Tom Cruise powers ‘Mission’ with personality

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

In ‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,’ the plot self-destructs, but the action is solid: 2.5 stars.

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is the fifth film in a series that has taken in more than $2 billion in worldwide box office and has provided the one role, that of secret agent Ethan Hunt, the performer can count on since the series made the jump from television to theaters in 1996.Moments before Tom Cruise literally went airborne strapped to the side of an Airbus A400 for a daring Mission: Impossible stunt, director Christopher McQuarrie had a final word with his superstar. “Tom shouted above the engine, ‘Remember, if it looks like I’m panicking, I’m acting.I don’t know about impossible, but given that it’s taken almost 20 years to churn out five instalments of this series – something the early Bond franchise managed in six years, and the 1960s M:I TV show in just six weeks – these missions are certainly a lot of work.

Actor Tom Cruise arrives for the Canadian premiere of the film Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in Toronto on July 27, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press) He’s scaled the tallest building in the world and clambered across a perilous cliff face, all for the sake of a role.Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie builds on the spectacular/visceral approach Brad Bird employed to such solid effect four years ago in “M:I — Ghost Protocol.” This is only McQuarrie’s third feature after a long career as a screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects,” the lamentable “The Tourist”).OK, so Ethan Hunt isn’t James Bond and the Impossible Missions Force isn’t MI6, but the “MI” films are essentially Bond movies, with a touch of “Bourne” and a whole lot of Tom Cruise doing what he does best—looking about 15 years younger than his true age (Cruise recently turned 53), performing harrowing stunts, engaging in clever banter with his adversaries, and doing it all with just the hint of a smirk that tells us even when it appears certain Mr. Coupled with the success behind the long-running “Mission: Impossible” franchise, that means the latest installment could be atop the weekend box office. In return, Cruise has been a vigilant steward of the franchise, making sure its various components (including its celebrated Lalo Schifrin theme) never fall below acceptable standards and even pushing to exceed the norm where possible.

Don’t cut,’ ” McQuarrie recalls. “I did a stunned about-face, knowing there would be no distinction between (true) panic and his performance.” McQuarrie called “action,” and Cruise, 53, took off standing over the wing eight times. So it is with the polished and entertaining new film, the kind of neo-James Bond spy-versus-spy diversion where secrets are “triple encoded” and agents in trouble sound like ambitious dentists when they request “immediate extraction.” Both in front of and behind the camera, “Rogue Nation” has been smoothly made by people who know just how to get entertainment business done and have often worked with Cruise before. McQuarrie announces his intentions with the opening sequence — already heavily publicized through the film’s marketing campaign — that finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging on for dear life outside a huge military transport plane as it takes off. (There’s something important inside that Ethan doesn’t want the bad guys to have, dontcha know.) Unable to stop the takeoff by hacking into the plane’s electronics, Ethan has no choice but to ride the big bird like that gremlin in the old “Twilight Zone” episode.

Rentrak analyst Paul Dergarabedian said his team is expecting the film to garner somewhere between $35 million and $40 million, but he said it might even do a bit better. “Tom Cruise is a marketing machine; he is literally everywhere,” Dergarabedian said. “This could be a film that outperforms a little bit. That is very much true of filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, who was a writer on two Cruise ventures (“Valkyrie” and “Edge of Tomorrow”) and directed the actor’s “Jack Reacher” venture. Each has a different director, and different settings, and different characters—Cruise and Ving Rhames are the only constants—and each takes on the style and personality of its director. This could set us up nicely for a good run through the end of summer — Labor Day.” Dergarabedian said “Mission: Impossible” epitomizes what a summer movie should be.

Brian DePalma’s 1996 original was stylish and borderline nonsensical; John Woo’s 2000 sequel was wildly over the top, yet still a ridiculous blast; J.J. Much of the action plays out as though screenwriters Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) and Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow) sat down and designed the most improbable, inescapable booby trap they could manage, then reverse-engineered Hunt’s getaway. The 53-year-old actor is known for pulling off his own stunts rather than relying on CGI or stuntmen and, in this fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible series, he sets out to prove he’s still got it.

Abrams’ 2006 installment was more old-school Spielbergian popcorn entertainment; and Brad Bird’s 2011 entry was a glorious cartoon come to life, with some truly inspired set pieces and stunts. You could argue that all action-movie scripts follow this formula; there are no actual volcanic lairs, Maze Runner labyrinths or Shawshank prisons out of which to break. Ethan must foil an elaborate assassination attempt during opening night at the Vienna State Opera (clearly inspired by a similar setup in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). The franchise has accumulated $740 million in domestic box-office receipts and $2.1 billion worldwide since it began in 1996. “That cliché, the hardest working man in show business — it might very well be Tom Cruise,” Dergarabedian said. “No matter what you think of his personal life, you have to give it up to him. But the big set piece in Rogue Nation – a computer control centre housed inside a whirlpool and then buried beneath a power plant – feels particularly egregious.

Tom Cruise is still arguably the biggest movie star in the world.” “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” is owned by Viacom Inc.’s VIA, +0.02% VIAB, -0.42% Paramount Pictures. So many Hollywood action movies have so many hands on the steering wheel that spectacle outweighs awe; they’re so compromised and communal, serving so many masters, that they can feel like confused platforms for product placement blasted 50 feet high and screaming into your ears. He must hold his breath underwater for, like, four minutes to break into a computer data storage facility deep below the Moroccan desert. (Not to be a killjoy, but where did all that water come from? The great Alec Baldwin hams it up nicely as Hunley, the gruff and fantastically clueless head of the CIA, who forces the IMF out of existence because that’s what gruff and clueless government bureaucrats do in movies like this.

