mission impossible

Movie a Day Blog thinks that MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies have become as much a feature of summertime as outdoor barbecues and picnic tables. Sure enough, here comes ageless Tom Cruise, running in his manic way throughout MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015, Theatrical)), a title with more punctuation than most texts or tweets.

I actually looked forward to this version of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, the fifth in Cruise’s series that began in 1996 (there was an early film adaptation in 1966 that starred the TV cast, including Peter Graves and Martin Landau).

The reason was a rarity in today’s blockbuster-driven holiday: a big movie spectacular written and directed by the same individual, in this case Christopher McQuarrie. He made his reputation writing THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), and for the last few years) has essentially been Tom Cruise’s in-house writer, penning VALKYRIE (2008), JACK REACHER (2012) and EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) and this project.

Directorial skill gets obliterated by the scale and visual/special effects for these films, so it’s ultimately impossible to get any sense of a director’s aesthetic, because it’s the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE exoskeleton that defines all of these movies.

McQuarrie at least plots the film cleverly (it’s nice to see a big movie feature opera, especially Pucini’s “Turandot” and its famous aria, “Nessun Dorma” which is interwoven into many of Joe Kraemer’s score cues, at least the ones that don’t incorporate that relentless Lalo Schiffrin bass cue that you can’t get out of your head for several days after seeing these movies.

The plot doesn’t really bear repetition; it’s the usual evil worldwide organization that uses hacking or terrorism (it’s the latter here) to upset the world order, and Tom Cruise (or Paul Rudd, or Chris Hemsworth) has to restore order and save the security of the United States, which needs saving if Alec Baldwin is the head of the CIA, as he is in ROGUE NATION.

The villain here is played by Sean Harris, who has the distinction of being the only person  taller than Cruise (everyone else, from romantic interest Rebecca Ferguson and b.f.f Simon Pegg and even Ving Rhames, is sized to Cruise’s short height), and looks suitably creepy.

The revelation is Ferguson, whom I took to be Scottish but turns out to be Swedish, which makes sense if you recall the early Ingrid Bergman. She has a great movie star look, was incredibly athletic, and while no one can create sexual heat with Cruise any more, she gave it a game effort. She has a future if she chooses her roles wisely, which means do a movie that gives you more of an opportunity to act rather than do gymnastics.

Cruise is famous for doing his own hair-raising stunts, and he doesn’t disappoint, with an opening sequence that makes you squirm about what he might look like splattered on the airport tarmac. The movie thus has to keep topping itself (hence the requisite motorcycle chase through London, complete with Go-Pro and iphone cameras strapped to the bikes), and it all gets a bit tiresome after awhile.

You have to give Cruise credit for indefatigable energy on and off the screen. He never walks when he can run, he never hesitates to leap first and ask how high he was later, and he has kept his career going despite his Scientology, Katie Holmes marriage/divorce/child custody and Nicole Kidman scandals.

Clark Gable is the closest old movie star to compare him to, because Gable too liked to see himself as a man’s man, no need for a stuntman. But Gable had a wink to the audience that Cruise has longed for during his entire career. Try to imagine him saying, “Frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.” See what I mean?

This is an enjoyable diversion that could have been shortened from its bloated 131-minute running time, but I saw it in IMAX and it was big, loud and fun. Isn’t that what a summer movie should be all about?




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