Mladen and Del review ‘Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation’
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. 131 minutes. Rated PG.
Del knows where my review of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (MI V) is heading. I won’t disappoint him entirely, but he’ll have to be patient.
The movie summary first. MI V is a smooth spy thriller. Solid plot. Well acted. Top notch real stuntman stunts. In short, the discredited and disavowed IMF (Mission Impossible Force) dukes with the CIA and “Rogue Nation” – aka The Syndicate – of allegedly dead spies and hitmen to keep societies from sliding into revolts and wholesale slaughter.
The Syndicate, headed by misguided former British MI6er (I assume) Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) wants to create a New World Order by first destroying the Current World Order. The IMF, led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), takes on the task of keeping the Rogue Nation from succeeding, though no one or institution, including the CIA, believes it exists. In fact, the CIA, incarnate in the movie as its very stiff, somewhat unconvincing director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), sends a “Special Projects Team” to hunt Hunt and the rest of the IMF.
Hunt’s outlawed IMF, if that’s the way to describe an agency of spooks that legally never existed, ends up a player in a globe-trotting good guys versus bad guys game deftly manipulated by the most intelligent, beautiful, and kick-your-ass woman spy – Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) – ever put on the big screen or, for that matter, any size screen anywhere. Is she an angel or Lucifer? Who cares. It was good that the MI V script was clean and comprehensible because I could barely keep my focus on the movie’s turns and twists when Ferguson was on the screen.
There is a generous dose of humor in the film and stunts that only occasionally foray into the impossible. From what I noticed, MI V has one absurd piece of CGI action. It involves a Beamer launched backwards at high speed during a superbike chase through the streets and open roads of Casablanca, Morocco. Thank goodness for German engineering or Hunt and sidekick Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) would’ve been deader than the pancake-flat squirrel down the road from my home.
Also annoying was the coincidence during the very same motorcycle chase that saw Hunt and Benji re-unite with fellow IMFers William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames).
Finally, and forgive me for repeating myself, MI V would’ve been a better movie had it been made for an R rating. Cussing and blood splatter are musts for films that involve lots of gunfire, treachery, ambitious Government officials pursuing nothing more than power, and mayhem that unfolds in cities full of passing bystanders.
MI V won’t win any Oscars. But, I’ll say this. It’s well worth seeing in the theater. The B+/A- movie, I can’t decide and I’m trying to stay level headed despite images of Ferguson floating through my mind, also continues Cruise’s streak of very good performances. See or re-see 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow” to understand what I’m talking about.
I was hoping Mladen would take a cold shower before writing his review of “Rogue Nation.” Instead, I get to mop up his Pavlovian drool – in this case a babe, not a bell, infused his report with such salivary gusto.
I heard before going in that “Rogue Nation” was as good, if not better, than “Mad Max.”
Let me put it this way: If the femme fatales from both movies squared off in a death match, Mladen’s little Ilsa would be roadkill flatter and deader than that squirrel down the road from his house. Furiousa would blow Ilsa to bits with one of those badass canons she carries, then flatten her 18 times with her kickass war rig, and war boys would blast her pancaked remains into smithereens with explosive pig-stickers.
That’s not to say “Rogue Nation” isn’t a good movie. It is, and you should see it in a theater, and if you get the senior citizen discount good on you because once again they mistook me for a younger, more financially capable person, and I paid full matinee price.
“Rogue Nation” features some amazing stunts. We’ve all seen the clip where Tom Cruise clings to the side of an Airbus as it takes off. I found a motorcycle chase sequence to be a lot more hair-raising. And, of course, there were the required heights scenes where Cruise is jumping off something taller than Oprah Winfrey’s couch – c’mon, Tom, I think we get the fact you like dangling from high places. You should run for president.
Sean Harris was a deliciously evil bad guy. I haven’t enjoyed a movie villain that much since Hans Gruber. The MI team members were all capable and funny – would Simon Pegg be anything BUT funny? Tom Cruise continues as an affable movie star – and he IS a movie star. Mladen was right about “Edge of Tomorrow” – you gotta see it.
