience to root for Slahi. Essentially, this is an easy way to create a hopeful film, but that feels just a little cheap and irresponsible at times, coupled with the slightly jingoistic politics baked into sections of the script.
Luckily, the film benefits from the direction of MacDonald, who is a native Scot and has the skills to piece together a rather complicated web and translate the events into a meal of a film that goes down smoothly. It comes down to this being a film taking place in 2002, with the voice and perspective from 2020.
THE MAURITANIAN isn’t a bad film by any stretch, just one that gets a little unwieldy with a few overwrought performances begging for emotion to flood the frame. While we get a glimpse into Slahi’s fate, the real fight and point of intrigue come in the epilogue, and that is the actual crime.
- Alternate Opening
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes
- and more
Rent/Buy? Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s story is harrowing and dark (quite literally), but this is a film that should be watched at rental prices. If you find his story compelling, check out his memoir.
Rating PG-13: 89 Minutes
Directed By: Robin Wright
Starring: Robin Wright and Demian Bichir
Acclaimed actor Robin Wright dipped her toe in the director’s chair when she helmed a few episodes of Netflix’s HOUSE OF CARDS. As you probably know, that show had a large cast and moving parts that showed her chops as a filmmaker in her own right; it also didn’t hurt that show at one time was a monster hit. She started fielding feature film scripts and settled on the screenplay LAND by Jesse Chatham and Eric Dignam.
LAND is the story of a bereaved woman named Edee (Wright) who goes entirely off the grid to cope with a horrible loss of faith that she will be ever happy again well. The only vestige of hope she has is the love of her sister Emma (Kim Dickens), but wherever Edee goes, her poor mental state follows. In the wilderness of Wyoming, she fails to create a homestead in a cabin and nearly freezes to death before she is rescued by Miguel (Demian Bichir), a local hunter with a gentle, almost zen-like disposition. Edee can piece together some survival skills through his acts of kindness and restore her will to live.
LAND is a perfectly agreeable, if not super sleepy, movie that finds most of its success in the atmosphere and the performance by Bichir. Unfortunately, Wright’s first directorial effort was completely drowned out by the Best Picture winner NOMADLAND; this lost that head-to-head batter rather quickly. The story exudes honesty but suffers from being obvious at nearly every turn.
- Crafting LAND
- Robin Wright: Feature Film Directorial Debut
- After the Trauma
Rent/Buy? LAND is a rental through and through. The visuals make for some wonderful scenery, but the nuance in the themes is lacking and works well for what we call “a good sit.”I am looking forward to seeing what project Wright takes on next as a filmmaker.
All of the films are available from any major online or in-store retailers.