Upfront: I am not a Tom Cruise fan. I find him a bit off putting, a tad arrogant, something “manufactured” about his persona – like I can’t see his soul. There are artistes that just lay it out there, raw and vulnerable. Cruise is not one of them. And this makes me not regard him as an actor of note in anyway other than a box office phenomenon.
Now that is off my chest.
So, trust me when I tell you now: if you miss out on watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, you may have missed one of the most cinematically stunning piece of action drama in a long time.
They killed it guys! THIS IS WHAT HOLLYWOOD IS ABOUT. This is what differentiates the studios from the independents. Scope, Size, Spectacle. Paramount and the Cruise team brought everything to the fore on this one and it paid off.
1. The story: When I go to the cinema, I divide my brain into two spaces – one space is dedicated to drama that will make me think hard, reflect on existence and walk out totally determined to change my ways and use less water, plant more trees, save more monkeys blah blah. The other space is dedicated to NOT thinking, to sheer shameless immersion in the experience in front of me, and global warming and/or starving children are the last things on my mind. So when I go and watch an action movie, I am in zone two. I do not want to think – well not too much, but you get my drift. So I hate (and reluctantly admire) those stories within a story, plots within a plot, bad guy turned good guy then turned bad guy and back again (Nolan fans, sorry). Frankly guys, I yawn as soon as I am forced to literarily THINK (too much) in an action movie produced by Hollywood. Its just too much for my brain after a hard day’s work. You can guess where I am going – MI: Rogue Nation gave me a simple story, a plotline so uncomplicated that the ride was a lot of fun. I got it! And I felt good when I walked out of the theater because my brain was intact, my ego unwounded, and my intelligence unchallenged. I got it!
2. The female lead: So I confess I am one of those guys that scour the broadsheets to know who will be the next Bond Girl and MI Girl. How can I ever forget the first time Thandie Newton graced the big screen as an MI Girl – I recall that scene where Cruise looked at her lying in bed and he says: Gosh you’re beautiful! and everyman in the theater silently agreed. Or Michelle Monaghan’s wholesomeness in MI 3. Or Paula Patton’s badass sexiness in MI 4. Okay you get it – I live for the MI-girls – now politically correctly called “women” – you will see what I mean in this movie!
In Rogue Nation, Mr. Curise’s team nailed it so hard, I am surprised they are not nominating themselves for an Oscar in casting! Rebecca Fergusson sizzled like butter on hot plate! Even my dear wife goshed over her shoes! Her form, that delightful accent which you have to ask your brain to stop trying to place, her poise, and that brief insight into her ability to do what Cruise cannot – be vulnerable – all these guarantees that this is a female artiste to watch! Before you google, note: there are two Rebecca Fergussons – one is black, has an awesome voice and has two critically acclaimed CDs (photographs like a dream by the way!) and the other is the one in this movie and I say: this one is going to be the bigger Rebecca Fergusson and soon the other one will have to add some letter to her name so people will stop confusing them. The fact that the actress Fergusson is Swedish might help. Sigh. That accent.
3. The men: I still think Ving Rhames is one of the worst actors in the hemisphere. And the movie proves it. Again.
Simon Pegg was, well Simon Pegg – an artist who does his job so well, you will only notice him if he takes a wrong step. He didn’t.
Jeremey Renner did not do it for me on this one. He did not look as great as he did in The Avengers and fact is, he looked like a reluctant actor who was a bit disdainful of the franchise. If the plan was for Renner to come across as a reluctant agent with dubious goals, then they achieved it and mark my words – he is going to be the bad guy in the next installment. Or die. The lack of sympathy we feel for his character is proof enough.
Okay then, Sean Harris – if there was an Oscar category for an action movie like MI, this guy will get it. He is an auteur. He is Gary Oldman all over again. He is the bad guy that understands the power of NOT looking like a bad guy. Sigh. If there is a god of art, his performance in this film will be studied in acting schools the same way we study the late Ledger as Joker in Batman number – ad infinitum.
The others: Alec Baldwin. In this case I can only say – the magic is gone for me. He did what he was hired to do. But anyone could have taken that role. I just thank heavens they did not hire some “woman of colourr” to act Head of CIA. Notice that trend lately? And its either Viola Davies, or Alfre Woodard or Angela Basset. So yaaay for the MI team for resisting that temptation. Sad that Baldwin brought nothing more to the table than a job, done to expectations.
And last but certainly not the least, drums roll, the Box Office monster, the undefeatable, unstoppable, ageless and spot on ability to choose commercially successful movies: Lord Tom Cruise himself. And that is all I am going to say. Go watch it yourself. I can only add this – the guy is going to be richer than King Solomon by the time Rogue Nation runs its course. I duff my hat.
4. The Franchise. Mr. Bond. James Bond. will have a tough act to follow especially since the two franchises have similar story lines – Rogue Nation has The Syndicate (not very creative I admit) and 007 will have Spectre to contend with. So far, Mission Impossible has helped to acquire a new and less complicated audience for the spy/action/thriller genre. I predict Spectre will do very well and will have Rogue Nation to thank for it. I also predict that Specter will have more story-convolutions and may score higher on “pressure on audience to THINK” and will lose ninnies like me.
5. The Team: JJ Abrams, Cruise and co. 10 over 10. And if you like listening to end credits music – the Rogue Nation classical arrangement of the iconic soundtrack is wonderful. Refrains of the notable MI soundtrack played along with the locations they shot in. Quite cool. And almost subliminal (until i told you this!). But get ready for a long sit while the end credits roll – the crew was almost longer than the standard millions of people that work on an animation. They clearly hired anyone that was hirable!
6. The End: You may feel after the last scene that there is going to be some kind of snippet preview of the next installment. You know that scene that comes in the middle of really long credits that make you want to watch the next film? You’ll be disappointed. There is no pay off for sitting through millions of names although my Nigerian friends will be pleased to see quite a number of Nigerians on the credits from craft to set, to design to catering! You can take that information to Shoprite and see what it gets you. You’re welcome.
So. Finally. I. Say:
If you love movies. If you like a thrill ride. If you believe in the magic of movies to bring the truly impossible into the realm of possibilities. If you can suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes and give in to a thrill ride. If you are the type that scream “baaad guy” or “Aaaarctoooor!” after a really cool, special effect generated action sequence. If you are not a film snob and understand the value of entertainment for entertainment’s sake. If you like a pretty woman (note, not girl!) with a gun. If you don’t like to think too much at the cinema, and will not question how. If you like Tom Cruise or not. THEN. PLEASE. WATCH. ROGUE. NATION.
p.s. Please don’t waste your time downloading the pirated version. You will be missing some of the most beautifully shot cinema in a long time! Spend some of that hard earned money to make Cruise and J.J Abrams richer. It might be your best spent money in a while.
Off to my day job.
And make sure you thank me if you take my advice on this one.
By Femi Kayode