McQuarrie notes that his first meeting when taking over the director job was with Paramount’s marketing department. “I said, ‘Tell me what you need to make a Mission: Impossible movie so you can sell it.’ They were quite surprised a filmmaker had come to them and asked that.” Cruise has continued to market the film flawlessly on the media circuit, with stunts such as lip-syncing The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. So dangerous that Cruise had to wear custom contact lenses to protect his eyes, the stunt was repeated eight times until actor and director had the coverage they needed.

The viral video alone was enough to show how little attention people paid to potentially detrimental aspects of Cruise’s personal life, including Katie Holmes’ bombshell divorce filing in 2012 and his controversial involvement in the Church of Scientology as depicted in the recent HBO documentary Going Clear. “Think of how many people saw Going Clear. Hunt has to log into this waterlogged system to reprogram a “gait analysis” security system to allow his confederate Benji (Simon Pegg) to steal a microchip that contains vital information needed to stop a bespectacled baddie (Sean Harris) from committing – wait, where was I? Just because IMF has been disbanded doesn’t mean Hunt will relent in his pursuit of the Syndicate, a mysterious (and some say purely mythical) organization of former good-guy operatives now working in the shadows to spread evil and blow things up and kidnap world leaders and BRING THE WORLD TO ITS KNEES, BAHAHAHAHAHA! Rebecca Ferguson does stellar work as the beautiful, deadly and alluring Ilsa Faust, an agent who also might be a double agent and could even be a double-DOUBLE agent.

They are, thus, obviously the creation of Cruise, who famously is the hardest-working leading man in the history of the medium. (If you doubt this, he’ll be happy to remind you.) The guy is a lunatic, but he is our lunatic. Off the radar and hunted by their own countrymen, Ethan and Benji continue to circle the globe investigating the shadowy Syndicate, a cabal of one-time spies from around the world now led by a creepy former Brit spook (Sean Harris). That leaves Hunt as a man without a country, an international fugitive sought by the CIA just as he is closing in on a nefarious organization known as the Syndicate. That’s what people know Tom Cruise for right now.” All the factors are enough to drive the well-reviewed Rogue Nation (93% critical approval on review aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com) to a predicted cake walk at this weekend’s box office.

His compulsive, almost oppressive need to entertain us may have turned him into a simulacrum of a human being who no longer can relate to other individuals in any meaningful fashion, but it’s impossible to argue that his crazy lifelong quest has actually failed to entertain us. He’s got the requisite evil haircut and a voice that must have required six weeks with a de-elocution coach, and he’s playing cat-and-mice with Hunt and the enigmatic, deadly Ilsa Faust. A group as dangerous as its name is bland, the Syndicate is manned exclusively by missing or presumed dead former government secret agents like the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten), who’s there to hurt you, not help you.

Even when he’s in bad movies, he has no idea he’s in a bad movie, or at least never acts like it: Cruise is incapable of winking at the camera and separating himself from what’s going on around him. Ethan may have an ally (he’s not sure) in Ilsa (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson), a beauty working for the Syndicate who may actually be an infiltrator sent by the British government. This isn’t cool anymore, of course—half the job of actors today seems to be silently commenting to the audience on the performance they’re currently giving—and Cruise, along with all his other eccentricities, is pegged as what the cynical call a “try-hard,” as if there were something actually wrong with putting the time and effort to maximize your abilities in your chosen field. There’s little in the way of other competition for the latest “Mission Impossible.” Most of the other films showing in theaters this weekend, including Walt Disney Co’s DIS, +0.16% “Ant-Man” from Marvel Studios, will likely see drops in attendance from their previous weeks, with revenues ending somewhere in the teens. “‘Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation’ will most assumedly be the No. 1 movie this weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “The movie is already a success in terms of its marketing, reviews and the amount of buzz it’s creating. For all the flak the guy takes, other actors are famously in awe of him, the way he takes his occupation and strangles and shapes it until it is exactly what he commands it to be.

If there’s anyone out there who thinks they might not bring down the Syndicate, I’d like to talk to you about surefire investments in Florida real estate. At times the deception and the intrigue and the twists and turns make it nearly impossible to follow every detail of the plot, but even when things get muddled, we know Ethan’s our hero, and we know we’ll eventually learn the true intentions of Ilsa and the rest of the players. It’s a great film in an entirely different way, though, precise and controlled rather than unhinged, hitting familiar notes in new ways rather than striving for something truly original and unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Playing: SilverCity Ancaster, SilverCity Burlington, Jackson Square, SilverCity Oakville, Oakville Mews Encore, SilverCity Hamilton Mountain, 5 Drive-In Theatre (Oakville), Starlite Drive-In Rogue Nation highlights the upside of professionalism and expertise: This is what happens when your movie is made by smart people consistently making the correct decision. Played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, she’s essentially the British version of Hunt, an ultra-competent agent whose loyalties are never quite clear and whose intelligence and capability is never questioned.

Ferguson’s cool, elusive nature is a perfect contrast to Cruise’s manic kineticism; she’s an actress I wasn’t previously familiar with, and one I suspect we’ll be watching for a long time. 5. There isn’t the whiz-bang Brad Bird zaniness of the last film: This is more European, a sleek, precise thriller that builds its set pieces meticulously and metes out information judiciously before knocking you over. And lest you think this movie’s too cerebral, there’s a motorcycle chase that tops the also-fantastic one in Furious 7, but doesn’t need endless CGI to do it. (The scene also ends with a visual punchline that provides the movie’s biggest laugh.) Credit for all this has to go to Cruise.

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