Saturday, August 8, 2015

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

By now, you should have seen the trailers for the upcoming Bond film, Spectre, which is essentially a re-imagining of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, arguably the best movie in the franchise. In short, Bond is pitted against the leader of a world-wide criminal organization. It's super-spy versus a contemporary Moriarty, fighting for the future of the world.

Spectre, whether it turns out good or bad, looks gritty and tense. It almost looks like it's in continuity with Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

Rogue Nation feels like the exact same premise got handed to Marvel. And I do mean the exact same premise: the producers dug up "The Syndicate," a criminal organization from the last season of the Mission Impossible TV series, and upgraded them to a world-wide organization more or less indistinguishable from Spectre. Then they created a leader who serves as a stand-in for Blofeld. Oh, and they beat their competitors to the theaters by three months.

But while Spectre looks like The Dark Knight, this has more of an Avengers vibe. It's action-packed, humorous, and exciting. There's very little character development, and the scenes without knife fights, high speed chases, and dramatic stunts are clearly present for pacing.

And that pacing is goddamn meticulous. This movie is astonishingly well constructed. When something exciting isn't happening, the space serves only to offer the briefest of pauses. They're like short breathers between songs on a CD: if you try running to the bathroom when one action scene ends, you're liable to miss two more.

Do not attempt to use the bathroom or buy popcorn during this movie. You are guaranteed to miss something awesome.

The plot makes just enough sense to prevent the audience from feeling like they're throwing a series of random action scenes at them, even when they are clearly just throwing random action scenes at us. There are plot holes, sure, but you will absolutely not care about them.

This is one of those movies that's aimed at the nine year-old in us all that loved spy movies but wished they'd skip past the boring stuff and get to the exploding motorcycles. There is no boring stuff in this movie. None.

Hell, even the theme feels like it's geared towards kids. "Friends are important" is more or less what the movie tells us, the same message you'd get watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Again, will you mind? Not for a minute: anything more complex might have required more than ninety seconds of exposition between gun fights.

This movie features Tom Cruise playing a far better action hero than he's ever managed in his life, all while being constantly outdone by Rebecca Ferguson, who makes a far more compelling argument that she should take over than Jeremy Renner ever has (though he's good in this, too). Ferguson's character is fantastic, though that might have bought them more goodwill if she hadn't been the only female character in the movie (I'm not counting the record store clerk: she never even got a name).

I think there's also an argument to be made this glorifies violence. It features quite a bit, some with rather brutal implications, but absolutely no unpleasant visuals. Depending on where you sit on that issue, you may or may not be bothered. Probably not, though, since it's hard to harbor ill-will towards this one: it's just too much fun to watch.

In short, it's an unapologetic spy adventure that prioritizes excitement over all else. It's mindless summer fun elevated to an art of choreography, editing, and stunt work. Check it out if you haven't already.