Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about a movie I own. We dip into the Mission: Impossible franchise with Rogue Nation. This one's in my notes on February 26, 2016.
We take a break from James Bond to binge on another superspy franchise, Mission: Impossible. As I said in my review of Rogue Nation when I saw it in the theatre, Mission: Impossible is a franchise I want to love. I go into the films expecting mindblowing, but walk out with "pretty good." I don't know why I set my expectations so high with this franchise, but I do.
As I speculated, I think part of the problem was Tom Cruise doesn't quite grasp what made Mission: Impossible unique in the superspy genre. Mission: Impossible was a team...it was about these elite spies joining forces to do a highly difficult mission. It was a mash-up of superspy and heist. But, most of the films focus too much on Cruise's character of Ethan Hunt, thus making it just another generic superspy film.
That's what made Rogue Nation so cool when I saw it in the theatre. It took us 5 films over 20 years to get here, but we finally have a team of characters we know and love. Luther Stickell, played by Ving Rhames, the only guy besides Cruise to have toughed out all the films. Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, introduced in #3, as a tech guy stuck at HQ who finally gets promoted to field agent. And Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, the analyst at HQ who has no problem rolling up his sleeves and joining the guys in the field when the going gets tough.
What actually kind of blew my mind when I first saw the film was the much-hyped set piece where Tom Cruise actually dangles from the side of a cargo plane. Most films would save a set piece like that for the climax. But holy moly, that's our James Bond-style pre-credits sequence! The movie opens with that! I wish more films would do marketing campaigns like that...use nothing but the money shots from the first half of the film, saving the climax for when you pay your money.
But the action set pieces are what makes this franchise famous. Hell, the famous "dangling from the ceiling" heist in the first film is still much beloved and spoofed. The best one, though, comes in the middle of this film, where Hunt has to swap out some chips in an underwater computer. He can't bring any SCUBA gear, because that would set off the alarms. And dang it, when you're watching it, you're holding your breath, too, to see if you can last that long.
The plot: due its reckless actions (see all the previous films), the IMF has been disbanded and its remnants merged into the CIA. So, Ethan Hunt goes rogue once again as he tracks down a mysterious terrorist organization known as the Syndicate. One by one, his old colleagues are drawn back in to help in his investigation. Joining the team is Ilsa Faust, a former MI6 agent who now works for the Syndicate. Or does she? Who she's really working for and her motivations are among the film's mysteries.
Actually, Faust has a cute moment. Jurassic World caught such heck for having Bryce Dallas Howard run around in high heels the whole time. Almost as a response to that (even though Rogue Nation came out just a month later), there's a running gag of Faust removing her high heels as the chases begin.
Can you believe this franchise has been going for 20 years now? Someone pointed out that Cruise is now as old as Jon Voight was in the first film. The fact that it's still going without a reboot or a restart is almost remarkable. But hey, they're still pretty satisfying if not mind blowing.