Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation movie full length review - Rogue Against Imagination
I've come to the conclusion that I'm asking for too much with these big budget Hollywood franchises. I go in (into an actual movie theater...
old- school, I know) hoping to see interesting characters embroiled in a compelling, life-threatening situation, with some laughs and cries on the way, but more often than not -- especially of late -- I come away empty.
The overall plot is one you could steal from any spy movie of the last fifty or sixty years. The "MacGuffin" (which is movie-speak for the thing every character in the movie wants, thus motivating the characters and driving the plot forward), is a USB stick with a bank balance or something on it (it really doesn't matter). In older spy movies it was the microfilm, and this thing is no different; it's just the crucial information is in digital format rather than on a small piece of film. Pretty uninteresting stuff I know, given we've seen it a thousand times before. I'm not even asking for a MacGuffin in the style of the Ark of the Covenant, as that wouldn't be appropriate for a spy flick (well maybe), but surely these professional writers and movie executives can think of something to pique more interest. Anyway it's of no real consequence, as it just provides enough of a plot thread to dangle the all-important action sequences on. And these sequences become increasingly tedious as the film goes on. Oddly, they chose to open with a bang and finish with a whimper. Normally, filmmakers would save the best for last but this movie was attempting to reverse the playbook. All the previous sequences were better than the ending. Sure, we've seen the motorcycle sequence done a million times before, but we've also seen the ending a million times before -- sigh... the ticking time bomb... again... really???
Maybe if I'd cared more for the characters I'd be more invested in their fate, but they're completely hollowed out. You could interchange any of the characters and it wouldn't matter because they all sound the same. In saying that, most of the dialogue is plain and perfunctory i.e. "Where's so and so?", "Where's the thing?", "Are you okay?", "How do we get the thing?" -- there's nothing delineating any real character traits, or anything remotely interesting. It's purely plot-driving dialogue. Sure the characters have different technical abilities, but who cares what their occupation or skill is compared to the personality they bring to the drama? Was Ving Rhames even necessary? Was Jeremy Renner?
I realized early on that they'd thrown out any element of realism, as the good guys are invincible, and the bad guys are as dumb as playing an espionage video game on the easiest setting. This throws out any sense of danger, and removes any real suspense. Speaking of suspense, it wasn't more than five or ten minutes before Tom Cruise is seen drowning that we saw Rebecca Ferguson looking at her watch after holding her breath underwater in her Casablanca pool. I'm not trying to say how perceptive I am as it was unbelievably obvious. But throughout the whole diving scene I was waiting for him to drown, and then have Rebecca come in and save him. It was telegraphed so amateurishly that all suspense was removed. Traditionally there's supposed to be a large gap of time so the audience forgets that one of the characters has this special ability that can save a person in a particular situation. I was like, "Unless there's another underwater scene (which is highly unlikely), Tom's gonna drown here, and the strong, independent, female character is going to save him. Thus reversing the trope of the man always saving the woman." Yep, this isn't getting predictable at all. I'm completely progressive in my philosophy, and I love Ellen Ripley and Clarice Starling, as well as many other really interesting and strong female characters, but the filmmakers could at least disguise these newly adopted Hollywood tropes so that they're not telegraphed to a degree that even the visually impaired can see them.
The tone of the film seemed off to me, too: it pulls its punches in the action and drama department, choosing to go cartoon and cutesy, over gritty realism, which is fine, but how about those character scenes? I mean if you're not going to go hard-boiled in the action and drama, surely you can afford some goofball character scenes: like scenes where they're drunk and embarrass themselves by saying too much; or they're depressed from a fractured relationship; or something that gives interesting insight into who these people are. Nope. There's none of this. Again we're treated to asexual, invincible, cartoon characters who I just couldn't give a fluff about.
The subtitle, Rogue Nation, implies that perhaps it's got some geopolitical message or commentary to it. It doesn't. I know its Mission Impossible and it's supposed to be mindless fun, but sometimes blockbusters do explore current topics and themes in an entertaining fashion. This one doesn't. Not even with satire. It's played cutesy straight. The movie simply doesn't say anything about anything.
It's plastic and disposable... which I guess does say something.