Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Tom Cruise as Older Ethan Hunt?

It is permissible to hate Tom Cruise a little. Especially when one is a scant four years older than the action star who is still in his “Peter Pan” years at 53. Cruise, in Mission Impossible:Rogue Nation may be a little bit older as Ethan Hunt, but no less limber or attractive to the opposite sex.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

It is permissible to hate  Tom Cruise a little.  Especially when one is a scant four years older than the action star who is still in his “Peter Pan” years at 53. Cruise, in Mission Impossible:Rogue Nation may be a little bit older as Ethan Hunt, but he is no less limber or attractive to the opposite sex.

Cinema goers will not have seen the featurette’s that accompany the DVD release(s) where fans can see Cruise going through the paces and doing his own stunts and not being crippled for days at the mid century mark, but they can rest easy in the knowledge that the over 50 action star does an awful lot of his own work. Or they can purchase the Blu-Ray and if they are older gaze in awe at his years younger lean look.

As easy as it is to be envious of the top notch shape the star is in, or his seemingly indefatigable enthusiasm and energy for the work he does, it is just as pain free to admire the man who has risen again and again to unimaginable heights.  In the Mission Impossible franchise alone, Cruise has almost reinvented what amounts to an American icon.

There have been no less than five of the big screen versions of a 1960s (The show ran from 1966 to 1973.) cult classic spy thriller television show that allowed Peter Graves (the real life brother of Gunsmoke‘s Jame Arness) the chance to weekly do the impossible. With Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Norris, and other notable names like Leslie Ann Warren and Sid Haig, the show was a fan favorite.

The move to make the transition to the big screen and replace “Mr Phelps” with Ethan Hunt was a smooth one, although Graves as Phelps dies in the first seconds of the first in the franchise, and Tom Cruise then became the new “face ” of the IMF.

Thus endeth the short history lesson of Cruise becoming Hunt.

Each visit to the Mission Impossible verse is slightly different although the “template” is pretty much the same, each film is a mission that should fail. These good guys do not have that word in their vocabulary so by the skin of their teeth, the IMF succeed. Cruise as producer manages to keep each new installment in the franchise  fresh by swapping out directors.

The list of helmsmen for the film’s many iterations are impressive, Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J.  Abrams, Brad Bird and the last, Christopher McQuarrie all come with impeccable pedigrees.  It could  almost be a “who’s who” of talented directors who bring much to the table and each have left their own stamp on the finished product. The cast had Ving Rhames on board from film one, joined later by Simon Pegg  as Benji (Mission Impossible III) and Jeremy Renner came on board for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Increasingly, Cruise’s Hunt and Pegg’s Dunn have become a double act/team. In many ways it feels as though the Brit entertainer, with so many hats, has taught Cruise a different sort of comedy. While this may seem like the case, in reality it is more a dream team  of performers who each compliment the other when on screen and interacting as a duo.

Hunt has always been portrayed as a capable go-getter who is far removed from a mundane Agent Normal  “everyman” with great toys.  Cruise points out that his character is not a superhero as much as someone who just will not give up. Hunt disregards the impossible and so does his team.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, has its fair share of “comedic” moments. Many of these are interwoven into the action scenes so that one can chuckle nervously while watching the action through spread fingers across the face.  This is the allure of the franchise, Cruise can do subtle action comedy well.

(Anyone who doubts this should watch Edge of Tomorrow, immediately.)

This latest in the franchise has a femme fatale to die for, almost literally, in the shape of one Brit/Swede star who has a passing resemblance to Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman. Rebecca Ferguson is killer as the tough-as-nails double agent who helps Hunt, kicks bad guy butt with panache and still looks great with wet and bedraggled hair.  That “almost” cut glass accent does not impede any action that this powerful woman need employ.

Perhaps the best thing in the entire film is its elusive villain, Sean Harris. This Bethnal Green lad could have been born to play baddies. From his nightmare inducing character in Creep (2004) to his crack-fueled drug and gun dealer Stretch in Harry Brown (2009) and even his less terrifying scientist in the 2013 film Prometheus, Harris gives every character he inhabits a living truth that is either terrifying, disturbing or annoying. Whatever his roles are, we believe them completely. 

It is Harris as puppet master who makes Hunt look so good. On a sidenote, this third outing as Benji Dunn for Simon Pegg marks an increase of his capabilities as an agent.

