Tom Cruise was in Shanghai and Beijing this weekend to promote Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. So far, Rogue Nation has grossed over $500 million worldwide without Chinese cash money. The movie opens there on Tuesday where it’s expected to take in at least another $100 million, probably more. So, in case it wasn’t clear before, Tom Cruise wasn’t a loser this summer.
Sarah wrote a review for Rogue Nation after its opening weekend, near the beginning of August. At the time, I kept meaning to post it, waiting for new photos of him to come up. Instead, he disappeared. As you know, he’s very good at this – going undercover when it suits him. In fact, all the majors do this, know how to do this, have the resources to do this. Which is why when they’re seen, well, they want to be seen. They’re supposed to be seen, even if they front like it was all accidental.
Here then is Sarah’s long overdue review of Rogue Nation and in hindsight it kind of works as a summer wrap when you consider the other major blockbusters of the season. And she makes what I consider an audacious claim: that Tom’s Ethan Hunt has done so well, it might eat into Bond: Spectre later this fall…
***If it were possible for a movie to shotgun a can of beer, scream WOOO, kick you in the junk, kiss your girlfriend or boyfriend—it’s not discriminating—and then jump off a roof and into a pool while still chugging beer, then Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is that movie. This movie isn’t just balls-out, it IS balls, it’s a giant pair of shiny brass balls that dares you to not have a good time while watching it. Rogue Nation is here to rock your face off and f*ck you if you’re not into it. It’ll just make out with your mom—or dad, whatever—and then spray you with a hose intermittently while it makes you wash its car. Either you dig Rogue Nation or Rogue Nation makes you its bitch.
You know that insane stunt Tom Cruise did hanging off the side of a plane? It featured prominently in all the trailers and Tom Cruise and Paramount made a big deal out of how Cruise really did that, because he cares so much about making these movies exciting and bringing real thrills to the audience. Based on the hype, that must the centerpiece of the film, right? WRONG. It’s the FIRST FIVE F*CKING MINUTES. That scene has no context or bearing on the plot. It’s a cold open! It’s a throwaway beat to jump-start the movie and that’s it! IT SERVES NO REAL PURPOSE! Avengers: Age of Ultron also opened with a big action set piece, but that scene introduced new characters and conflict, and set up the main action of the movie. But Rogue Nation is like, eh f*ck it, we’ll do this insane plane thing then get to the movie proper. WOOOO!
Other blockbusters this summer have tried to do breezy action but failed because they couldn’t make their movies work on a fundamental level. There are two basic levels to filmmaking: Technical and narrative. Furious 7 and Jurassic World are successful on a technical level, but narratively both movies fail because they confuse “logical” and “complicated”. In trying to avoid complication, they ended up ignoring logic. Furious 7 didn’t have real characters, just people-shaped plot devices, and Jurassic World threw logic out the window in order to advance action. And this is not being picky or demanding too much from popcorn entertainment, I’m just talking about the bare bones of a functioning narrative, which is consistent characterization and logical action. Rogue Nation is completely f*cking insane, but the characters are actual people and they behave consistently with the logic of their world.
For instance, Ilsa Faust (a movie-stealing Rebecca Ferguson, HOLY SH*T) often wears high heels, and director Chris McQuarrie makes a point, several times, of showing her removing her shoes so that she can run and/or fight. (Unlike, say, Jurassic World, where it defies logic that Claire would be stomping through a jungle in heels.) For Ilsa, shoe-removal is a practical consideration and also a revealing character moment—shoes off means business on. It cannot be emphasized enough how great Ilsa is—she is truly Ethan Hunt’s equal—and nothing about her storyline involves romance. She doesn’t fall in love with Ethan, or throw her goals and objectives out the window in order to satisfy his. Ilsa is the third action heroine we’ve seen this summer (following Imperator Furiosa and Scarlet Witch) who operates without a romantic subplot or male-driven objectives. That’s enough to qualify as a trend. Tom Cruise may be a Xenu-coated nutcase, but he knows how to make movies like this. Rogue Nation banked $56 million on opening weekend, making it his third-highest opening weekend ever (unadjusted for inflation), and it got an A- CinemaScore from audiences. Whatever problems they ran into during production didn’t get in the way of McQuarrie and Cruise delivering a hugely entertaining and satisfying spectacle. And the ending, which is rumored to have been the trouble spot, was the most gonzo part of the movie, where Rogue Nation shotgunned not one but TWO cans of beer simultaneously, while back-flipping into the pool. Seriously, there’s enough switcheroo hocus-pocus so slickly executed that it might be hard for James Bond to top it later this year with Spectre.***