Is there anything this man can’t do?
We’re all tired of reading about how this is an age of reboots and remakes in the movie business. Not because it isn’t true, but mainly because we’re not idiots and we can tell big franchises from our childhood are coming back with a new, different approach. A lot of these times, the actor who brought our hero to life might be a little too old for the good ole action, so it has to be taken down a notch. Other times, he might not be so popular with the kids today, so he is sidelined while a young rising star takes the lead. None of these rules apply to Tom Cruise, ‘one of the biggest movie stars of all time’ like Jimmy Fallon introduced him last week before their memorable Lip Sync Off, and the thrilling and pacey Rogue Nation is indisputable proof of that.
PRODUCER: Bad Robot / TC Productions / Paramount Pictures
Mission not so impossible
In fact, the first sequence alone of Rogue Nation should suffice. We get the IMF (not gonna make the International Monetary Fund joke, I’m classy and original) gang trying to stop one of the biggest planes you’ve probably ever seen piloted by Chechen terrorists carrying bio-weapons or something, and failing to do so remotely with all their hacking skills. As the plane starts gaining speed on the runway, we see Tom Cruise running up a hill and jumping on one of the wings. The others may call him Ethan this time, but we know it’s Tom Cruise, the icon, who’s now hanging by the side of the plane, dapperly clad in a suit, as it takes off. We proceed to collect our jaw from the floor.
The movie is your regular Mission Impossible mix. The CIA director (Alec Baldwin, effortlessly nailing it) wants to shut down the IMF because of his reckless behavior, and at the same time bring Tom Cruise in and make him accountable for his actions. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames (both incredibly underused) are trying to stop that from happening while at the same time they look for ways to help Tom Cruise on the mission he has chose to accept this time, not like he had an alternative though. Tom Cruise is hunting down a secret organization called the Syndicate, whose members are ex black-ops operatives that go around killing world leaders and provoking wars. He reaches out to his new favorite bro (sorry, Luther!), Simon Pegg’s Benji. The two play off of each other extremely easily, it’s more of an instant chemistry reaction than relationship building. You could even make a buddy cop movie with the two of them.
In a time where everything is being measured on its level of misogyny and/or feminism, Rogue Nation’s secret weapon is not surprisingly a lady. Played by the automatically interesting and gorgeous Rebecca Ferguson, Ilsa is a British double/triple/quadruple agent who masterfully flirts with Tom Cruise and the team. She leads them to Morocco (Ilsa, Morocco… Casablanca much?) to steal the most guarded pen-drive of all time. The heist involves a scene where Tom Cruise has to hack an underwater security system while holding his breath for 3 minutes. Before you start asking if he did that stunt too, you’d better slap yourself on the face because of course he did, and he did it holding his breath for 6 minutes because nothing is enough for Tom Cruise.
If it ain’t broke…
Unlike other franchises that keep adjusting their tone playing with the campy-gritty gauge and winding up with ludicrous results (*cough*Skyfall*cough*), Mission Impossible has always known what it is. It only made a few tweaks from one installment to the other and, like a Dragon Ball villain, it found it’s best and final form in Ghost Protocol and now continues to play the same enjoyable tune like a massive entertainment orchestra in Rogue Nation.
At times, you will find yourself guessing if somebody’s gonna take off a mask and find Tom Cruise underneath, or if the double-crossing is gonna end up being a triple-crossing or if everything has been going according to plan and you just don’t know it yet, but Tom Cruise does. That’s the effect it has on your head, and it keeps you guessing and entertained without turning too dumb, or complicated, or dull. It never tries to outsmart itself and it has the right amount of self consciousness without being condescending to the audience. It walks a fine line on the edge of parody, but the meta jokes land perfectly and it totally embraces the silliness when the time comes, reaching exciting levels of drama and exploiting the comedy relief. No one can sell smiles and overeagerness like Tom Cruise can.
‘The Living Manifestation of Destiny’
The whole marketing campaign was focused, and rightfully so, on Tom Cruise doing his own stunts. He doesn’t have to do it, he doesn’t HAVE to hang from an airplane in-flight (not one time, nor the 8 takes he actually shot), or hold his breath for a near permanent-brain-damage amount of time, or speed drive through Moroccan alleys. But that kind of thing is what makes him who he is, WHAT he is, what he represents.
One of the best and funniest lines of the film is pronounced by Alec Baldwin while trying to explain how Ethan Hunt operates. He calls him ‘The Living Manifestation of Destiny’. It’s clear that he’s speaking on a meta level about you-know-who, and we laugh because Tom Cruise might even actually think that way about himself. But his weird scientology stuff and crazy couch jumping are of little consequence compared to the entertainment and joy it brings to watch him do what he was born to do, and define what he was destined to become: the biggest movie star of his generation, and the next one.