Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

I got robbed, I tell you.

A few years ago, when I wrote a review of MI4 (not to be confused with the smartphone model — this one’s more expensive, and that one won’t do too well hanging off the side of the Burj Khalifa), I wrote about Ethan Hunt’s hypothetical dilemma: would there be a mission he’d look at and say, “Nah, I think I’ll sit this one out, man.”

And early on in this film, Ethan finds his mission description in a record store, and the message is a wicked little riff on the usual format.

In my review of the earlier movie, I wrote of the missed opportunity in not casting Vadivelu (to be fair, I said that about Citizen Kane as well).

And in this film, you have Simon Pegg playing a sidekick who is dropped into a bunch of situations where he finds himself in grave danger (is there any other kind in this franchise?). They didn’t get the great man himself, but they certainly infused the film with his spirit.

So you see, someone somewhere owes me a lot of money. Not that I’ll ever get paid. (My mission, should I choose to accept it, would be to get a percentage of the gross rather than contribute to it in a miniscule fashion. And I’m choosing to sit this one out.)

But protestations of theft aside, here’s what I think. I think the franchise is a victim of its own success.

The first film did laughable things with computers and the Internet, but had absolutely kick-ass sequences (most memorably, a scene where the Hunt tries to get into a secure computer by hanging from the ceiling), and a plot so labyrinthine that it looked like Picasso wrote it after eating a few too many magic mushrooms.

So the sequel-makers had to ask themselves, how do I top that? You can’t make the plot any more complex if you want anyone to watch it, so what’s left is upping the ante on things going bang. And it’s not just the earlier films in the franchise you have to outdo: it’s every other franchise in the same race. The second one didn’t do so well on that count and the third was no better. The fourth managed a couple of truly impossible feats (hanging off the side of the Burj Khalifa and driving fast through Mumbai rush hour traffic), and added a dollop of humour to what was becoming an increasingly sombre series.

The success of the fourth film (not to mention someone’s blog posts), must’ve given the makers an idea: maybe humour is the answer. So you have a, um… plot as usual, but Simon Pegg has a lot more to do and Jeremy Renner gets a nice bit part that allows him to deliver straight lines with wonderful comic effect.

Which is good, because the action has skipped past impossible to ridiculous. There’s probably a whole batch of JEE aspirants solving the physics problems in these movies rather than focusing on Irodov like they usually do. It’s not that I found it implausible – that’s never the driving factor. I simply got bored.

I gotta give them points for one thing, though: the use of the word “torus” instead of “ring” in a particular context. I don’t know if it sounds any cooler, but it certainly makes it easier for those JEE aspirants, and allows me to me hold out hope that the next MI film will have a computer hidden in a Klein bottle.

And if that actually happens in the next film, I’m definitely suing. Or writing a blog post, whichever sounds more possible.

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4 thoughts on “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

  1. Did you just do a “I am too old for this shit.”? Haha. I quite enjoyed it myself. More so because its gender politics are on the positive side. I do think post Mad Max this seems like an easy thing to do and may soon become one of those unqualified automatic praises but for now worth celebrating. And Rebecca Ferguson lives up to it so damn well. The Vienna sequence was lovely and I liked the understated climax. Very much harks back to the ethos of the first film. (And do check out Anthony Lane’s enjoyable review).

    • That is true: she had a substantial role, and acquitted herself well. I especially liked the fact that they had someone named Ilsa with scenes set in Casablanca, and with a last name like Faust (given how her assignment basically involved dealing with the devil, it must’ve seemed especially apropos). That’s more subtlety than one usually expects from this franchise.

  2. S says:

    As a fellow fan of the franchise, I got a good laugh from this lighthearted rant. How awesome they (aptly) “Pegged” your Vadivel spirit in the latest one. Didn’t catch Rogue Nation yet, but what do you mean the second one didn’t do so well?? It’s my favorite, by far. Woo works his Face Off magic and turns the bioterror plot into some serious psychological drama. I was riveted. Plus, Cruise banking curves on that Aussie highway racing for the antidote to save Newton (matter of the heart, just as complex a Physics problem to solve)… The two times I watched this film, I held my breath that whole stretch.

  3. S says:

    Watching Rogue Nation at a “last chance to catch this on big screen for 5 bucks before it leaves theatres forever” decrepit cinema hall made me cast “held my breath that whole stretch” in new light, ha. Agree that Ferguson as Faust and the whole dealing with the devil connection you draw are among the more interestingly surreal aspects in an otherwise spectacular letdown of an MI movie. (Ironically enough, they didn’t manage to milk it in all the ways that matter.)

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