In the run-up to “Rogue Nation” we caught a preview for “Spectre,” the new James Bond movie. In the lobby was a poster for “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” All these spy movies trace their origins to the 1960s, the us-vs.-them mentality of the Cold War, and the very real fear we would fall to the communists. James Bond, Napoleon Solo and Jim Phelps were all that stood between us and Red Square and the Little Red Book. They took their job seriously, and we took them seriously.
THAT is what’s missing from these movies.
We’re not afraid of world domination by a soul-less entity. (We do, after all, shop at Walmart.) We’re afraid our 401(k)s will be eaten up by the looming financial crash. We’re afraid the boss will hand us a pink slip. We’re afraid we’ll end up on the street.
Spy movies no longer have the ability to conjure urgency – at least not like they did in the 1960s. And that’s what I think is missing from “Rogue Nation” – a sense of urgency. Not for Ethan Hunt and his team of comical do-gooders, but for the world itself.
That’s why I’m going to give “Rogue Nation” a B. It’s an entertaining movie, but for me it lacked urgency.
Oh, and it lacked Furiosa.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
Image courtesy of Paramount.
“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol” Starring Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner. Directed by Brad Bird. 133 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Plot summary: An American black operations team is framed for blowing up part of the Kremlin. The true culprit, a rogue physicist, also uses the incident to increase tension between Russia and America as part of his plan to trigger an Earth-cleansing nuclear war between the superpowers. The black ops team seeks to clear its name and stop the physicist from fooling the governments of the superpowers into an exchange of nuclear bombs.
The recently released film “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (MI4) should be re-titled “Mission: Implausible – Stretching Logic.”
It’s not that I’m looking for realism in a spy thriller. I’m just hoping for a plot where massive doses of lucky timing and superhuman agility and brains are less than essential to keeping a movie cohesive.
MI4 offers clever dialogue and spiffy action, even some moments of true daring, without an action movie’s critical ingredient, suspense. In the end, I didn’t much care if the nuclear warhead catapulted into space by a Russian submarine-launched ballistic missile detonated above San Francisco.
Tom Cruise reprises his role as super-agent Ethan Hunt in MI4. Cruise, now older and more handsome than cute, makes a convincing spy. His team of disavowed and pursued agents was entertaining and likable.
But, no character in the movie provoked loathing or respect, and, as a result, MI4 lacks emotional punch.
Particularly disappointing was the film’s unwillingness to develop the role played by Michael Nyqvist. He portrays out-of-control physicist Hendricks, a man with an IQ of 190 who dreams of destroying civilization.
As I understood it, Hendricks wanted to initiate a worldwide experiment in natural selection. To give evolution a shove, the physicist figured he had to clear the slate by incinerating everything on Earth with thermonuclear weapons. Cool idea, but what made the genius insane? What’s his life like during moments of respite from plotting global holocaust or running from agents possessing breathtaking spy accessories?
One more gripe. The soundtrack for MI4 was uninspired. The film didn’t offer proper homage to the irrepressible, distinctive theme from the “Mission: Impossible” TV series. The theme’s thumping beginning and portentous melody was swallowed by its conversion in MI4 to electronic technopop.
MI4 isn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t worth the $9.75 plus tax I paid to see it. See MI4 on the big screen at a theater with high-resolution projectors, but make it a matinee.
Tom Cruise is crazy – not for jumping up and down on couches but for jumping out of one of the world’s tallest buildings, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I confess to not having watched that scene – as a lifelong acrophobic I had my hands in front of my eyes. But it’s the only lasting impression I have of “Ghost Protocol.”
Directors, producers, book editors – virtually everyone in the contemporary entertainment industry – have the impression consumers want nothing but action. On behalf of moviegoers and readers everywhere may I set the record straight? Yes, we want action. But we also want substance. We want accuracy. We want characters we care about. Finally, we want a story – however implausible – that makes sense within its context.
I’d heard “Ghost Protocol” was the best of the “Mission Impossible” canon. I came away from the movie strangely disengaged. For the most part it was entertaining and probably worth my $6.50 ticket (much to Mladen’s dismay I was given the senior citizen discount – sometimes it’s good to be a geezer!). But I wouldn’t call MI4 the best of the bunch. I didn’t care what happened because I knew no matter what, everybody would live, the day would be saved, and a sequel was probably in the works. When you find yourself nitpicking over such issues you know a movie has failed to capture your forgiveness.
