Year-end awards are supposed to honor the best in cinema. But it might be more accurate to say they honor a narrow sliver of the best in cinema; only films released from October thru December; only the stuff promoted by the big studios; only movies deemed “important” or “serious” or “biopics about dead famous people.” The impulse to make lists and give out prizes is a good one, but more often than not that impulse results in one big echo chamber, with pundits predicting — and critics and guilds rewarding — the same half-dozen contenders.
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
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A few weeks ago, tracking for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was supposedly in the toilet. Early reports suggested that Tom Cruise’s fifth outing as super-spy Ethan Hunt was not getting people excited. This would be the end, the experts said, of a franchise that has kept Cruise’s career surging forward for the past two decades. Well, that was apparently a big load of crap because Rogue Nation opened well and opened in the same ballpark as the rest of the franchise. Even with inflation differences, this series keeps on hitting the same box office sweet spot.
There are many ways to rank the works of Tom Cruise. One might consider the quality of his performance, the overall caliber of the production, or the skillfulness of the action sequences. Those are all valid measurements, but I prefer to judge them according to what really matters: the uncanny beauty of Tom Cruise’s hair.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hits theaters this week, and it’s already been earning crazy good reviews for the latest installment in Tom Cruise’s action-packed franchise. There’s plenty to love in the sequel, in which Cruise continues to fully dedicate himself to some insane stunts. But as with most films, there were some pretty awesome scenes that hit the cutting room floor due to time, like this 10-minute scene with Alec Baldwin described by director Christopher McQuarrie.
One of the cool things about Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation are its subtle nods to the first film in the franchise. Both movies begin with a cold open action sequence; both then immediately segue into very similar looking credits sequences (with Lalo Schifrin’s classic Mission: Impossible score). Then the hero of the film receives his top secret mission; first, he has a heavily coded conversation with a woman, who hands him a piece of analog recording technology that contains his briefing. The difference is that in the original Mission: Impossible from 1996, the analog device (a small video cassette) represents the cutting edge of entertainment technology. In Rogue Nation, that analog recording (a vinyl record) is now wildly archaic.
Paramount really wants you to see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and they’re nudging you in the ribs using the most effective marketing tactic in the history of marketing tactics...they’re giving you free stuff. Specifically, they’re giving you free digital copies of the first four Mission: Impossible movies, reminding you that this series has been 75% good and that you should start getting excited for the new one.
Alec Baldwin is just four years older than Tom Cruise. In the mid-’90s, they were both action stars. When the first Mission: Impossible movie came out in 1996, it would not have been inconceivable in the slightest for Baldwin to play super-spy Ethan Hunt; Baldwin was the first actor to play the role of super-spy Jack Ryan in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October; in 1994, he headlined a pair of big Hollywood productions, The Shadow and The Getaway.
All of the Mission: Impossible movies have stories full of twists and turns, characters who undergo emotional transformations, and the rest of the basic building blocks of basic cinematic storytelling. But let’s face the facts. These movies are all about the stunts. Specifically, they’re all about Tom Cruise putting himself in harm’s way for your amusement. A new series of posters celebrating the release of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation recognizes this fact.
People say Tom Cruise is crazy. But here’s what I love about Tom Cruise: he is crazy.