Tag Archives: Mission Impossible

Leverage, TV Series

Leverage is a TV series that came out in 2009. It ran for five years before it was canceled in 2012… But I began following it when it was being rerun. 🙂

Leverage is an amazingly funny show about former insurance investigator Nate Ford (played by Timothy Hutton), who is down in his cups after the death of his young son. He and his wife have split up, and Nate is not doing so well. When he is not working (and he has not been for some time), he is drinking his sorrows away.

Then a friend hires him to steal “intellectual property” another company stole from him. The man also hires a team for him. This team consists of “retrieval specialist” Elliot Spencer, a former U.S. black ops agent who “retrieves” items from other people – usually by beating them up to get to the merchandise. Elliot prefers to use his hands or nearby objects in combat instead of guns, though this preference is never explained. And he rarely deals with his opponents in an – ah – lethal manner.

The other member of the team is Alec Hardison, a hacker able to get in and out of complex computer systems in minutes. A con man, Hardison is clever but tends to overcomplicate his plans. Intellectual and a “geek of the first order,” Hardison at first has no respect for Elliot, whose style of business revolves around beating people up. That is hardly a smart thing to do!

The final member of the team is Parker. A “master” thief who was raised in abusive foster homes, she has a hard time understanding emotions and how to express them properly. Also, she is completely unselfconscious. She has a love of stealing that goes way beyond that of the clinical kleptomaniac, though her only apparent reason for thieving is to get quick cash!

Nate agrees to lead the op and the team walks away with the merchandise, handing it over to their employer. But the next day, they are not paid as agreed. Things get even worse when the four are almost killed by a bomb rigged to get rid of them. Turns out they were not retrieving stolen merchandise, but tech specs that belonged to the other company, which is a rival for the one Nate’s “friend” owns.

Nate talks the three into helping him right the wrong, gaining a fourth member for their team in Sophie Devereaux. Sophie is a “grifter” who cons wealthy people out of whatever she wants. Sophie and Nate have a bit of chemistry and have met before. Though Nate – in his previous work as an insurance investigator – has bagged all of the members of his team when they were working solo, Sophie and he never quite “got over” each other.

The first episode sees the team return the stolen tech and sink Nate’s former friend and his company. Hardison plays with and tweaks the stock market so that they all make an insane amount of money off of the company’s downfall, and the team parts ways, seemingly set for life.

Except that Elliot, Hardison, and Parker have all had a taste of being Robin Hood. And they like it. They fall in behind Nate, who does not seem to have any interest whatsoever in being their “Black King,” since he used to be the “White Knight” who would take them and their “kind” in to face the consequences of their illegal activities. Sophie – who has also been bitten by the Robin Hood bug – talks him into it, telling him they will follow the “Black King/White Knight” wherever he leads.

Thus begins the saga of Leverage. Hardison sets up a legitimate company front for the crew, using Nate’s funds (with his permission), and the five begin working. Nate selects their “clients” – those who have been wronged by the rich and powerful and have no way to get justice, either for lack of money or proof. The team then cons the scammers, thieves, et al who are rich, powerful and famous, and either regains the stolen loot or gets justice for the crime. Meanwhile, they make sure their “clients” get a little something extra from their heists: usually extra money or a “bonus” piece of justice. Often, it is a satisfying combination of the two!

Robin Hood meets the A-Team in Leverage, and it is quite a mixture of the good, old-fashioned tale of “rob from the rich, give to the poor” for the modern TV viewer. The series is fun not only for the characters and stories, but for the glimpse of how easy it is for real-life criminals and others to use sleight-of-hand tricks to fool the unobservant. Most of the cons work simply because the Leverage crew knows how to behave as though they really are who and what they claim to be.

Sophie and Nate have no trouble passing themselves off as millionaires, lawyers, campaign financiers, or anything else. Hardison and Elliot do not lack such chameleon skills and neither does Parker. They all slip in and out of regular everyday roles as easily as honest people change clothes, and then disappear as though they never existed. Which, in a way, is true: if they want to stay free, they cannot exist – at least, not in a normal way.

This is one reason I enjoy the Leverage series. I also believe it might not be bad to view the show with an eye to looking out for such scams in one’s own life! Though we cannot always stand up to hackers or “retrieval specialists” in a toe-to-toe situation, as long as we stay aware, we can make their job harder. For real-life us, that is a good thing; for real-life crooks, that might make them consider a career change to something more honest. You never know!

And, on some level, I admit that I wish there really was a Leverage-like crew out there. It would be nice to have some real-life Robin Hoods or A-Team types righting the wrongs that happen far too frequently these days. At least, I think it would be nice! Maybe I am wrong.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

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Thoughts on Oblivion

Oblivion2013Poster.jpg

 

I am not a fan of Tom Cruise. I do not hate him; I just do not think he is the cat’s meow. I like some of the films he has been in – Jack Reacher, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (the other Mission Impossible films take themselves just a little too seriously for my tastes), and maybe one or two others that I cannot recall right now. I have never understood all the fuss about Top Gun.

If I do not like Tom Cruise, then why am I bringing him up? Well, a little while back, I had some time to kill. I was trying to find something on the tube to watch to chase away the boredom. Jack Reacher was playing and, after that, Oblivion. I caught the last ten or so minutes of Reacher (it looked pretty good, from what I saw) and I was right on time for Oblivion.

