Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation


Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015). Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Produced by J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Tom Cruise, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger. Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Based on the TV series Mission Impossible created by Bruce Geller. Run Time: 131 minutes. U.S. Action, Espionage

As we’ve written before, every summer is full of sequels and reboots and 2015 has been no exception so far. With new films trading off the top spot nearly every week, it is no wonder that Hollywood turns over and over again to the tried and true. There are of course, the occasional new movie like Tomorrowland, Inside Out, and Ant-Man but those seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Even new films, like San Andreas seem to be reworks of previous films, in this case Earthquake (1974) meets 2012 (2009).

So far this summer, we’ve been treated to The Avengers: Age of Ultron (sequel); Mad Max: Fury Road (sequel); Pitch Perfect 2 (sequel); Jurassic World (sequel); Ted 2 (sequel); Magic Mike XXL (sequel); Terminator: Genisys (sequel); Minions (prequel); Vacation (sequel); Fantastic Four (reboot) and our film Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (sequel), which for the second week is holding down the top spot at the U.S. box office.

The problem with sequels is that they often take years to bring to the screen. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol came out in 2011. While the “Syndicate” is mentioned at the end of that film, you are forgiven if you don’t remember that. It has been four years and there are now easily half-a-dozen cinematic universes we’re supposed to be keeping up with.

Like all espionage/action films, this one takes place in locales all around the world, including London, the Vienna Opera House and the deserts of Morocco. If you’re old enough to remember the 1960’s television series this is based on, you’ll remember that much of the action in that series also took place overseas, though production did not. The use of real locales lends a reality to the fantastical story being told, so it makes it almost seem like it could really work the way the film unfolds.

And the stunts are as big, if not bigger than in Ghost Protocol. In that film, you may recall, Cruise climbed on the outside of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. Here, and this can’t be a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer or the opening soon poster, Cruise walks on and hangs onto a plane that is taking off.  He actually performs his own stunts which is both cool and fool-hearty. It’s hard to believe the producers would let the star of the $150 million production risk his life and the film that way, but apparently he is all about the realism. He also drives fast cars and even faster motorcycles with wild abandon through the narrow streets of wherever he is at the moment.

Yes, that's Tom Cruise doing his own stunts.

I will admit that I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan and would definitely not watch any film that he’s in it, just because he is. He has turned himself into an action hero-type and the more recent films I’ve seen him in, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), have been quite fun to watch.

Unlike the television series, the movies are less about the group and more about the star. Yes, there is a team, but they are more backup band than anything else. Jeremy Renner (as William Brandt, the Director of Operation at the IMF), Ving Rhames (as computer expert Luther Stickell) and Simon Pegg (as computer genius Benji Dunn) all return in their supporting roles. For the most part, their participation in the mission is more tactical than practical. They’re the ones more likely to be hovering over a computer screen hacking and advising Ethan than actually foiling an assassin. Ethan is the James Bond here, the best at everything manly from driving to shooting to disguises to action. The one area where Ethan doesn’t either measure up or top Bond is in the ladies’ department.

There is no real love interest in this film, the way there always is in Bond films. There is a strong female character, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), but their relationship doesn’t really get past a few furtive looks and a few throw away lines. Like Ethan, she is a spy, but even though she saves his life, is obviously not as accomplished as he is. Of course, no one is as accomplished as Ethan.

This is about as intimate as Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) gets with Ethan.

Alec Baldwin also makes an appearance as Alan Huntley, Chief Director of the CIA. Seeing him in Rogue Nation is a little like seeing Robert Redford was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); though Redford’s character was more crucial to the storyline. It seems like it is only a matter of time before every actor of prominence appears in a Franchise or two. A lesser actor like Pegg is in three: this one, Star Trek and, now, Star Wars. (Ooops! Spoiler Alert!) (Come to think of it, couldn’t Bond use a Scottish technical side-kick? Or is there a Celtic super-hero just waiting casting in the MCU?)

Alec Baldwin and Jeremy Renner discuss the similarities of their hairstyles.

Sean Harris is not an actor with whom I'm that familiar. He plays a rather restrained yet menacing head of the Syndicate, but like all villains in these kinds of movies, he is all seeing and all knowing until the very end. Basically, the archetypal bad guy now in films.

Sean Harris plays the villain who know everything until he doesn't.

There, are of course, the over-the-top moments, which I won’t get into, but these are also par for the course in Bond and Bond-wannabe movies. It’s not an espionage film unless there is some I-can’t-believe-this-would-really-exist set with the hero doing something that is super-human in it. Rogue Nation does not disappoint. The problem, as it were with these kinds of stories, is that they have to keep one-upping themselves, if not the other entries in the genre. If you make it too big then the next film will either seem like a come down, or be truly unbelievable, think Bond in space (Moonraker, 1979). No doubt there will be a Mission Impossible 6 in four to five years. Pace yourself boys, pace yourself.

For the most part, the film is quite enjoyable, over-the-top summer fun. It is even funny at times, thanks to the screenplay by director Christopher McQuarrie. One thing it does manage to do is not take itself too seriously.

While the story itself is quite unbelievable, that’s part of its charm. This is one of those popcorn films that you can watch, enjoy and move on. I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for some pure escapist entertainment.

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