Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Short version: Very enjoyable. It had great action, some very funny moments. solid espionage plotting, and surprisingly fine acting. I think that this movie very solidly puts the franchise back on track. And may do the same for Tom Cruise's career.

The Mission Impossible franchise very nearly went entirely off the rails. After an honestly shockingly good first movie, it forgot that it was supposed to be about spies. Personally, I blame whoever decided to hire John Woo. He's an amazing director, but subtlety is not one of his hallmarks. Ghost Protocol turned it around very nicely, continuing to deliver the action, but layering it with a plot that brought back subtlety. Rogue Nation brings us nicely full circle, and right on the same track as the original movie.

Again, the focus of the movie is on the action. But far from being an excuse to move from set piece to set piece, the plot now actually matters. And it is a good old-fashioned plot. Shadowy masters who treat field agents like disposable pawns. Disgruntled rogues tired of saving the world. An agent who may be a double agent, or a triple agent, or may change sides entirely during the movie. Two masters of tradecraft trying to out-think each other. While it's not a perfect plot, it is exactly the kind of plot we needed. (I really did not like the denouement. It was entirely too pat and neat given the stakes of the film.)

But the real winner here is the acting. Tom Cruise has really made Ethan Hunt his own, and he's good at it. Simon Pegg has really found a way out of his comedy roots and into more dramatic roles. (I prefer his Scotty, but this role as Benji is fun.) Conversely, Jeremy Renner moves out of his recent action roles to deliver some real zingers. And, as numerous outlets have noted, Rebecca Ferguson really stands out as the aforementioned agent of unknown loyalty.

I doubt it will shock anyone to note that this movie is not a bastion of feminism. It not fails the Bechdel Test, it only has two named women in the movie. It is wall-to-wall men. And yet, Ilsa Faust manages to hold her own. She passes the Mako Mori Test, and she does so by subtly informing us that her character is tired of the rampant sexism she has to put up with. Her character is strong, nearly the equal of Ethan Hunt himself (and given the ridiculous qualities ascribed to him, that's saying something). But, as Black Widow has discovered, a lone female role will always be a token.

I would recommend seeing this, especially if you enjoyed Ghost Protocol (or the recent Bond films, for that matter). It is fun, tense, intricate, and reasonably clever. The action is intense and bold, especially when you know that Tom Cruise is doing many of the stunts himself.

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