Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation

  This was like a splash of cold water to the face after watching practically nothing but horror movies for a whole month. Swinging back into action is Ethan Hunt and his IMF team. This time, there's a whole anti-IMF agency called The Syndicate. They're set up as a major threat, like Spectre is to Bond and MI-6. Only the Mission: Impossible movies don't have that kind of franchise-long dedication, so we know by the end of the movie the Syndicate will be brought down. If you think that's a spoiler, you haven't been paying attention to these movies. Nevertheless, Rogue Nation is a fun thrill ride with plenty of familiar faces that have definitely become franchise mainstays as much as insane action sequences and death defying stunts.

   Ethan Hunt is still a rather static character, he's defined solely by how outrageous his plans and action scenes get. He's not Jason Bourne, and he's not Bond. He's Tom Cruise. Like an action figure in the hands of a child, fueled by his imagination- Hunt does the impossible. Over... and over and over. Rogue Nation would be no different except for the fact that this time, all this is actually acknowledged to some extent. Ethan Hunt could very well be a madman here. His plans are so crazy that even his teammates and friends have to second guess him. His dedication veers dangerously close to crazed obsession. So, is Hunt nuts? Or is he just that good? That's as much character development as you can expect from this franchise because M:I:III was a one-off that worked around a premise rather un-conducive to an ongoing serialistic mentality.

   I have no problem with that to be honest because I don't need these movies to have an abundance of depth. They feel like episodes in a TV series with the depth of The A-Team but with ten times more action and adventure. It's exceptionally well crafted excitement with a blockbuster frame of mind. Things like story, plot, and character development only get in the way to be honest.  The plot is only ever an excuse to set up a few action sequences and a couple major stunt centerpieces. On those points, Rogue Nation functions like a well oiled machine. It's also worth mentioning that it's sense of humor is fantastic, understated yet well written. One of the most sly entries in the series so far.

   Rogue Nation also feels like a throwback to the original. Things are scaled back a bit, because after you scale the tallest building in the world... you can't really say there's nowhere to go but up. This one is a bit more contained, leaner, meaner- and much more like the first movie. The opening credits flare to life with the classic theme and set the mood for the rest of the movie. This is old school Mission: Impossible in a lot of ways. Even the setup scene as Ethan and his teammates discuss how they're going to infiltrate yet another highly guarded building to do another impossible thing- it feels just like a very similar scene from the original. Familiarity is very welcome at this point in the series.

   I always feel slightly betrayed when I'm about to watch one of these movies and the classic theme has been remixed or rescored for the opening credits. Rogue Nation doesn't mess with that, or anything else that works. It's villain is evil, and the supporting characters are fun and engaging. It's not quite as over-the-top or humorous as Ghost Protocol, but it's fun nonetheless. In a lot of ways it's full of old fashioned spy thrills which is something lost on the franchise save for this one, the original, and maybe part of the third one. Rogue Nation has a lot of details and twists and turns, and I lost track of what was going on a few times, but in the end it all gets sorted out obviously.

   What's a Mission: Impossible without the possibility of another one? It also raises the question of what's going to happen to the series once Tom calls it quits- if he ever does. If we ever found another performer like him, a total do-my-own-insane-stunts guy with leading man charisma, I'm all for Cruise passing on the baton. Mission: Impossible may only be a five movie series at this point, but knowing when a new one is right around the corner always makes me happy. It's not quite nostalgia, but something close. It'll never be the 007 franchise, and even the Fast and Furious movies leave it in the dust, but there's just something about these movies that put a smile on my face. They're uncomplicated fun, and the day there's no longer a place for that in the cinema, the world will be a little more boring.

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