Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

This review is Spoiler-free.

When all seems impossible... enter Ethan Hunt.

Or rather, enter Tom Cruise, who makes him possible; both by producing the movies Agent Hunt appears in, and by playing this epic character with determined fearlessness that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in film making. In the 5th installment of the iconic franchise that was adopted by Cruise in 1996, Ethan goes up against the Syndicate -- a villainous organization of rogues bent on destroying the IMF (Impossible Missions Force). This installment is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and he handles this behemoth blockbuster expertly to great effect.

Epic action movie is impossibly epic.

Plot-wise not much explanation is needed. This Mission: Impossible, just like the last four, plays by the guidebook for M:I movies -- a handbook that had yet to get old in the past twenty years, so it's safe to say that it never will. "Plot" is just what happens between the guide's plays to link them all together. The guidebook requires there to be a small team working against impossible odds, antagonizing for this team from both good and bad sides, something that requires stealing, at least two chase scenes, three fight scenes, one sequence where characters wear evening attire, one or two moments where there's no escape in sight, one surprise on the audience, cool gadgetry, sharp comic relief and an epic finish -- but most importantly, stunts. Stunts that make you go "wow." And if there's one guy for that job, it's Tom Cruise.

No doubt you've seen that one big stunt in the trailer where Ethan is holding on to the outside of an airplane. And perhaps you know that stunt was real. Well, while it was the most obviously scary stunt in the movie, the whole film is full of moments just as real and just as -- or even more -- impressive. Notice, if you will, how long the underwater takes are; or that it's really Cruise riding that motorcycle; and driving that car -- and fighting and jumping and climbing as the requirement comes. But beyond being one of the craziest actors who does his own stunts in the business, with Ethan Hunt, Tom has created a fantastic, personable character, and every time we come back to see him, we love him just as much -- or even better -- than we did before. Ethan is a great, determined, caring a brave guy. The exact kind of guy you would imagine out of a man who's saved the world as many times as he has.

If the world's in trouble, Ethan Hunt is the man you want on the job!

As for his supporting team, it's never exactly the same twice, but this one is the most familiar out of all the films.

The right-hand man is Benji Dunn, played by the brilliantly funny Simon Pegg. Benji has been in the M:I films since he had a small supporting role in M:I3. He was the quirky tech support. Then in Ghost Protocol he had just passed his field exam (crazy, right?); here, he's not a newbie anymore and is featured heavily, and I honestly think it made the movie. He is now perfectly capable of throwing punches, thinking on his feet, and using initiative to help the cause and his teammates -- but always his major is in computers. I just love that this film finally gave him (this is true for both Benji and Pegg) a chance to really come into his own and show what he's made of. He may still have all the most hilarious lines and reactions, but that's not what he is anymore. I've never considered this about anyone besides Ethan, but I now firmly believe that Benji Dunn is a necessary character for the Mission: Impossible franchise. 

The progression of his character over the last three films has been a real treat to witness.

Jeremy Renner is listed second is the credits, but his character of William Brandt, who first appeared in Ghost Protocol, spends a considerable amount of time is the background, wearing ties and talking politics while Hunt and Dunn are in the field. I expected this, and expected it would disappoint me too, but it actually didn't. The character of Brandt is just geared more that way, and this film knew very well how to properly utilize its characters. Brandt is the guy who wants to play everything by the rules, and this gives him and Ethan plenty of chances to clash their opinions together. The only thing I missed from the character was that his chances to show off his action-star tail-kicking skills were limited here, while he got plenty in the last film.

Luther Strickell, played by Ving Rhames, is the only other character besides Hunt to have been in the first Mission. In fact, he was technically in all of the M:I movies, only his appearance in Ghost Protocol was just a short cameo at the end -- after the world had already been saved -- so that really doesn't count. And even here his role is limited, though at least helpful this time. Luther is a very charming and sharp gentleman, and his presence is always a useful and welcome addition. He plays a big part in making this cast feel like an old friend.

Cool cool cool.

The good guy antagonist is Alec Baldwin -- no complains whatsoever. The main villain is played by Sean Harris. Now, one of the few things M:I movies don't have a step-by-step guaranteed-successful checklist to follow for is the villain. They have ranged from the incredible terrifying coldness of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in M:I3, to... totally forgettable. Sean Harris' Solomon Lane lands solidly on the upper side of that scale. He's effectively malicious, has an unnerving confident and disconnected air to him, and plays a memorable and active part in the plot.

Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust was an addition I wasn't sure of going in, never having seen her act before, but I couldn't help growing to care for her character very fast. She had a great screen presence. Being so gorgeous didn't hurt, but it really was something about her essence that was both elegant and commanding that catches your attention -- and the camera's. She wound up being a very memorable and involving addition.

Photos do her surprisingly little justice compared to film. That dress though. So epic.

M:I movies require both heist/con events and purebred action events, but this one leans heavily towards the pure action side. There are two heists, one secret mission, and a con, but for the most part the film concentrates its focus to the action side of these. The secret mission had the classic small-time heist feel. The main heist was great -- well-planned and well-executed with that classic "just in time" tension, and minimal improv. The con was action-heavy, and epically satisfying. And in between each of those, there was a chase scene.

The format of these movies is tightly-packed awesomeness, and Rogue Nation has the most awesomeness per square minute out of them all so far. It really blows the mind how many various action-flick must-haves are included. I don't think one action cliche was overlooked to be added to the plot, and then turned on its head to feel fresh and original. You should have seen me grinning like an idiot during the big car chase. The opening was tight and stylish perfection, setting the perfect tone, and the climax was downright magnificent and it knew it.

The only impossible thing about this movie  is the likelihood of you not getting totally involved in the over-the-top awesome fun, everywhere it takes us.

The comic relief was so common throughout, with hit cracks one after the other that they gave this movie the feel of actually being a comedy. Of course Simon Pegg effortlessly steals the spotlight in this section, with the four or five topmost hilarious lines, but everyone does the comedy, and does it well. Tom Hollander shows up at one point and seems to have been cast solely for his epic comedic abilities. The comedy does fade down considerably though as the third act begins and the building drama breaks through the surface. It doesn't feel like an unnatural tone change though, because this is the way of M:I movies. When the seriousness comes, it is welcome, giving the film one last boost of energy that it rides to the end, and giving the film that deeper quality that rounds it out, and makes it the ideal, impossibly grand action adventure.

This epic, epic, smart, hilarious and totally involving fifth installment is, without a doubt -- for Tom and co. and for Ethan and co. -- another mission: accomplished.

10 comments:

  1. My mom and I are very interested in this movie, but we've not seen any of the other movies. Are they at all connected to each other, or could we possibly see this one without the others? I know we'd probably miss inside jokes, but I would love to know if their stand-alone films! Thanks! <3

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    1. No, they're not connected actually. They don't even do inside jokes as far as I remember! The only thing is that four of the characters are returning, so they don't really get introductions, and especially Ethan has a lot of past that is the starting point for his character development... but that shouldn't be too confusing, it probably just makes it deeper if you have seen the others films. I definitely say go for it! And of course I recommend you watch the others as well if you like it. ;)

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  2. I was so very pleased by this movie! I've been recommending it a lot.

    Rebecca Ferguson was awesome in "Hercules," so I was super excited to see her in this, and she did not disappoint.

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    1. Me too! I think it may be my favorite M:I yet. The only thing I can manage when speaking in person about it though is just saying "it's so awesome" over and over. :P

      Ohh! I watched Hercules a few days ago! I knew she was in it, but temporarily forgot, and was very excited when she showed up. She was good. She has such a unique screen presence. And so was Rufus Sewell -- the main reason I got around to watching it. ;) I enjoyed it, so thanks for that recommendation! :)

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  3. Great thoughts and review, Sarah. I'm super anxious to see this one (once it arrives to DVD, as usual). Loved the fourth installment and seeing so many returning faces plus a few new ones ensures this has no choice but to be a great "mission" to accept. :)

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    1. Thanks! I can't even begin to say how much I recommend this movie! It is in my opinion, without a doubt the best movie of the year so far -- and the only movie that probably even has a chance of passing it is Star Wars. I'm sure you'll love it since you loved the 4th, and since you appreciate great female characters. :D

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  4. Rogue Nation felt like a movie that was better than the sum of its parts. The plot, direction, ect. are all pretty good on their own, but as a whole, it is just a lot of fun. Great review Sarah!

    -James

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    1. Yeah, that's a really good way to describe it! It actually seems like that's how all the M:I movies are to some degree. There's just something about them! Thanks James!

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