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Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation




Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Produced by: J.J. Abrams
Bryan Burk
Tom Cruise
David Ellison
David Goldberg
Don Granger

Screenplay by: Christopher McQuarrie

Story by: Christopher McQuarrie
Drew Pearce

BasedMission: Impossible by Bruce Geller

Starring: Tom Cruise
Jeremy Renner
Simon Pegg
Rebecca Ferguson
Ving Rhames
Sean Harris
Alec Baldwin

Music by: Joe Kraemer

Cinematography by: Robert Elswit

Editing by: Eddie Hamilton

Studio(s): Bad Robot Productions
Skydance Productions
Cruise/Wagner Productions
China Movie Channel
Alibaba Pictures

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): July 30, 2015 (United Kingdom)
July 31, 2015 (United States)

Running time: 131 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $150 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $679.8 million


Alrighty there children! After a quiet enough week there (aside from the odd twelve-hour shift), a new one begins, and what better way to begin than to write. If there's one thing that I have rediscovered in the past number of months, before I started the blog back up, is that I do derive such a great amount of pleasure in the simple process of writing, creating. Call me mad, but it's at that semi-mystical point now where I refuse to see myself any longer as a sentient being whose thoughts process and put together stories but rather a vessel that channels unharnessed energy around it, and thus guiding these stories to tell themselves. Anywho, getting away from my (possible?) delusions of grandeur, for all the latest and greatest in the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the fifth and latest instalment in the Mission: Impossible film series, starring Tom Cruise as Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt. For those of you who don't know, I'm a big fan of Tom Cruise. Recently myself and my good film compatriot talked about how Cruise is the last of the big film stars, something that doesn't exist quite as much any more (stars don't sell any more, it's franchises that sell). Following his incredible leading role in 1983 as Joel Goodson in Paul Brickman's Risky Business, he went to megastardom with 1986's Top Gun and hasn't looked back since. Rain Man, Born On The Fourth Of July, A Few Good Men, the Mission: Impossible series, Jerry Maguire, Minority Report, Collateral, War Of The Worlds, this is not only a star, but an actor of true range and depth. Right up to the present day, with 2013's Oblivion and 2014's Edge Of Tomorrow, he's continuing to give great performances, and not only that, he has to be one of the few actors who remains credible with leading man status playing roles that could easy have been filled by people twenty years younger. I mean, he's already three years older than Jimmy Stewart was in Vertigo! Does the man ever age? However, since the previous M:I instalment, Ghost Protocol, Cruise's past four films, Rock Of Ages, Jack Reacher, Oblivion and Edge Of Tomorrow, did not exactly set the box-office on fire, leading many to question as to whether finally the Cruiser's star had finally waned. Well, this film has grossed $679 million off of it's $150 million budget, but you have to wonder now can he continue have a hit outside of the M:I franchise and do people want to see Cruise if he isn't Ethan Hunt. The two other major players involved in the production of this film are Christopher McQuarrie, the film's writer and director, who has been a regular Cruise collaborator since 2008's Valkyrie, working on him on both the M:I films, Jack Reacher and Edge Of Tomorrow, and J.J. Abrams. 2015 is going to another one of those years where J.J. Abrams is everywhere. When the new Stars Wars film, The Force Awakens arrives, it will be huge at the box-office, and hopefully it has the same effect that Abrams has had on other franchises, such as Star Trek and M:I, doing the J.J. Abrams thing and reinvigorating them with new life. After years of terrific work on television with Felicity, Alias and Lost, he was selected as director for M:I-3, which is a real blast of a film that remains the best of the franchise, and now that he has come into the fold as a producer, his imprint remains all over them. But enough contextual details, let's talk plot: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is convinced that he can prove the existence of the Syndicate, an international criminal consortium which the CIA does not believe exists. Hunt is captured by the Syndicate, but escapes from a torture chamber led by member Janik 'Bone Doctor' Vinter (Jens Hulten) with the help of MI6 agent and Syndicate operative Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The IMF, meanwhile, faces great trouble, in that without a secretary in charge, Field Operations Director William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), is forced to defend their controversial and destructive methods before a Senate committee. Unfortunately, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), succeeds in having the IMF disbanded and absorbed into the CIA, while Hunt is cut off from the IMF and follows his only lead: a blond man in glasses. Got it? Good!

