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The Films of Christopher McQuarrie

The Way of the Gun

Jack Reacher (February 20/13)

Based on Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, Jack Reacher follows the title character (Tom Cruise), a mysterious military investigator, as he reluctantly agrees to look into the murder of several civilians by a skilled sharpshooter. There's little doubt that filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, working from his own screenplay, does a superb job of immediately drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as the movie kicks off with a spellbinding (and dialogue-free) stretch revolving around the aforementioned sharpshooter's attack and the subsequent initial investigation by the authorities. It's a riveting opening that paves the way for a deliberately-paced yet consistently watchable thriller that benefits substantially from Cruise's engrossing performance, as the actor effortlessly steps into the shoes of an impressively hardened figure with a propensity for random acts of violence and tough-guy posturing (eg in one of the movie's more amusing moments, Reacher tells a foe, "I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot.") McQuarrie's leisurely modus operandi results in a midsection that does, admittedly, feel somewhat padded-out, with the procedural-like bent of the narrative ensuring that Jack Reacher, at times, resembles the pilot episode of a new cop show on TNT. And although the protracted climax isn't quite as riveting as one might've hoped, Jack Reacher is, in the end, a better-than-average modern-day thriller that hopefully marks the start of a promising new series.

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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (September 7/15)

The Mission: Impossible series finally runs out of steam with this overlong and often superfluous entry, as writer/director Christopher McQuarrie offers up a rather forgettable narrative that's perpetuated by an atypically bland villain and a surfeit of disappointing action interludes. The needlessly convoluted storyline follows Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as he attempts to take down a rogue terrorist organization known as the Syndicate, with Hunt's continuing efforts both helped and hindered by Rebecca Ferguson's mysterious Ilsa Faust. There's little doubt that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation gets off to an impressively engrossing start, as McQuarrie opens the proceedings with a thrilling sequence that sees Hunt clinging to the outside of an ascending airplane. From there, however, the film morphs into a disappointingly by-the-numbers actioner devoid of compelling attributes - with the been-there-done-that vibe amplified by an almost total absence of interesting, three-dimensional supporting characters. (Ferguson's boring turn as the movie's femme fatale is nothing compared to Sean Harris' almost astonishingly one-note portrayal of villain Solomon Lane.) The lack of momentum reaches a head as Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation limps into its climactic stretch, with the buildup to and execution of the padded-out, unusually tedious third act ensuring that the film concludes on as underwhelming a note as one could envision - which does confirm the picture's place as a rushed and half-baked entry within an otherwise stellar franchise.

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Mission: Impossible - Fallout (September 5/18)

A monumental improvement over 2015's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (and indeed a strong candidate for the best of the series), Mission: Impossible - Fallout follows Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as he and his team set out to stop a diabolical villain from exploding a series of nuclear bombs. Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie does an absolutely fantastic job of immediately drawing the viewer into the long yet never overlong proceedings, as Mission: Impossible - Fallout kicks off with an engrossing pre-credits stretch that paves the way for a mostly captivating narrative that's rife with thrilling, eye-popping action sequences - including a brutal and absolutely electrifying bathroom brawl, a series of chases through the streets of Paris, and a climactic helicopter chase that's nothing short of jaw-dropping. It's clear, too, that the picture benefits substantially from Cruise's typically charismatic and commanding turn as the series' lead figure, with the actor receiving more-than-able support from a cast of periphery performers that includes Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Henry Cavill. (The latter is especially effective as Ethan's combative new partner, while the decision to bring back Sean Harris as the film's central antagonist is, unfortunately, one of McQuarrie's few missteps here.) The movie's storyline is, by the standards of this notoriously convoluted franchise, pretty easy to follow, ultimately, which ensures that the viewer is absolutely invested in the protagonists' hair-raising exploits - with the final result a seriously impressive installment in this continuing series and, in the end, one of the new century's very best action films.

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© David Nusair