Jul 31, 2015

Tom Cruise is Insane: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Review

Friday Night vs Monday Morning Reviews are simple. I go see a movie and do a write-up of my initial feelings and reactions so you have them by Friday Night. Then on Monday Morning I write another section after I've had time to think about the movie that will go more in depth.

Friday Night
How insane is Tom Cruise? The guy strapped himself to the side of plane and had it take off for a stunt in the movie. It's not green screen. It's not a stunt double. It's Tom friggin' Cruise strapped to a friggin' plane. Say what you will about the man's beliefs or off screen antics but the man has a damn good work ethic. It's not just Cruise that put in good work, cast and crew have put together a great summer blockbuster.

So this time around the illustrious IMF organization is disbanded at the start of the movie because most of their exploits cause, frankly, a crap-ton of collateral damage. Do they get the job done? Yes. But at the same time a lot of their results rely on luck just as much as they rely on the team's skills. (Frankly it's an apt description of the IMF, and one of those genre breaking observations movies like this probably shouldn't bring up.) The organization and personnel is folded into the CIA but Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt goes rogue to track down the Syndicate, a terrorist organization that is made up of various spy agencies' MIA or presumed KIA operatives.

Here's the thing, there are a lot of holes in this movie. Stop and think about any of the murkier plot points and the whole thing crashes. What is the Syndicate's ultimate goal? They have a short term goal in the film but it's definitely not a mission statement. Why are all of these MIA or KIA agents joining a terrorist organization? Are there that many corrupt spies? Why is Simon Peg playing Halo 5 with a PS4 controller? These are the hard hitting questions that can derail a movie. Not in this case though. The movie never slows down long enough to let you realize it before exciting stuff starts happening. It's kinda like a parent waving a flashy toy at a toddler who just skinned his knee. Don't think about the bad focus on the spectacle. And boy oh boy, does this movie have spectacle.

I've already mentioned the whole, "Tom Cruise strapped to a plane" thing. That's just the opening sequence. Then there's the car chase that turns into the most satisfying motorcycle chase I've seen in a long time. There's the computer file heist, a game of cat and mouse between hitmen and heroes at an Opera, then the climax where the conflict is up close and brutal.

The whole cast hits the right notes and extra props goes to Rebecca Ferguson for being an even more ass-kicking spy than Tom Cruise. Hell, if Black Widow is ever out sick she could fill her slot on the Avengers. Go see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation if you choose to accept it.

Monday Morning
Reboots. Sequels. Superheroes. Those are pretty much the three different types of big blockbuster you're going to get these days. That's been true for a while and it's something I've accepted for good or ill. But the Mission Impossible franchise made me stop and think about something I can't shake. Three out of the five Mission Impossible movies have seen Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt on the run because he's been blacklisted and on the run. The first, fourth and fifth movies have that at their narrative core. So that's kinda like being both a sequel and a reboot. Somehow the film series got away with it again with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation but they can't do it again. I mean--they could do it again--but they really shouldn't.

Basically everybody loves this movie. With good reason too, it's a really great spy movie. It's not trying to make its' audience think too hard. Just sit back and enjoy the show. It's the same show but it's different, at this point the IMF and/or Ethan Hunt being black listed is just a staple of the franchise as a crazy heist sequence. Doing it over and over comes dangerously close to breaking the suspension of disbelief. Yeah we can all buy the crazy superhuman (or rather super-durable) stuff our various IMF agents can do but it only works because we the audience want to believe the illusion. But suspension of disbelief of any action movie is walking a tight rope with a weight limit. Pile enough on and it'll snap. At a certain point, Ethan Hunt would've been pulled from the field for all the times he's broken protocol or cause a lot of collateral damage in the course of chasing the bad guys. The IMF itself would've been scrapped too. But I can hear you now.

"But the IMF was disbanded in this movie! At the beginning!"

Yes but in the end it's fully restored and Hunt is back being its' MVP. The fact that the movie itself brings up the problems of Hunt and the IMF in the actual plot is a problem within itself. Unless you're going to do something substantive with those concepts they shouldn't have been brought up at all. The overall story of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation could easily have been told without Hunt and the team being fugitives. While it does add a layer of tension to the proceedings its runs the unnecessary risk of adding more weight to the suspension of disbelief. The time they spent on that narrative thread could have been better used to establish what the hell the Syndicate's long term plan is. They're responsible for several different terrorist attacks but what's the goal? What's the group's mission statement? Yes in this movie they are trying to get access to more money to continue their activities but what in the hell are those activities trying to accomplish? Answering these questions (or asking them) is a more worthwhile endeavor than the "team is on the run" trope they've done already.

Look, I'm not saying the movie is bad. Perhaps I'm overcompensating because I'm nitpicking an overall great movie. All I'm saying is that the Mission Impossible movies needs to ditch some of its' common tropes in order to keep moving forward. There will surely be another Mission Impossible film, in fact Cruise said they might start filming it within a year, but they've done the same thing for three movies now. They can't seriously think they can do the same thing again can they? It's three strikes and then... well you know the rest.

No comments:

Post a Comment