Film Review: Is Tom Cruise the next Terminator?
In Dan Simmons’ 1989 Carrion Comfort, a secret group of people with the power to control others’ minds is responsible for seemingly unrelated events, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to Adolf Hitler’s incitement of World War II. Why do they do it? As elementary as it may sound, they do it purely for sport. In the latest installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) suspects that a series of seemingly unconnected events—the assassination of an African president, a deadly explosion in the Philippines, and the crash in the Pacific of a commercial airplane—are really the machinations of a secret syndicate, or rogue nation. Why are they doing it? Apparently “sport” was too complicated an answer, as the film fails to make a case for the syndicate’s actions, and, unavoidably, for Hunts’ as well.
Such is the senseless ride on which writer/director Christopher McQuarrie takes us. The film opens with one impossible mission and follows it up with another after another. Can Hunt get himself inside an airplane mid-takeoff? Can he stop not one, but three assassins from executing the German chancellor, all while making sure not to fall from stage lights and spoil a production of Puccini’s Turandot? Can he hold his breath for more than three minutes and implant a fake chip inside a security network contained in a massive underground water vortex? By the time we get to learn if he can clear his team’s reputation, it is quite difficult to care.
Indeed, one of the film’s major flaws lies in Hunt’s robotic nature. He does not hurt or break. He does not cry. He does not consider that his plans may not go exactly as planned. He is much too sure of himself and arises out of every seemingly impossible scenario much too unscathed, as if he were really Terminator rather than an agent made of blood and bones. Of course, this is a Hollywood film, not a documentary, but we continue to watch film franchises like these in spite of the cookie-cutter plot precisely because we feel connected to the characters and are interested in seeing the new and clever ways in which they manage to extricate themselves from extreme situations.In Mad Max: Fury Road, Imperator Furiosa convinced us that she was on a just cause because she allowed us to feel her pain and because we were given reasons to despise her enemies. As a result, we wanted her to defeat Immortan Joe, and we cheered when she did. Hunt does not even attempt to do the same. He is so disconnected, that even members of his own team question his actions and motives. And if they cannot understand, then how can we?
The film does provide some entertaining scenes, such as a motorcycle chase in the streets of Casablanca, but it is largely bereft of the humor, storyline complexities, and innovative shots that made Ghost Protocol the best of the now five Mission: Impossible films. Hunt may be “the living manifestation of destiny,” to quote CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), but yours does not have to include watching him save… What was it again that he was trying to save?
Our recommendation: Skip it for the entertainment value. There are some exciting action scenes, but nothing you have not seen before. And skip it for the storyline. The main characters are out to restore their group’s reputation. Did the Pitch Perfect women not already accomplish this back in May? Aca-awkward.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opens today, 30 July in the UK and Friday, 31 July in the US.
Watch the trailer below