16 August 2015

Defending Cruise and Identifying McQuarrie

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People used to say that Tom Cruise was hiding his homosexuality to protect his reputation. I think we can assume that's all bollocks now though because there's nothing wrong with taking it up the hoop, but believing in dead, volcanic aliens is a bit fucking weird... but then to an atheist like me, it's no more weird than claiming that there's a judgemental magician sitting in the clouds, or that Heaven is anything more than a gay bar in London. I don't care about his beliefs, I don't care that he's short and I don't care that he has a fucking weird middle-tooth. Cruise is an easy man to make fun of but that shouldn't detract from the undeniable fact that most of his films are really, really good. Okay- the middle tooth is strange and annoying; seriously, check it out. But as long as he keeps making films like Edge Of Tomorrow and Collateral, I think I can forgive him for having his teeth in the wrong place.

It could be argued that aside from some maniacal, genocidal dictators, Cruise is one of the most famous people on the planet and has already established his place as an icon of the silver screen. James Dean had to explode in a fire ball of flames, Marilyn Monroe had to fuck a president before committing suicide, but all Cruise has had to do is prick about on Oprah Winfrey's sofa and remain one of the worlds most consistent action stars. His reputation may have had more ups and downs than a bipolar porn star on a pogo-stick, but his Mission: Impossible films have consistently delivered suspense, thrills, and jaw dropping action. To my knowledge, this was the first spy franchise to begin post-Cold War and has really benefit from the freshness of a new director with each new film. De Palma brought his love of Hitchcock, Abrams rejuvenated the franchise, and Bird directed a marathon of set-pieces with the accuracy of a man used to working with animation. With Mission: Impossible 2, John Woo even continued his directorial tic of only making English language films that are total shit. The franchise has always seemed under-rated to me with there being little hype before the movie is actually released, however as a fan of both the series and Tom Cruise, I was more than excited to see what the stunted, stunt obsessed antics the wonky toothed scientologist  would be getting up to this time.  

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation continues the misadventures of Ethan Hunt and his team as he attempts to dangle off anything and everything for no good reason. In the first movie he iconically dangled over a computer, before continuing this trend in the subsequent films with a rock face, two average sized towers, the worlds tallest building, and now the outside of a military plane as it takes off. Considering he completes his missions in each movie, they're clearly not impossible and so I really do think this franchise should simply be renamed as Tom Dangles. To summarise the plot of Tom Dangles: Rogue Nation, I'd say it's kind of the same old shit, really. An agency known as the Syndicate is being a bit too naughty and so Hunt is sent to give them a kick up the arse whilst trying to forget that his job security is about as tight as a post-popper anus. Though with McQuarrie at the reigns, the film is essentially a really well-written thriller that puts as much focus on mystery as it does action. In many ways, this film is kind of like a 'best of the series' with De Palma's suspense, Woo's gunplay, Abram's devil-like villain and Birds insane stunts. In many ways, McQuarrie is still more famous for being a writer than he is a director but like Silence Of The Lambs's Buffalo Bill, the film might seem to be dressed up in the best of others but it's still very obviously got his balls underneath.    

McQuarrie was of course the writer of The Usual Suspects which is why I'm claiming a tightly plotted thriller to be one of his characteristics. However on top of that he also worked on the scripts for Valkyrie and Jack And The Giant Slayer, so he's also used to working on films that may have one obvious lead character but still lean slightly towards being an ensemble. This is the case here with Cruise being joined in his quest by the riff-raff that he's been collecting over the series. Simon Pegg re-joins as Hunt's best friend, with the Brit essentially playing Tim from The Office to Cruise's demented David Brent. Hunt does something insane, to which Pegg does the screaming equivalent of looking to the camera and then shrugging in confusion. As well as the non-stop action, it's their dynamic that provides a sense of fun that that may well be attributed to Drew Pierce who co-wrote both this and Iron Man 3. As well as Pegg however, we also get the return of Ving Rhames who turns up to do his usual thing, although having piled the weight on, he does seem to be resembling a slightly crusty Oxo cube. Jeremy Renner also returns to do his usual thing of appearing in the background of a big franchises with one of his most memorable aspects being his weird drumstick fingers... like Cruise's middle tooth, I do recommend that you Google them. 

