Simon Pegg: Tom Cruise is ‘far more human’

25 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation': Film Review.

Thanks to a sharp script that springs a real surprise or two and a pace that never slackens, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation rates as the second-best of the numerous franchise titles of the summer, after Mad Max: Fury Road.Rogue Nation opens on Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tracking down The Syndicate, a group of evil agents (“the anti-IMF,” as Simon Pegg puts it) that no one seems to believe exists, led by the anti-Hunt (a surprisingly beard-and-emotion-free Sean Harris). Armed with an absorbing mystery plot that does more than just connect the dots between action set-pieces (the most outlandish of which is dispensed with in a Bond-like opener), writer-director Christopher McQuarrie maintains the uptick in M:I quality established by the last two entries, and should land this entry within the series’ customary range of a half-billion bucks worldwide. Working with Tom Cruise for the fifth time (if you include his uncredited rewrite on the last M:I feature, Ghost Protocol), McQuarrie benefits dramatically from extending the IMF team’s official ostracization to a point of total disenfranchisement from the American government; in an early scene, the CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) succeeds in getting the stealth group shut down, forcing Ethan Hunt’s new partners from the last film, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg), to go to work at CIA headquarters.

And this is the thanks Ethan gets just after having jumped on to the wing of a giant A400 transport plane, hanging precariously off its side during take-off in a stunt famous even before the film is released — and that it would appear Cruise performed for real. For his efforts at thwarting the delivery of a stash of chemical weapons material, Ethan is strung up like a hog for butcher by requisitely swarthy members of The Syndicate. At the same time, the IMF is dissolved, leaving Hunt with few resources outside his own (admittedly impressive) arsenal of wits, safe house gadgetry, and obsessive sense of right and wrong. There’s a lot of mythology about him, a lot of speculation about the kind of myth that surrounds him that people are very keen to believe.” “When you actually meet the man himself, he’s different,” he continued. “He’s far more human.

Mission: Impossible isn’t exactly known for taut storytelling, but the problem here is that there’s very little emotional investment offered for the audience. The wild card in the deck is an impressively composed and able young woman named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who seems to be allied with The Syndicate, except when she doesn’t. Of course, the throughline is just an excuse to tie together a series of action sequences, which for the most part shine brightly — chief among them is Cruise hanging off the side of a plane, which has been played up during the marketing campaign as this movie’s holy-shit-Tom-Cruise-actually-did-that moment. Even if it’s not difficult to guess whose side she’ll ultimately wind up on, Ilsa’s ability to keep shrewd minds guessing about her allegiances is a high-wire act she sustains to very near the end, helped in no small measure by Ferguson, whose grown-up poise recalls that of some 1940s movie stars. Unlike the time Cruise actually climbed the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, though, this scene doesn’t quite elicit the same visceral feelings as the tower climb.

McQuarrie doesn’t change the prescription for what makes this franchise so successful, nor does he have the most practiced hand among the series’ directors at milking the big action sequences for all they’re worth. But he’s deepened the dramatic involvement by so thoroughly casting Ethan Hunt to the wolves that he’s a man without a country or a reliable partner — which is why he’s forced to believe that Ilsa will stand with him at the end of the day despite much circumstantial evidence to the contrary. The other sequences are impressive, a mixed bag of the great (one prolonged scene at an opera house shines as the film’s best) and the maybe all too familiar (a pretty by-the-numbers car chase). He cleverly lures out Benji to help try to thwart a Manchurian Candidate-like political assassination that is spectacularly synched up to a performance of Turandot at the Vienna Opera House. He’s cultivated a certain kind of persona which enables him to be the movie star that he is, but at the heart of it is a human being.” Cruise has played IMF agent Ethan Hunt since 1996.

Ethan Hunt is reckless and risk-taking; he rarely comes away from a fight without a few bruises, cuts, bullet wounds, or various near-death experiences. With the CIA believing that Ethan might have been behind this outrage, Brandt slips out of Langley and enlists Ilsa to help track Ethan down before the spooks do.

It wasn’t until the fourth installment in the film franchise was released in 2011 that he got serious about his fitness. “Ever since Ghost Protocol, actually, I’ve kept in shape. For the first, in order to snatch an all-important computer chip from an underwater source, Ethan trains to hold his breath for three minutes, but in the actual event, must do so for considerably longer.

The second, which is more up Ethan’s (and Cruise’s) usual alley, has him chasing Ilsa — and being chased by the resurgent Syndicate goons — through Casablanca and into the desert on very fast motorcycles driven at very extreme angles. In the end, however, it comes down to the old spy game — English-style, involving lies, deception, disguises, subterfuge and (dis)loyalty at very high levels. It was like great stews and these lovely little dates filled with peanut butter and sprinkled with coconut for snacks, and these little balls of truffle that were great. Little by little, the Syndicate’s leader, the blandly lizard-like Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, effectively employing a thin, reedy voice), is forced out into the open if he’s to get what he wants, clearing the way for the ultimate showdown that Ethan has long desired. The formula of ingredients is familiar and time-tested, to be sure, but some cocktails go down much better than others, and McQuarrie and company have gotten theirs just right here.

It was kind of exciting to push it and see if I could be the guy I always wanted to be.” Debunking rumors that Cruise mandated the entire cast follow his diet, the actor explained, “He was like, ‘Here: If you want to do this thing that I do, do it, too.’ It was all him. The protagonists’ dilemmas are quite extreme, the surprises come in all sizes and the ultra-smooth professionalism displayed in all departments early on encourages the sense that you’re in good hands, a feeling that ends up being justified.

The Fast & Furious franchise, which at this point is just pretty much a good vs. evil thriller with cars, has turned into the new high point for ridiculous stunts (some practical, some CG) and yet still manages to tug on our heartstrings every time Vin Diesel says the word “family.” There’s no reason we can’t be blown away by big explosions and strong emotional choices, and Cruise is more than capable at delivering such a nuanced performance. The window between Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation was four years, as quick a turnaround as there’s ever been between franchise entries, so at this rate it’s entirely plausible that the actor could have at least one more Mission in him before Ethan retires to a desk job. Ferguson, better known for her work as Queen Elizabeth in television’s The White Queen than for last year’s feature Hercules, makes Ilsa a woman of unquestioned confidence and sang froid; crucially, she credibly convinces whomever she’s working with at the moment that she’s on their side. Along with the great international locations, the film benefits from ace creative contributions all down the line, nowhere more so than from Joe Kraemer’s virtually non-stop score, which seamlessly blends strains of Lalo Schifrin’s original TV series theme and Puccini into his own rambunctious but not overbearing work.

News caught up with Cruise at the film’s world premiere in Vienna Thursday and asked how he stays in such great shape at age 53. “For different films, whether it’s an action movie or not, making a movie is very demanding. There’s many, many things I enjoy doing.” Working with Cruise is a dream come true for many actors—and not just because he comes with perks like a personal chef!

I sort of went, ‘Oh, God’…He was sort of my crush when I was young.” After Ferguson learned she had been cast as Ilsa Faust in Rogue Nation, she admitted to being “nervous” to meet Cruise. “I didn’t really know what to expect. The camel was called Barbie, and they called and said, ‘You have 24 hours to fly to London, meet Tom, and fly back and get onto Barbie’s back again.’ So it was more a matter of, you know, just standing up and running and doing it.

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