Starting off with the good, I do have to once again mention Tom Cruise. While the Ethan Hunt in this film does not go to the depths which we have seen previously, Cruise is still a delight in the part. He's convincing in portraying the grit and determination of the lead character's idealistic pursuit of unveiling the truth. Furthermore, it is a wonder that the man at his age is still able to perform in such a physical level of film. I mean, the man must be mad in the head, doing some of the things that he continues to do in these films. That opening sequence, used in the promotional material for the film, that's Cruise legitimately hanging five-thousand feet in the air! This brings me to the stunts, which once again are of a very high standard. The previous instalment, Ghost Protocol, featured that already iconic Burj Khalifa climb in Dubai, and while nothing quite reach that level of awe, there's still genuinely nerve-wracking and great stuff here. A fight scene in the swinging rafters of a Viennese opera house, a silent sequence in an underwater turbine tank, followed by a ludicrously bombastic car chase, M:I-5 has plenty going for it in that regard. All of these sequences, and the movie as a whole, look terrific, with DP Robert Elswit working on the film. Certainly one of the best contemporary cinematographers, his trademark crisp quality which makes everything he works on look good, but not only that, he gives the action sequence a real classy kind of flair. Although some of these scenes feature wanton destruction, there is a certain level of elegance with what Elswit does here. The final thing I'd like to praise here is Chris McQuarrie, as regards his work both as a screenwriter and director. The Cruiser obviously used his clout to get his regular collaborator on board, and quite clearly it was the right choice. McQuarrie writes some of these sequences right down to a tee, with an eye for detail and little things to make them memorable. He understands the pulpy humour and sensibilities involved with the franchise, delivering a film which is at times very funny, and is also successful with film's central antagonist(s), building the Syndicate over an extended period of time as a powerful organisation that exists almost as a superpower with enough weight behind it to topple governments. It feels like a legitimate threat to Ethan Hunt and his IMF team. As a director, McQuarrie handles with care, but is not afraid to go out there and do something interesting with it. This was McQuarrie's first film as a director on this scale or production level, so it's great to see that after Cruise and Abrams (plus their producing partners) put their faith in him he was able to back it up. No doubt because of this film's success, McQuarrie will get another gig or two in major films as a writer-director, which is something I'd be quite happy to see. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is an exciting actioner which is solidly entertaining popcorn fare. 

Now, as no doubt you've already gathered I enjoyed myself with M:I-5. But now comes the time of the proverbial 'however,' because despite this I do not feel that this is by any means to be considered a great movie. The only real flaw in the classical sense that could be pointed out to the film is that the turns of the plot later in the film end up in the realm of the overly convoluted and at times border on preposterous. Yes, we get the whole 'who's conning who' and double-agent routines of intrigue which are so much a part of the spy film genre, but here it all starts to get a bit silly, and to use a tried and tested term, it did start to jump the shark. The other problem with the film is one of those ones that is more about my own personal feelings than anything in particular. While it's a pulpy thrill ride, it contributes nothing of real importance or value. This is something that has always been a recurring issue with the Mission: Impossible film series. Just because it's a genre film doesn't mean you can't do something with meaningful depth and resonance. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Just take a look at Chris Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy or some of the recent James Bond films with Daniel Craig (namely Casino Royal and Skyfall) and you see that it is quite possible to do both successfully. Mission: Impossible III was the closest this franchise has got to achieving both. Rogue Nation only succeeds in one of them.

Even though I think that the plot becomes overly convoluted and that the film as a whole is of no major importance or significance, I still had a good time and think that M:I-5 is a very good bit of popcorn fare. The Cruiser shows no signs of stopping and is on fine form here, proving once again that he is more than adept at keeping pace with the film's meticulously crafted action sequences. All of this is shot with elegance and classy flair by Robert Elswit and Chris McQuarrie does a solid job at the helm in both capacities as writer and director. Solidly entertaining popcorn fare.

The Thin White Dude's Diagnosis - 7.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good

P.S. I have to note that Ving Rhames' totally obese moment of Luther struggling and breathing heavily to get about ten yards through a crowd in the London Underground to Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust was one of the most unintentionally funny moments in a film for quite some time. I was in stitches for about ten or fifteen minutes.

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