A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)

One of the things that make me think Tom Cruise is smarter than his involvement with Scientology suggests is that lately he has been willing to surround himself in his films with actors who are more appealing than he is. In the case of Rogue Nation, they include Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson. He has also shed the tendency to flash the famous toothy grin on any occasion, though his Ethan Hunt in this film doesn't have much to grin about. As the movie begins, the Impossible Missions Force is about to be disbanded and its members labeled "shoot to kill" by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). It's a good premise for a thriller, if perhaps an over-familiar one: Make your good guys the target not only of the bad guys but also the other good guys. So off we go on a round of stunts that don't bear summarizing, but McQuarrie's script and direction keep the gee-whiz response pumping for an enjoyable couple of hours. Some critics thought the chief villain, a rogue MI6 agent named Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), wasn't villainous enough, but I have liked Harris's work since I first noticed him as Cesare Borgia's gay henchman Micheletto on the Showtime series The Borgias (2011-2013). He underplays in Rogue Nation, and the decision to dye his hair blond was probably a mistake, but I thought his subtlety was an effective contrast to Cruise's usual tendency to overplay. It has to be said that, at 55, Cruise is just beginning to be a bit implausible in his action sequences, especially the one at the film's beginning that has him leaping onto the wing of a cargo plane and clinging to it as it takes off, Perhaps it's true that he still does his own stunts, but in this golden age of camera tricks and CGI, that seems unnecessary: Audience are going to think it's faked anyway. There may in fact be a nod or two in the movie to Cruise's aging: After the extended underwater swim, Hunt has to be resuscitated, and there are a few moments, played mostly for comic relief by Pegg, when Hunt's disoriented state becomes a matter for concern. A sixth M:I film is evidently in the works. It will be interesting to see whether age plays more of a factor in it.

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