Friday, August 14, 2015

"Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation" (2015)

I kind of think of the Mission:  Impossible movies as sort of James Bond's nerdy cousin.  Fewer tuxedos, more sneakers.  Fewer exploding pens, more off-site computer hacking.  Attractive in its own way, but not actually stylish.

Turns out that nerdy cousin cleans up awfully well, though.  In the latest movie, we get treated to a lot of more Bond-like set pieces, with tuxes and slinky dresses and the sorts of stylish locations we'd expect from 007.  In fact, one of the things that I like best about Rogue Nation is how it cheekily grabs from so many other bags of tricks, though I can't decide if it's doing this as an homage, or more of a game of sly one-upsmanship.

For instance, a lot of time is spent at the opera, just like in Quantum of Solace (2008).  They use Turandot instead of Tosca -- but both are operas by Puccini.  Both movies have fight scenes that take place behind the opera's scenery, with ethereal music juxtaposed over brutal violence.  But the fight scene in Solace is a mess -- the worst use of shaky-cam I can ever remember seeing.  Both James Bond and his opponent are dressed in black suits, and the camera shakes around so much you can't tell who is slugging whom.  The fight in Rogue Nation, by contrast, is elegant, simple, clear.  Far superior.  Feels a bit like the filmmakers are saying, "Hey, we can do this better.  Let's take your mess and make something good out of it."

Later, there's a very lovely car-and-motorcycle chase scene that involves driving a car down a bunch of steps, very reminiscent of The Bourne Identity (2002).  There's also a scene where Tom Cruise is in an upside-down car, echoing his own Collateral (2004).  Even one of the official posters tosses in what seems to be an homage to the iconic poster for Tom Cruise's Risky Business (1983).


For a movie-lover like me, all those nods are kind of like secret handshakes or an extra toy in the Crackerjack box, I guess.  If you get them, it's extra awesome, but if you don't, the movie is still really fun.

Anyway, kudos to this film for creating a female spy (Rebecca Ferguson) who isn't simply there for sex appeal, to get rescued by the hero, or any other lame things.


Ilsa Faust is strong and smart, and my favorite thing about her inclusion is how none of the guy spies stand around with their jaws open going, "A girl can do that?"  She's a spy who happens to be a woman, not a woman who happens to be a spy -- they completely accept her as an equal, and that tickled me.  For instance, rarely does Ethan Hunt need rescuing, ever, but when Ilsa rescues him, it doesn't feel smarmy or symbolic, it feels like nothing more than one agent rescuing another, which was so refreshing.  She's the coolest female agent I've seen since Black Widow, and has a similar can-do vibe.  Also, I really dug Ferguson in Hercules (2014), so it's great to see her in a bigger role and bigger movie!  I hope to see more of her, and soon.

Here's the funny thing, though:  I'm not a feminist.  I don't go around singing, "Anything you can do, I can do better."  I don't need a female character to kick butt to think of her as strong.  I firmly believe there are some things most men are better at, and some that most women are better at.  However, I've kinda always wanted to go around punching people and riding motorcycles and rescuing secret agents, so when I get to watch a female character do that, I'm quite pleased.  Especially if she's accepted by all the guys.

Is it family friendly?  A scattering of bad language, lots and lots of PG-13-level violence, there's a torture sequence with little actual torture involved, there's a teensy bit of from-the-waist-up-and-from-behind nudity in a non-sexual context, and there are lots of very tense moments.  One of the most family friendly action movies I've seen -- no sex scenes, not even any kissing, and refreshingly little profanity.  Ilsa does wear a pretty skimpy bikini, though.

Bottom line?  I wanna see this again!

23 comments:

  1. Sounds good. I've enjoyed watching the Mission Impossible movies with my husband so I think we'll see if we can get this one on dvd. Thanks for the review.

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    1. I enjoyed this one more than any but the first M:I movie, which remains my favorite. This is the first of the sequels that I've thought, "Hmm, I might need to buy that and see it about 50 times." Though I would like to re-see III and Ghost Protocol at some point.

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  2. Oh you are SO right, Hamlette - I wanna see it again veeeery soon! Oh, this was such a fantastic movie - my dad took my sister and I to see it on Monday after anxiosy waiting for its release since last year! Benji happens to be my favourite character...although I thought him a little more serious in Rogue Nation...he was super funny in Ghost Protocol!
    However, the violence was a bit more hectic in this one...but oh gosh! Now I want to go see it all over again! Can you tell I am a serious Mission Impossible fan. Way prefer it to Bond movies...I think the fact that there arent scenes' which can't be watched does it for me...:).
    Thanks for a great review...

