Recent capsule reviews for Empire magazine:
Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015): Must be something in the spy franchise air: Just as Spectre saw 007’s existence questioned, so too Rogue Nation has the IMF grilled for its antiquated methods. Both tangle with shadowy threats to global security, but where Bond furrowed his brow, M:I five delivers a sparkling globetrotter that goes from strength (that plane opening) to strength (a breathtaking underwater vault heist.) Jack Reacher’s McQuarrie does arguably the best instalment since De Palma, crafting an elegant old-school thriller that resurrects the series’ escapist intrigue, while 20 years into the gig Tom Cruise feels more like the last superstar than ever. Long may he reign.
Nasty Baby (Sebastián Silva, 2015): Sebastián Silva (Crystal Fairy) has been making a habit of trolling American indie clichés, and his latest may be his best satire yet. Set against Brooklyn’s gentrified liberalism, Nasty Baby sets itself up as a Sundance-style drama about an artist couple (TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Silva himself) trying to conceive with their female friend (Kristen Wiig). A schizoid turn into darkest comedy awaits, though, when an old ’hood vagrant throws their lives into chaos. Clumsily provocative at times, but consistently uneasy.
Holding the Man (Neil Armfield, 2015): Adapted by writer/stage director Tommy Murphy from the memoir by Timothy Conigrave, Neil Armfield’s Holding the Man takes a potentially maudlin premise—a tender romance tragically eroded by discrimination and terminal illness—and transforms it into sharp and deeply affecting dramatic cinema. Aspiring actor Tim (Ryan Corr) and star footballer John (Craig Stott) meet cute at a Melbourne high school in a period-perfect late ’70s, but the purity of their relationship is challenged by the ugly reality of prejudice and HIV-related illness as they transition into adult life. Armfield succeeds in balancing empathy with social critique (and some impressive formal moves), while both Corr and Stott are solid leads—no easy task, given they have to convince across 15 years and wildly disparate haircuts. It’s the gallery of supporting vets, though—particularly Anthony LaPaglia as John’s bitterly homophobic dad—who give the film a real serve of emotional ballast.