The plot, like the music, is a blend of twists and turns that take the viewer on a great roller coaster ride. Car chases that amaze and create a sense of envy (After all, who has not dreamed of driving a muscle car down a long row of steps?) as well as choreographed fight scenes that look spectacular.

Apart from the action and excitement the driving force of the film is that  Ethan has had IMF disbanded by the snotty head of the CIA , Alan Hunley.

Clearly Alec Baldwin (that nice guy that any girl would love to take home to mother in Beetlejuice) can play smarmy douchebags in his sleep, which in no way is a reflection on his personal life, by the way… Baldwin manages to emote pettiness and jealousy from his every pore in the film, while kudos could be in order, one feels that the actor could have “phoned this one in.” Baldwin is just that good at being a douche…

The story jumps from place to place at break neck speed, fans of the franchise get what they want (there is even the obligatory face-mask scene) and everything works well. Hunt may be a bit “klutzier” than usual, but it works as does that marvelous plane stunt with the “wrong door” gag.

Having missed this in the cinemas all that can be said is that it loses little on the smaller “home screen” and that it would have been nice to have more Ving Rhames. McQuarrie as director does a brilliant job, the cinematography is as breathtaking as the stunts and the acting, spot on.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt may be that bit older, but it appears that the actor either has a painting in his closet a’la Dorian Gray or his membership with the church that Katie Holmes scarpered from has made some sort of deal…with someone….

If this film does not appear in your stocking from Father Christmas this year, rush down and grab it or stream it. This is 5 star escapist entertainment of the finest sort. Fun to watch with a fizzy drink in one fist while shoving some popcorn into your open mouth with the other. Enjoy.

Creep (2004): The London Underground Just Got Worse

Written and directed by Christopher Smith this was Smith’s first full length  feature film. He went on to make Severance (2006), the vastly superior Triangle (2009) and Black Death (2010) and he is currently directing a TV mini-series Labyrinth (2012). Starring Franka Potente –  Run Lola Run ,  The Bourne Identity . Given that the premise of the film, getting locked in the London Underground after hours, is not actually possible; it’s a good film nonetheless.

The film opened to a pretty lukewarm reception. The reviews were mostly mixed with  a tendency for most of them to be negative. Considering that the film actually accomplishes what it set out to do, scare the crap out of the audience, I feel that the poor reception was unwarranted. Franka Potente really sells the film. Her portrayal as the protagonist of the film is just what you would expect from this accomplished actress. I don’t know how Smith managed to get her for his film, but hat’s off to him for casting her.

The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows: Girl sets out to meet George Clooney. She gets a bit wasted at the party she’s attending and winds up falling asleep on the Underground while on her way to meet George. A lecherous workmate tries to rape her. He is gorily dispatched by some unseen person. Girl spends most of the film trying to get out of the Underground, getting captured by the maniac killer and then trying to  not get killed by same. She escapes with the help of an underground maintenance worker. He is then killed while trying to defend the girl. She is the last [wo]man standing and defeats the killer. The subway opens up for the morning trade and she gets a hand out from a passer by who thinks she is a beggar.

I have of course left out the “backstory” of the maniac killer who haunts the underground. All said, it is a pretty good one. His name is Craig and he was kept in the underground in some sort of medical facility. He is Mentally Challenged. Somehow, even though the facility has closed, he has made his way back to the familiar surroundings. He now kills stragglers and other unfortunates in bizarre re-enactments of surgical procedures that he remembers from his past.

This is more than just your typical slasher film. Okay, you do have your villain or “boogey-man” who is damn near impossible to dispatch, but…It has a bit more going for it. Apart from the sexual predator workmate that attacks the girl (Kate) all the other character have been written well enough that we actually like them. As a consequence we actually care when they die. Most slasher films feature vapid miss-behaving teenagers who are so two dimensional they might as well be cardboard cut-outs. These teens also suffer lethal fates because they “break” the morality clause of their “Christian Contract,” you know, breaking certain basic Christian rules like:  pre-marital sex, smoking, drinking, drug taking, etc. Where a few of Craig’s victims are young, they are also not breaking the known rules. Although the two homeless people that Kate meets in the underground could fit that mould, but hey, they’re homeless, not some mindless vapid teen partying, drinking and trying to get laid.

The film does require you to suspend your disbelief, but if you cannot do that, then why are you watching a horror film?