Forget about thinly sketched characters, a forgettable soundtrack and a hackneyed plot. Let’s talk about technical errors. In one scene Jeremy Renner is levitated by a suit that responds to a magnetic field generated by a small RPV. I’m actually offended the scriptwriters think I’d fall for such an impossibility. A magnetic field that strong would suck up more electricity than any battery in existence could provide, nevermind the Energizer Bunnies in the RPV.
Spoiler alert: In the climactic scene a nuclear warhead attached to a rocket that is still firing hurtles toward San Francisco and clips a skyscraper. Even my vague understanding of ICBM technology tells me that once the boost phase of an ICBM is complete, multiple warheads separate from the rocket and fall toward their targets, detonating thousands of feet above. If director Bird wanted the afore-mentioned visuals he should have chosen a cruise missile.
I know – those are mere quibbles when the more important issue is: How does the movie work as a whole?
That depends on how high you set the bar. “Ghost Protocol” provides two hours of entertainment … but that’s about it. Let’s hope the next outing gives us more sympathetic characters, credible technology and a mission worthy of our time, like “Mission Impossible: Balance the Federal Budget.”
On second thought that’s waaaay too out there.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
Image courtesy of MGM.
“Quantum of Solace” Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric and Judi Dench. Directed by Marc Forster. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Don’t ask a James Bond purist what he thinks of “Quantum of Solace.” He’ll likely curl his lip, let out an exasperated huff and mutter something to the effect, “They’ve ruined 007!”
And well they might. Like many fictional characters who have made the transition from 20th century escapism to 21st century realism, Bond has been transformed. “Quantum of Solace” continues that evolution.
(Warning: Spoilers follow.)
The plot is classic 007. A super-secret organization known only as Quantum angles to depose the current Bolivian government and replace it with a strongman willing to sign over that country’s most precious resource – water. Give the screenwriters credit: They anticipate the ferocious competition predicted by climatologists to result from global warming and its diminishment of potable water supplies.
Despite orders to the contrary from the redoubtable M (Judi Dench), Bond (Daniel Craig) travels to South America to discover exactly why it is ersatz environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) has taken such an interest in an apparently barren desert. Vengeance is a subplot. Bond seeks payback for the death of Vesper Lynd while Bond’s female counterpart, a Bolivian secret service agent, Camille (Olga Kurylenko) aims to kill the appointed strongman who murdered her parents.
The action is hyperkinetic and at times almost unwatchable as exquisitely choreographed fight scenes unfold at a blistering pace, leaving Bond a dirty, bloody shambles who nevertheless prevails over the bad guy de jour.
Almost lost amid Craig’s intensity is the humor – not the campy double entendres of Roger Moore’s Bond or the sly sophistication of a Sean Connery, but actual comedy that launches unexpectedly from the darkness. Upon arriving in Bolivia, Bond is escorted by a sexy British agent to a seedy hotel where they will pose as exchange teachers. Unhappy with the accommodations, Bond takes them to the ritziest hotel in town where he explains to the desk clerk, “We are exchange teachers – and we just won the lottery.”
But much goes missing in “Quantum of Solace,” and this is where purists will hold their noses. Lost is the suave, indefatigable James Bond who emerges from a wet suit wearing a tuxedo, his hair unmussed. Gone are the insane luxuries of the super-rich, the creatively dysfunctional devices of murder (death by laser emasculation) , and the over-the-top malevolence of the ultra-evil.
Worse, we see Bond bleed, and that is not part of the Sean Connery canon of an unreachable and untouchable super man. It is as if Bond has also been tainted by the economic meltdown and would trade his beloved martinis for a can of Miller Lite.
This new Bond is more Serpico than, well, James Bond, and while that may satisfy critics one must wonder if the paying public will believe its escapist dollars have been well spent. So far box office receipts have been excellent so it’s hard to argue with numbers.
Ultimately you must ask yourself: Why do people go to movies? If it is to see a reasonable facsimile of yourself then the new, evolved James Bond may work.
But if it is to see a spectacle that rises above the gritty ordinariness of life, expect a regime change in the James Bond pantheon of superheroes.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.