Can the Action Bar be topped?

I'm posting for 60 days straight, leading up to my early December birthday, and I'm making the time to write on behalf of slain UCC Professor and aspiring novelist, Larry Levine.

I consider myself fortunate that there's a second run movie theater (kind've) nearby. You know, the smaller, funkier theater that plays current films six to nine months after their initial release. And when I say nearby, I mean within 45 miles of home, but fortunately in an area with clients and friends. So once a quarter or so, I'm able to schedule meetings late enough in the afternoon so I can catch a film that I missed the first time around.

Tonight's screening? Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - the fifth in the Tom Cruise 'MI' reboot that started back in 1996. I'm watching from the back row, occasionally caught up in the action, but more often analyzing and dissecting dialogue, shot framing, camera position and movement, and those jaw dropping action sequences.

And I'm bemused. We've come to expect hair-raising vehicle chases in exotic and/or crowded locales - MI:RN has two, motorcycles in Morocco and cars in London. They were expertly shot, choreographed, and executed. But like many that have come before, I found myself thinking, "Those action scenes were well done. They were competent. Not WOW."

Ouch. Harsh.

The WOW moment in MI:RN is when Tom Cruise hangs on to the side of a plane that's taking off. Which was already shown in the trailer, and which practically opens the film. So where do you go from there?

Those competent thoughts mirrored feelings I had about the visual effects in director Ridley Scott's The Martian - worth seeing on a big screen, as opposed to TV / computer, by the way. Reminder that it follows the recent, glorious Alfonso Cuarón epic Gravity and Christopher Nolan's galactic time travel to save humanity, Interstellar.

We audiences are so spoiled with hyper realistic, perfectly executed special effects and their integration with live action that we take them for granted. As sure as the sun will rise Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt and Daniel Craig's James Bond, among others, will exhibit Olympic level athleticism, marksmanship, and endurance all while driving like a Formula One champion. Without stopping to pee or break a sweat. Because we expect it, as the baseline, for our escapism.

I look forward to seeing what Hollywood does with the action flick next, because as an occasional screenwriter, I wouldn't know where else to go.

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