By Bill Arceneaux
From a directorial stamp perspective, the Mission: Impossible film series has been unique. Each film in the series has its own style, its own look, and its own feel. This was a producorial decision I understand, to choose different helmers for each story. DePalma kicked things off with a mysterious whodunnit, Woo followed with ridiculous blow ‘em up machismo, Abrams continued with slick flow and Bird went all out in a grandiose way.
How does McQuarrie fit in with Rogue Nation?
Director Christopher McQuarrie previously worked with Tom Cruise in the “bad dude” epic Jack Reacher. That movie was an amped up force of man built monster, filled with tension and torque, and all in the right places. If Michael Bay upped his game, he could make a Reacher level movie. McQuarrie understands the editorial way of building and exploiting suspense. I read somewhere that his command over the editing bay is near Hitchcockian—that I would agree with. He’s very playful without being childish. It’s an almost masterful kind of playfulness, establishing one thing then subverting for something different.
Put Rogue Nation up against most works of Alfred Hitchcock, and it would probably cede victory. Still, it’s nice to know that craft, skill and an eye for high heart-pounding stakes still lurks in the minds of filmmakers. The film was marketed with the image of Tom Cruise hanging from a lifting off a cargo plane, obviously going for the IMAX crowd. Not to spoil anything, but this moment is certainly not the only… high… point. The other stunts aren’t quite as risky, but the danger is always underneath. Where Ghost Protocol was a spectacle, Rogue Nation is tense and anxious, meaning that you’ll feel the tension and the anxiety. It’s a movie that winds you up to a satisfying end.
With good performances and an action-packed rhythm, the plot doesn’t have to be all too complex. And it isn’t, really. There are some nice twists here and there that caught me by surprise, but if it weren’t for the energy given through the actors and the editing, I wouldn’t have cared. Rogue Nation is probably closer to Depalma’s first movie than any of the others, being very cat and mouse with its adventure. But, like the others, it’s very much its own film, with its own voice.
Does Mission: Impossible need individual voices? Does it really need stylistic feels?
Yes. It can be difficult coming up with a complicated story to tell, driven by the mystery and the acting. If you can shovel over that with thrill gags, atmosphere, and awesomeness, then you’ve solved the problem. Tom Cruise picks his projects so carefully, and clearly with much thought. Each movie he’s been doing lately has been different by degrees. Simple story arcs or characters that people will understand and relate to, but with visuals and transitions that keep things as fresh as possible. It’s a sleight of hand; these producers are playing.
The commonality of these Mission: Impossible films is magic.
4 / 5 *s
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