Sunday, November 6, 2016

Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

Ah, the resilience of a franchise. Some can survive anything: from the poor decision-making skills of a shitty 20th Century Fox Executive to a drift in Tokyo to a series of seemingly endless JJ Abrams nonsense. No one thought that Mission: Impossible would be among those still standing after the great collapse in the 00s, least of all me. Yet here we are.

Rogue Nation one-ups the previous entry, Ghost Protocol, in a department that was sorely underserviced: the plot. A newly disavowed IMF tussling with its own Hydra/Spectre organization and uncovering its evil plan through globetrotting and barely seeing something to completion is more interesting than a group of agents learning to trust each other while a nuclear threat looms in the distance (and doing those other two things as well). McQuarrie's hand also means that dialogue is snappier, loftier, and less reliant on what was more than likely conjured up on the set.

It loses against Ghost Protocol's big set pieces, sadly. A quiet fistfight in the rafters above Turandot, while fun, isn't as creative as the Kremlin infiltration. The opening plane robbery, while impressive, loses a lot of points when cheapened by an obvious digital effect. And a deep dive into a cold computer server followed by a car chase, while McQuarrie's bread and butter, is 100% not the Burj Khalifa centerpiece.

Along with setting up the franchise's new formula of Heist Sequences broken apart by Dialogue Scenes (and essentially siphoning the Marvel CU's spirit), Ghost Protocol created a back door waiting for Tom Cruise any time he wants to take it. There's a chance that, seeing the end of this era of his life biting at the heels of his very tiny feet, he decided to stay in the franchise as long as he is able to do some of his own stunts. This lack of meta-baggage is unique to this series, imbuing it with a strange immortal glow and frees us all up to have a bit of fun. Well, fun as long as certain people keep their dick-beaters off of it.

At times, it's difficult to tell if Mission: Impossible is a smarter James Bond or a dumber one. Bond is an infectious agent burrowing through a sinister host, bringing down a corrupt entity that underestimates him, with brute force. Hunt is a man groping blindly in the dark, succeeding partially through cunning, luck, and having more than two friends. Mission: Impossible does things that James Bond would never consider doing, but the way things are going now for that series, it ends up being mostly a good thing.

It remains a tough act to follow. Considering the future, what the hell could possibly be next? There are only so many times you can pull the "We're like a family!" trick, and how many Middle Eastern countries could there possibly be? Seven? I don't envy anyone in this position. However, this is why you make more money than I do.

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