The Authors

Our Reel Heroes Book
Greg Smith & Scott T. Allison

Reel Heroes
& Villains

Acknowledgements

  • ♦ We thank Fotomontaggio for the header photo from Wikimedia Commons.
  • ♦ Many thanks to the good folks at Sedona Taphouse for serving up some good eats after we watch the movies reviewed here.
  • ♦ Many thanks to our friends at The Numbers where we get our movie release information (which aids in advance planning)
Copyright © 2015 Reel Heroes. All rights reserved. No portions of this blog may be reprinted without permission of the authors.

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation •••1/2

Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation_posterStarring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie, Christopher McQuarrie
Action/Adventure/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 131 minutes
Release Date: July 31, 2015

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, your mission, should you choose to accept, is to review this next movie with me.


Once again it looks like another round of Mission Improbable. Let’s recap:


The movie opens with super IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) acrobatically stopping a plane from transporting canisters of nerve gas to terrorists. He receives his next mission at a small record shop, where he is intercepted by a mysterious blond-haired bad guy (Sean Harris) who gasses Hunt into unconsciousness. Hunt then avoids horrible torture when a woman (Rebecca Ferguson), appearing to be a double-agent, allows him to escape.


The IMF is disbanded because of Hunt’s crazy antics in the previous four movies. And now Hunt is on the run as the CIA, FBI, and NSA are all out to get him. He scrapes together his band of closely held friends to concoct a plan to take down the Insyndicate – the rogue anti-IMF task force – or die trying.


Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the strongest installment in the mission impossible franchise. The movie works on the strength of its hero, Tom Cruise, who seems to have kicked it up a notch as a lead character. As with most Cruise movies (Edge of Tomorrow being one exception), Rogue Nation doesn’t feature a hero who evolves much as a character. Yet somehow, paradoxically, Cruise’s portrayal of Ethan Hunt reveals a growing maturity, an increased presence and wisdom from the actor that has seeped into his performance here.

It doesn’t hurt that Rogue Nation is an example of superb filmmaking. The stunts are stunning and the cast is a blast. I was particularly impressed with Rebecca Ferguson’s portrayal of Ilsa, Cruise’s love interest, occasional ally, and occasional nemesis. Ilsa is a wonderfully complex person with a variety of strengths that we don’t often see in women characters in the movies. It’s refreshing to see Ilsa as Hunt’s physical, mental, and emotional equal.


I’ll second that emotion – Ilsa is every bit as strong a character as Ethan Hunt. Rogue Nation does suffer from the improbability of some of its stunts and some of its situations. The opening scene with Cruise hanging from the side of a plane (it’s really him, not a stunt double) is hard to believe. And his 6-minute swim below the depths of a water-cooled computer storage area push the limits of believability as well. But heck, this is Mission Impossible after all! It is everything you look for in a summertime popcorn movie.

Ethan Hunt measures up pretty well as a hero. He’s dashing, strong, smart and even empathetic and kind to his team members. Sadly, there’s not much of a transformation for anyone in this film. Hunt starts out awesome and ends up awesome. Which is one of the traits we noticed in our recent book Reel Heroes & Villains. He is an episodic hero – one that basically doesn’t change from episode to episode.


Good observation, Greg. I’m fascinated by the presence of a comedic supporting character in almost every serious movie that we see. Simon Pegg has made a career out of playing the super-smart and super-goofy sidekick with great charm and pizzazz.  Comic relief in a secondary character goes back to the time of ancient Greece, yet here we are continuing to witness it 25 centuries later. This archetype must reflect some deep-seated need in humans to seek emotional comfort from the most dire circumstances.

Another deep archetype appears to be the fugitive from justice who is innocent and who must devote his life to proving his worthiness. In stories of this type, the fugitive needs a team of people who selflessly risk their lives to assist the hero. The team is often a ragtag group that overachieves despite long odds. Yet another archetype is the blustery, bullheaded authority figure who has an entirely wrong impression of our hero, until the very end when the bullhead must eat crow. In a strange casting choice, Alec Baldwin does a nice job with this role.


We already sang the praises of Ilsa as a secondary character. Although we see her as a romantic interest, Hunt treats her as a equal professional. For the most part, it’s all business between these two. I wonder if she represents a mirror image of Hunt – a reflection character.

The villains are pretty typical. Last year we acknowledged the Villain/Henchman pattern and it is played out pretty well here. Sean Harris as Solomon Lane controls everything from afar, letting his band of merry men do the dirty work. In fact, it is only when he comes out from behind his laptop camera that he is done in. Once he starts to get his hands dirty, he makes himself vulnerable and is eventually caught.


Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation grabbed me from the get-go and never lost its grip on me for two fun-filled hours. If you’ve read my reviews of previous Tom Cruise movies, you know I’m not his biggest fan, but perhaps his middle-aged persona is growing on me. This film has everything you’d want in a summer blockbuster – action, adventure, romance, strong characters, and tightly-crafted script. I have no problem awarding Rogue Nation 4 Reels out of 5.

As an episodic hero, there isn’t much character transformation in Ethan Hunt, but then again we neither expect it nor require it for the movie to work. Hunt defeats the villain because he’s smarter, stronger, more charismatic, more resilient, more…. well, let’s just say he has more of all the Great Eight characteristics of heroes than the villain does. Hunt deserves a rating that is as rock solid as his abs. I give him 4 out of 5 heroes.

The supporting cast is simply terrific. We have a strong and dislikeable villain in Solomon Lane. His head henchman is the bone-crushing Vinter, whom we also love to hate. Simon Pegg is the funny man, Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa kicks beautiful ass, and Alec Baldwin is effective as the foolish boss. The entire cast impressed me and thus deserves a full 5 Cast points out of 5.

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Rogue Nation is a lot of fun but not as good as the first Mission Impossible film. I’ve longed for the sort of smart story line that we got in that first outing. Like so many sequels, the producers have emphasized and expanded the glitzy elements of the movie in favor of the story elements. The plot device of shutting down the IMF smells a bit like what we’ve seen in the Marvel universe where S.H.I.E.L.D was similarly shut down. It’s a bit unimaginative. While I had a good time, I can only give Rogue Nation 3 out of 5 Reels.

I still want to see some sort of transformation in either the hero or someone close to the hero. Ethan Hunt’s lack of change or catalyst for change left me wanting. Like other episodic heroes we’ve seen this summer (Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man, etc…) Hunt doesn’t grow much. I  can only give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.

I agree that the supporting cast is well designed. They either support or thwart the hero (or the villain) and there is a decent amount of depth to the characters. Still, because it’s a sequel, a lot of the backstory of these characters is unspoken assuming we’ll remember them from previous incarnations. I give the cast 4 out of 5 Cast points.

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