One can only imagine that the reasoning for the existence of this movie lies in the opportunity it affords Tessa Thompson to showcase her considerable charms to a wide audience. Sure, she has been excellent in the likes of Sorry to Bother You and Little Woods, and has played a supporting role in a couple of Marvel entities, but Men in Black: International puts her front and centre in a big budget Hollywood franchise film for the first time. In a movie that perhaps nobody (except the number-crunching studio boffins) really expected or felt was in any way necessary, Thompson does her utmost to make something of the material and, as a result, the film is enjoyable enough whilst unlikely to leave a lasting impression. Thompson is Agent M, a rookie in the MiB organization who finds herself teamed with Chris Hemsworth’s cocky but rather clueless Agent H, who is held in high regard due to his involvement, several years earlier, in a Paris showdown that supposedly saved the world from alien invasion. Having worked together previously on Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: End Game, Thompson and Hemsworth share an easy on-screen chemistry that is in keeping with the light-hearted ludicrousness of the premise.
Starting with a flashback to Agent M as a young girl who, having seen a couple of MiB agents in action, becomes hell bent on joining the mysterious group, a montage ensues of a series of recruitment interviews with the various law enforcement agencies, all of whom deny any knowledge of the alien-hunting organisation, before she stumbles across the secret MiB headquarters, impresses company boss Agent O (Emma Thompson), finds herself recruited in quick time and despatched to the London office. Even though it is highly unlikely that anybody could miss the irony of an organisation known as Men in Black being run by a female, director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) and screenwriters Matt Holloway and Art Marcum dish up a conversation between the two Thompsons just to make sure we get it. For their first mission together, Agents H and M are charged with protecting an alien VIP known as Vungus the Ugly, who holds the key to one of the most destructive weapons ever made. However, when their mission is undermined and the two agents find themselves facing off against a pair of shape-shifting twins in Marrakech, it becomes obvious that there is a mole with the MiB ranks.
Meanwhile back at the office, Agent C (Rafe Spall) is trying to convince the London branch boss High T (Liam Neeson) that Agent H is sailing along more on good looks and charm than on any genuine achievements in the field. It becomes quite obvious who the mole is once we realize that Agent H is quite inept at his job and that his Paris heroics might be somewhat, if not completely, overstated. It has been a long time since his career-high of Schindler’s List and whilst his recent output has been a series of action roles of varying quality, Neeson seems uncomfortable in this space and certainly doesn’t bring the kind of conviction we might expect from a performer whose talents are without question.
Gray doesn’t drag things out though and brings it to a conclusion well inside two hours, flouting the current trend to extend movie running times beyond what is necessary or even comfortable. Sure the two leads are different, with Tessa Thompson’s presence saving the film from itself, but there is little else that is particularly new about Men in Black: International. Even the various alien incarnations don’t resonate as much as those in the earlier chapters, with only Vungus (Kayvan Novak) and Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) particularly memorable. As Riza, the three-armed former girlfriend of Agent H and possessor of personal powers and powerful weaponry, Rebecca Ferguson seems to relish the opportunity she is afforded and certainly makes the most of her limited screen time. For anybody emotionally invested in this series (if such people even exist), Men in Black: International will probably tick enough boxes to leave them somewhat satisfied, while others may find themselves asking what is the point of it all.