Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Movie Review - "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" (2015) - Oddites In Filmmaking
Every once in a while, I've come across a rare oddity in cinema where I can think of several reasons why a film should not work, and I still managed to enjoy the film more than I should have. "Guardians Of The Galaxy" was an example of that last year, a film that I foolishly called junk food with no substance but was still quite enjoyable. A stance that has changed since then to reflect one of the more memorable science fiction films of the last few years.
"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" falls into a similar category that might change over time. At the time I am writing this review, it has been five days since I have watched this film, but my opinion on it has stayed roughly the same - An enjoyable popcorn flick that has no reason to exist.
I have not been a fan of the "Mission: Impossible" movie franchise. Tom Cruise is a charismatic actor who is not afraid to perform some insane stunts, but the stories are often the failing point of these films. Unlike other spy movies, like the Bourne trilogy and most James Bond entries, which focus more on the character and their attempts to overcome their egos and/or flaws while saving the world, the "Mission: Impossible" films are solely about stopping a global threat by whatever means necessary.
Good for a summer blockbuster, but that does not hold up on repeat viewings. You watch it once, know everything that'll happen and don't bother with the film again. The only notable aspects to these films are the crazy stunts that Tom Cruise must endure, like free-climbing the tallest building in the world. That is honestly the only part I remember about the earlier entry in this franchise.
Yet, as much as I hate on "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation," I can still say that I enjoyed it more than I disliked it. Perhaps this is because the film does not fumble at any point. The story is coherent, the characters are likable and the stunts are top-notch. This film exists in a strange paradox land where I don't see many reasons to like it, but I do enjoy it.
Set some time after the events of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is now down to four members, including Director William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), techie Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and field operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Due to a recent mission involving terrorists using nerve gas, it has come to the attention of the IMF that there may be a higher power orchestrating these terrorist actions - the syndicate.
Hunt's suspicions are soon confirmed when the syndicate kidnaps him and intend to interrogate Ethan for information. While all of this is going on, the director of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) has called for a Senate oversight hearing to disband the IMF for their reckless disregard for protocol and endangerment.
What I found most fascinating about "Rogue Nation" was a speech Alec Baldwin's character gives when talking about Ethan Hunt. That he is both arsonist and fire fighter. Hunt might be creating these global threats to the world just so that he can be the one to shut them down. That his life is unfulfilled if he isn't stopping some megalomania from destroying the western hemisphere.
And for most of the film, Hunt's actions support this claim. He has tracked down the syndicate for several months, finding dozens of possible leads and actions, but has not come to a solid conclusion. He believes that it is held together by field agents from all over the world that have been considered dead, though no bodies were ever found. Hunt also thinks the syndicate is responsible for several terrorist acts all over the world, that have all had an impact on the economy or government of that country, causing a shift in power.
As Benji points out, it could be the syndicate pulling strings to change the world. Or, more likely, it could all just be a coincidence. Ethan has no proof that it is syndicate. In fact, he has no proof the syndicate even exists. Ethan could have created the syndicate in his mind so he would have a renewed purpose.
There is a surprising amount of depth for Ethan Hunt on this one, far more than any other "Mission: Impossible" film. The problem is that all of this basically amounts to a revenge plot, with Hunt wanting to get back at the man who captured him earlier in the film. Good build up, not so great pay off.
Like other entries in this series, the story of "Rogue Nation" is pretty forgettable. Most is spent on a disavowed MI6 agent working for the syndicate and her attempt to regain the trust of its leader (Sean Harris). She attempts to work both sides, helping Hunt hack into an underwater computer database, but then steals the data once he is out, leading to a motorcycle chase throughout Casablanca.
We don't learn much about her, even her name escapes me. All we know is that she loves being a spy but loves to dress up in skin-tight sexy outfits even more. This is what I mean about the story - the character that seems to be a major focal point is little more than a vehicle to get to the next scene.
That being said, I was never bored in "Rogue Nation." The action was consistent without that many gaps between each segment. Several were interspersed with some good character moments, like the previously mentioned Hunt making up the syndicate for his own gain, but also Benji attempting to work in a normal environment and failing terribly at it.
Simon Pegg gets several chances to shine in this film, as we see not only his comedic talent, but is ability to be dramatic as well. There are at least two points where Benji stands up to people bigger than himself, and he comes out being a man with his own mind and consciousness. Benji is the every-man that these films truly needed to keep them grounded.
The true star of "Rogue Nation" though has to be the stunt choreography. Much like with "Mad Max: Fury Road," there is very little computer effects throughout this film, so what we watch Tom Cruise weave in and out of traffic going well over 80 MPH, without wearing a helmet or any protective gear, that was really happening. But the true gem comes in the opening scene, where Cruise holds on to the outside of a plane as it takes off, without a parachute or support cables to keep him there. Just Cruise with a vice grip on that plane.
I'm not sure which stunt is more impressive, this or Cruise climbing that tower in Dubai. In any case, both stunts are worth the price of admission.
Overall, "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is what I wish "Jurassic World" was like - a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, while still treating its audience with respect. This is one that knows it is a popcorn film and does its best to entertain with spy intrigue, competent characters and much-needed stunts.
Final Grade: B