Mission: Impossible – Fallout, or, Le Retour de Tommy C. Dans un Film d’Espionnage

mif

For Cinema!!!!!!!!!!!

All too often when we talk about cinema, that stuffy moniker reserved for only the finest of film, we fall back on the same few facets of the medium – writing and acting. Specifically, it seems that time and time again the films that are dubbed by the establishment and thus ingested by filmgoers as vegetables, those movies that are hearty and healthy, good for us in the long run, lean on plots and monologues. Both are certainly more than capable of profundity, but they are far from the outer limits of celluloid.

This is cinema, after all! Moving pictures! Light! Sound! To limit the heftiest cinematic discourse to film’s that excel at narrative or performance is to utterly shun the potential of the very medium and all it has to offer.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, a film that demands the use of not a colon or a hyphen but both, is not the grandchild of Citizen Kane. It is not the spawn of The Godfather. It is the direct descendant of L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, those first infamous frames of a black and white train barreling ahead at an unsuspecting audience of the very first moviegoers like a bullet from an otherworldly gun. It is a film that takes full advantage of being a film.

Christopher McQuarrie, the first returning director to the Mission: Impossible franchise, has crafted a film that harkens back to the earliest days of Bond, when that franchise was a cinematic passport, taking audiences to faraway lands and showing them extraordinary things they might never otherwise see. Here, that passport is updated for transit in a world in which facsimiles of facsimiles of those places and things are a tap away in our own pocket. This is a movie that rabidly pursues spectacle at its most authentic and whole-heartedly believes in its value.

M:I-F is of distant relation to the likes of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road, a work of undeniable craftsmanship, of fine-tuned and purposeful movie-making. These bathroom fight scenes, these helicopter chases, these extended wind sprints are reminders of just how pigeon-holed we’ve allowed the ideals of film to become, how thinly the critical eye for quality has squinted.

Here is a style of film that we don’t get but once a year, if we’re lucky, in which calloused hands harness raw sweat into the sort of lavish exhibition only a movie can offer.

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, or, Classic Ethan I Guess

Take a look around.

Take a look around.

Did you know Tom Cruise hung off of an airplane while it took off for the new Mission: Impossible movie?
Of course you did. You’ve heard it everywhere. For months. Do you know why? Because it’s freaking awesome. Even knowing it was going to happen months and months in advance Cruise’s plane stunt was nothing short of thrilling. As were Cruise’s car chase and motorcycle chase and industrial spelunking sequences.
But that’s kind of all Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation has going for it, a point the villain in Rogue Nation really drove home.
I couldn’t remember the name of the villain walking out of the theater. I can’t remember his motives. I have to strain my brain just to cobble together a memory of his general scheme. Much like every Mission: Impossible villain that isn’t played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (whose Owen Davian I notably can still recall the name of years later) the leader of Rogue Nation’s mysterious Syndicate is basically a narrative ramp for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt to launch a motorcycle off of.
Which brings me to another point about the Mission: Impossible movies – who the hell even is Ethan Hunt?
After five films I still can’t really put my finger on any one distinguishing characteristic of Ethan Hunt’s. Sure, he’s a good guy who does good guy things because that’s what a good guy does in a movie, but nothing he does has ever screamed “classic Ethan” because there’s really no basis for what “classic Ethan” would even entail. He’s kind of just a dude who runs around a lot.
That being said I do enjoy watching Ethan Hunt run around a lot, and while the franchise’s loosely defined mythology can leave its characters rather thin it also leaves a wide breadth for the incorporation of directorial styles as distinct and disparate as John Woo and Brad Bird.
So at the end of the day Rogue Nation is exactly as fun as any other Mission: Impossible movie (I mean the guy hangs off an airplane), but for the love of god M:I6 needs a villain for Ethan to run around that I can at least pretend to have a vague interest in.