As well as those familiar faces, there are two new people that are worth mentioning. Well, three if you count Alec Baldwin who just does his usual thing of turning up and bollocking people like a middle-aged man whose drank a cup of Rhino jizz and then been kicked in the balls. But specifically I mean the mysterious Rebecca Ferguson and the creepy-as-fuck Sean Harris. Ferguson is amazing and more than able to hold her own in any situation. One minute she's in trouble and the next she's leaping six foot in the air and breaking five men's necks with just her vagina. She might not be as iconic as Mad Max: Fury Road's Furiosa, but as strong female characters from 2015 go, she's certainly miles ahead of Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World.  Although that could be because Howard is running in heels. Ferguson is another obvious stamp from McQuarrie who also worked on the script for Edge Of Tomorrow (or whatever the fuck it's called now), with her character not being too dissimilar to Emily Blunt's Full Metal Bitch in that movie. In fact, she's essentially the movie's femme fatale with McQuarrie adding elements of Usual Suspects-esque noir throughout. This film doesn't end with a bag but rather a game of wits as characters move through the shadows in a bid to outsmart each other. Although as well as being noir-ish, this ending is probably for the best considering the film opens with Cruise hanging onto the side of that aeroplane. I mean, how the fuck could you escalate a film from that? All I can think is that Cruise sticks a bomb up his arse, screams something in his alien language and then explodes back to his home planet through the fucking moon.  

As for Sean Harris's villain, well- he continues this noir like vibe of being an almost omnipotent leader of a sinister organisation. He's a bit like the Fat Man from The Maltese Falcon except instead of being chubby and jolly, he's skinny and fucking terrifying. Harris has an intensity matched by few others which isn't hurt by the fact that he looks like a heroin addicted snake that's attempting to digest Willem Dafoe. In fact, the biggest criticism that most people have levelled at this movie is in how undeveloped his character is. I however just find the guy so creepy that it didn't bother me. Like the Devil, he doesn't need a motive beyond the fact that he's a massive evil wanker. Though maybe I'm biased because I really do find him to be one of the most terrifying things on this planet behind the threat of nuclear war and the existence of Jake Busey. For me in fact, I think the biggest criticism I could level at the movie is in its occasional Bond-ian feel. There's a set-piece here in which Hunt has a fight at an opera which couldn't help remind me of The Spy Who Loved Me and Quantum Of Solace. I suppose it could be argued that the biggest influence is actually The Man Who Knew Too Much and this similarity to 007 is simply that both franchises owe a huge debt to Hitchcock. However the fact that whilst there, Hunt also has to decide whether or not to snipe a woman who herself is a sniper is a little bit too identical to a scene in The Living Daylights. If you're going to reference the Daltonator's first Bond film then the least you could do is choose the scene in which he escapes a shoot-out by sliding down a hill on cello case like a tit. 

As well as McQuarrie's love of noir-ish mystery, that's not to say that the action isn't also edge-of-the-seat stuff. This wouldn't be a Mission: Impossible film if it didn't include Cruise's subconscious desire to free himself from scientology by committing suicide on film. There are four major set pieces including the opening plane, the opera fight, an underwater sequence, and a motorbike chase. In every one of those cases, the use of both Cruise and practical effects had my eyes so unflinchingly locked to the screen that I wouldn't have noticed had somebody burst into the cinema and written the ending in shit on the wall. This use of practical effects is probably also why the film was able to be released an insane six months earlier than originally planned as by doing action in camera, you've obviously reduced the time needed for post-production. Although six months is still insane for a film to be brought forward and still remain as amazing as this one is. Have I said I liked it? Yeah, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is absolutely brilliant with its release date being like watching a woman give birth significantly before her due date and having the baby pop out with both its A-Level results and a Colgate smile.  

McQuarrie has done an amazing job of taking what worked brilliantly before and then adding his own love of both film noir and Tom Cruise. A huge chunk of the world might wrongly believe the cult loving sofa jumper to be a bit of a tosser but his director clearly doesn't, having previously also worked with him on Edge Of Tomorrow, Valkyrie, and Jack Reacher. At this point, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has made enough money that another sequel is pretty much guaranteed which is great as far as I'm concerned. Gossip obsessed idiots can point their finger and laugh at Cruise, but considering he's also laughing his way to the bank, I'm sure that he and his weird teeth couldn't give a solitary fuck. Each film in the franchise has brought something new to the table and I think this one is continued proof that the franchise could essentially go on forever. As soon as Hunt becomes too old then simply retire him from field work and promote him to the role of the secret spy boss who dishes out the tricky missions and exploding sunglasses. Continue with the one director per film rule too, to ensure that each new addition remains as fresh as the last, as has been the case here. If Bryan Singer, Doug Liman and/or Justin Lin don't direct any future instalments then I'll be very surprised. Place your bets now! Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time.


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