Despite some trepidation, I watched it. For those of you who have not seen it, the story focuses on one Jack Harper (Tom Cruise). Jack and his female partner, Victoria (maybe, I never got her name straight), are on a watch station outpost on a devastated Earth. Their job – along with the job of a few other teams like them – is to maintain a series of drones that are routinely scouring the radiation-free parts of the planet.

These drones are programmed to hunt down and kill Scads, the aliens who destroyed Earth’s moon and totally ruined the world. Both Jack and Vic have had their memories wiped to protect the rest of humanity, which has retreated to Jupiter’s moon, Titan. Once the Scads are all gone, Jack and Vic will go back to Titan as well.

Although they have had their memories wiped, Jack still has occasional flashbacks. Some of these include a woman – someone who is not Vic – and himself. Jack knows this woman is important, but he also knows he is not allowed to remember her. Or the rest of his previous life. If he does remember, and he is caught, then humanity’s refuge on Titan is toast.

But that does not stop Jack from trying to remember; it does not help him become more at ease with Vic, and it does not stop him from collecting bits and pieces of things from the ruins of the buildings he goes to when a drone is damaged and he has to repair it.

In fact, Jack has a whole house he has built by a lake chock-full of things he has collected. Vinyl records, books, pilot’s glasses (movie reference!), an NYC baseball cap, and a stuffed toy gorilla are among the loot he has filled the house with.

Whenever he can escape Vic and “Control” – the people who monitor his and Vic’s work – Jack heads to this retreat for some alone time. In this setting, he also has more time to try and remember. But, frustratingly, he cannot recall much. Just more images that do not make sense.

Then, one day, Jack discovers the Scads have set up a beacon. He disables it, but a few hours later, a space ship crash lands not far from where he found the beacon. Jack heads to the ship and searches the wreckage, finding at least four humans in sleeping capsules in the debris. One of the humans is the same woman from his fragmented memories.

Suddenly, a drone arrives and starts destroying the pods. Jack is unable to save three of the four survivors, but he is able to prevent the drone from killing the woman he remembers. He takes her back to the watch station, where he wakes her up.

The strange/familiar woman introduces herself as Julia, and recovers from her long hibernation to hear the story of what happened on Earth; how sixty years ago, the Scads destroyed Earth’s moon, thereby wiping out half the planet, and humanity finally managed to beat them back before hightailing it to Titan.

However, the story does not explain why Julia obviously recognizes Jack, why he recognizes her, or why the drone destroyed the other survivors. Vic is determined to call in this survivor’s presence to control, but Jack talks her down, delaying the news for at least a day.

The next morning, Julia convinces Jack to take her back to the wrecked ship to get its log records.

They get to the ship wreckage and Julia gets the black box she wants so desperately. But while they are there, the two are ambushed and captured by Scads. Taken to an underground base, Jack learns the Scads are not aliens at all. They are actually humans, and the drones are designed to kill them. They killed the survivors from the downed ship, the Odyssey, because they only recognize Jack and Vic.

After dumping all this information on Jack, the base leader lets him go, suggesting that he should look into the so-called “radiation zones” Control will not allow him to enter. Jack and Julia leave the base and go to a building, where Jack uses the building’s radio to “text” Vic and let her know he’s all right. He goes up to the top of the building standing in what was New York City and finds Julia in front of a set of binoculars – you know, the kind you put a quarter in and they let you see through them?

Well, these binoculars bring both her and Jack down memory lane. And Jack finally gets to recall why he knows Julia – she’s his wife!

Okay, impossibly long story short, Jack tells Vic the good news but she is convinced he has been compromised. She is killed by a drone when she tells Control she and Jack cannot work together anymore, and the machine nearly finishes off Jack as well – before Julia fries it. The two then escape the tower and end up in a small desert outside New York – what was New York. Turns out, this desert is a radiation zone….

And when Jack runs into another technician in the zone, he finds himself looking at himself!

The real Jack Harper died sixty years ago. His clones have been used by an alien force to decimate Earth and keep the human population under control and out of the way, while the aliens steal water from what is left of the planet. This is why the drones do not recognize other humans. They are only programmed to respond to the clones of Jack Harper and Vic.

On the whole, I would say Oblivion is two hours of my life that I will never get back, to paraphrase a friend. It was not a horrible waste of time, but it is not a movie I think I could put up with watching a second time.

So why did I bring it up? Two reasons. One, the CGI effects for this film are amazing. Even when I saw the advertisements for the film, I thought they were good. I especially liked the dragonfly-style helicopter Jack got to fly around for a good part of the movie.

The second reason I bring up Oblivion hit me the night after I saw the movie. Despite its flaws, slow plot, and rather dreary outlook on life (not to mention its fairly predictable use of clones), there was one thing that I realized was good about the film.

The alien thing that made all the clones of Jack Harper made clones of Vic – the real Jack Harper’s co-pilot aboard the Odyssey – to distract him. Despite overwhelming programming, despite wiping his memories as best it could, there was one thing the alien could not remove from Jack Harper. And in part, it could not remove it because it did not understand it.

No matter how many clones of Jack Harper were running around, they all had the same memories of Julia Harper. The alien could not wipe out the real Jack Harper’s love for his wife. The alien could get rid of everything else – except that. Subsequently, it could not extinguish that memory in the clones.

So, basically, true love conquers yet again. It only took – oh, sixty years. But better late than never, right?

Later,

The Mithril Guardian