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    1. Kelly-Anne, woo! Love to meet another M:I fan. I do like Benji, though I like Luther better just because I've been oh-so-fond of him ever since the first movie. You're right that he was a bit funnier in GP, though I think he got some of the best lines in RN. Including my favorite: "Join the IMF and see the world. On a screen. From a closet." :-D

      (I must admit I hold a slight grudge against GP because I was over-the-moon excited that Josh Holloway was in it... and then they killed him off in the opening sequence. Grrrrr.)

      I'm not sure if I prefer these over the Bond movies. My knee-jerk reaction is to say, "No, how could I?" However, I don't like every Bond movie -- in fact, I only love 3 of them enough to watch them over and over (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, and Skyfall). I definitely appreciate that these leave out the skippable scenes (though did M:I2 have a bit of a love scene? I've only seen it a couple times, and that was waaaaay back when it first came out -- I just didn't care for it at all, though I should probably give it a rewatch out of fairness -- but I seem to remember Ethan waking up in bed with a woman). And these have more of a romping, bouncy feel to them, which I do enjoy.

      I'm going to see Man from U.N.C.L.E. today, but I might go see this again next weekend if I get the chance :-) Unless I love MFU way more, hee :-)

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    2. Goodness! You're certainly fast at replying! Well...I will admit that I haven't seen number 1 and 2 yet...but hoping to watch them soon! I remember a slight scene in number 3...glad they've left it out in recent ones - I just prefer it! Oh, I also loved Casino Royale of the Bond films...I watched it with my dad so that he could you know...skip where needed! Smiles... Loved all the action! Actually, I am not a big fan of action movies, so I am surprised at myself for absolutely loving these!

      Yep...Benji did get some great lines - but that one from GP where he walked into the room after changing the numbers on the doors or something and Ethan had just fallen back into the room after nearly being killed climbing that skyscraper and saying ''Whew...that was hard work''! Or something along those lines...classic!

      Enjoy your movie watching today! Will look forward to your review...:)

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    3. Lol. Just happened to be doing my pre-breakfast checking-email-and-blogs stint, and up popped your comment, so I replied! (Now I'm doing my post-breakfast stint while the kids adjust their minds to the fact that yes, they do need to be dressed in clothes before we go to the grocery store.)

      OHMYGOODNESSOHMYGOODNESSOHMYGOODNESS!!!! Pardon me as I fangirl-freak waaaaaaaay out -- you haven't seen the first M:I yet? Get thee a copy post-haste. (Ethan does sleep with a girl in that one, but there is zilch shown -- just an unspoken invitation tacitly accepted, and then referred to obliquely later.) That one is twisty and bouncy and just delicious. One of the first videos I bought when I got to college and couldn't watch my parents' copy anymore.

      Casino Royale is splendid. Ignore Quantum of Solace (dreadful) and zip directly to Skyfall -- no scenes to skip (another set-up-then-fade-to-black sort), and it is just... wow. Deep and rich and satisfying, more a drama than your usual 007 movie.

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    4. Oh gosh, yes! Quantum of Solace was indeed dreadful! I unfortunately saw that one too!

      We decided to get M.I. 2 last night and it was SO different! Plus, there were scenes which I am really glad have been left out in the more recent films...

      The video shop didn't have the first, but oh is it on my list! :)

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    5. Quantum is just a snarled mess. Ugh.

      M:I2 suffers from mimicry problems, IIRC. Like how it shoots its action scenes in "bullet time" like The Matrix, which ends up making it look like a copycat. Unlike this one, which took aspects of other movies and improved on them, or only used them a tiny bit.

      The first one, though, is awesome. I'm going to watch it myself tonight for the first time in a few years -- bouncing in anticipation!

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  3. I know exactly what you mean--you can enjoy and appreciate the Black-Widow-type female characters, without believing that EVERY female character must act exactly like that in order to be considered "strong." Some girls just happen to be good at that sort of thing :) Although, to be honest, I'm not one of 'em, nor have I ever wanted to be, so I personally tend to prefer the quieter types--but I do respect women who can do jobs like that and do them well.

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    1. Right! I similarly don't need a male character to go around punching and shooting people to think of him as strong. In fact I can think of plenty of weak characters who rack up a high body count, but lack inner strength of any sort.

      I do think that women should be allowed to pursue any field that they are good at and are interested in, without being looked down on. The other day my dad said he loves that it's totally fine for women to be farmers now -- he had a sister who would have loved to stay on the farm and work there, but nope, off she was sent to beautician school because that was "more appropriate." Similarly, if a guy likes cutting hair or designing clothes or baking, or anything else "feminine," I say go for it. Do what you love.

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    2. Absolutely--do what you love, whether it's farming, engineering, science, secret-agent-ing, or anything else! Or even fiction writing--you know, I find this really weird to think about, but there was a time when a female author would have been considered more than slightly unusual, by more than a few people :) I'm really glad I don't live in those times!

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    3. Me too, Jessica! Think about the Bronte sisters and George Eliot and so many others, publishing under male pseudonyms because books by women weren't taken seriously.

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  4. Great review! I love your insights behind Ilsa's character. It always makes me really happy when a female character is physically strong and talented, but in a realistic way and not a in-your-face way. And I love it when a female action character is still elegant and feminine too, and she was both those things. :D She was a fantastic addition.

    Even so, I have to say that Benji was my favorite part of the movie. I loved that his character was deepened without giving up on any of his humor, and the theme of his and Ethan's friendship running though the film was a great touch.

    I definitely like M:I movies better than 007 movies. :P It's the cousin that gets the job done while having fun, and remembers not to get bogged down in a serious plot. I want to see it again so badly!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! That's such a good way to put it -- Ilsa is a butt-kicker, but not in an "in-your-face" way. And very elegant. That yellow dress -- wowza!

      Benji was great fun. I think both he and Brandt got lots more development, just Brandt's was quieter and more understated.

      I hope you get to see it again soon! My best friend and I have just decided to embark on a mission of our own: seeing all of the first 4 together over the next few weeks :-D I've seen all of them, but she's only seen Ghost Protocol, so this is gonna be awesome!

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    2. I loved the way it rippled out behind her as she climbed over the railing at the opera. :D

      Yeah I like the way Brandt is going too. Not the norm for a Jeremy Renner character, for him to not get tons of action, but it works really well. :D

      Fun! We re-watched 4 before going to see it, and then after, my brother and I re-watched 2 and then 3. So of course I really want to watch 1 again now. But we did it all out of order. :P I bet that's going to be fun to introduce the movies to her! :D

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    3. Sarah, that dress was just plain amazing. Though I would have chosen a different color, myself, but it really made her stand out.

      I like that Brandt is more cerebral and behind-the-scenes-plotting, because it's a good balance to Ethan's go-jump-on-a-plane-cuz-I-can approach.

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  5. I REALLY want to see this! I've been hearing so many good reviews of it!
    I'm with you on the feminist thing. :)

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    1. Lois, I hope you can see it soon! It is super fun.

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  6. Ilsa Faust made this movie for me. She was amazing and wonderful all the way through. I miss the more constant humor and lightness from Ghost Protocol, but this was still a very satisfying and entertaining movie. I hate water far more than I hate heights, so this one was far more stressful movie for me. And of course I loved the whole section at the opera house, even if they played part of the music way out of order. That dress Ilsa wears is so amazing.

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    1. DKoren, I was actually thinking of you during the water scene, wondering if you were hiding your face like I have to do with the spiders-in-Mirkwood stuff in DOS. I love water, but I don't love being unable to control things, so that part was really tense for me too. Especially when he lost the chips! Argh! Much nail-biting.

      The opera house was awesome. It made me miss being in theatre and getting to be behind the scenes. I never got to be up on the catwalks, and our theater was of course teensyweensy, but still, it made me nostalgic.

      And Ilsa's dress -- so perfect! A dress you can fight bad guys in AND wear to the opera? Magical!

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    2. Hee. Nope, I'm not a face hider, but if I had been watching it at home for the first time, I would have paused mid-tank and walked away for a few minutes, then come back to finish. I do the pause/walk away thing a lot on stressful movies.

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    3. Which I could never do, because I want it to just Hurry Up And Finish So I Know What Happened. (This also played into the boat chase we've been discussing -- I needed to know what was happening to IK, not watch NS chewing!!!) But I don't get as stressed out during movies as you do, I think. Freaked out by spiders, yes, but that's not the same thing. Freaked-out stuff I hide from.

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    4. Yes, t'is true! I can get quite stressed out in some films, but not freaked out, and vice versa for you!

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Agree or disagree? That is the question...

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