Underwater capture of diving man with Rogue Nation caption
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M:I – Rogue Nation

I had a discussion the other day with a good friend, who couldn’t differ more from me in taste in cultural consumption, but still shares and values my opinion on movies and series, about the movies I probably have watched the most often or tapes I listened to over and over. While he listened to all Alf tapes when he was younger, for me it was something and someone else.Before he jumped up and down the couch (and isn’t it remarkable how this term sunk into and stuck to our use of language), one of my favourite movie stars was Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford to be precise, and I honestly can’t recall how many times I’ve watched the original Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones trilogy and any movie – preferably The Firm and Mission Impossible – by Tom Cruise. I remember being one of the first girls in my class to own my own VHS player, on which I watched Mission Impossible, Interview with the Vampire and Indiana Jones on self-recorded tapes.

I didn’t enjoy the second and third M:I parts, but got back on track with Ghost Protocol. I actually just rewatched it, to make the new instalment more enjoyable.

Pure action movie joy in Rogue Nation

Rogue Nation goes all in. It’s pure old school M:I action with lots of the old switcheroo that has always made M:I such fun to watch. It’s not so much about who the big bad is, but more so how, in typical action movie procedure, Ethan Hunt gets to the Big Bad in the end.

The marketing for Rogue Nation focused on telling us how Tom Cruise still does his own stunts, something he has been known for ever since he created his independent film production company Cruise/Wagner in the wake of the original M:I movie. The trailers and featurettes concentrated on the stunt, in which Tom Cruise hangs off the side of the plane and really leapt off the ground with it. Well, [mild spoiler], this stunt is the cold open of the movie. There’s no connection to the main story, it’s not even the exposition of the movie, more of an amuse gueule, showing us how a movie opening can be done in the most bombastic way. If this is the greeting from the kitchen, let dinner be served!

She’s all that

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll have noticed my emphasis on the depiction of women in movies and the media. Rogue Nation restored my belief in the portrayal of women in male-driven action movies. There are only few heroines in action movies that aren’t part of the story due to some romantic involvement or other male-initiated purposes (I love to apply the Bechdel test to action movies, it makes my heart sink and appreciate any deviation from the norm). I’m not even sure if Hunger Game’s Katniss Everdeen applies, since her involvement is based on President Snow’s interference, but well, for the sake of the argument make her one of those, as well as Mad Max’s Imperator Furiosa of course, who neither needs a romantic plot nor a „Max“ to follow her goal.

Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust is as much heroine as the above mentioned. She’s neither in love with our protagonist Ethan Hunt nor does she become a part in his aspirations. There’s a scene in the end that my boyfriend and I had differing opinions on – for him her goodbye could have been romantically infused, but for me she was just a woman, who went through a bit of her life with the M:I team and therefore said goodbye in (deep) friendship and mutual understanding.
I particularly enjoyed Ilsa’s physique and ambition. Serving the sake of the action movie, she’s drop dead gorgeous, but she’s strong and means business. You can see it in her body, which is accentuated throughout the movie (in the most exquisite scene settings), but mostly its capabilities rather than her female sexiness (which is there, don’t get me wrong). Whenever she takes off her shoes – in opposition to Jurassic World’s Claire that even runs through the jungle with her high heels on – Ilsa is ready to fight, run, aim and kill. She gets hurt and rescues others, shows fear and is fearless at the same time, without reducing her to stereotypical female attributes.

Additionally, the team around Ethan Hunt is the right mixture of serious and funny at the same time. I didn’t enjoy Jeremy Renner’s appearance in Ghost Protocol, but he, alongside Simon Pegg, has found his groove. Good for him, since his Bourne Days seem to be over with Matt Damon’s re-involvement in the franchise (can’t wait!).

The whole movie gives off an old school M:I vibe. Without spoiling any more, I want to emphasise the marvellous main action sequence in Rogue Nation (the original being the hanging suspended from an air vent in a temperature and volume-controlled room while having to extract data from a safe pc in the CIA headquarters in Langley). It’s fun and over the top and crazy and bonkers and batsh**crazy. I loved it.

As of today Rogue Nation has grossed $511,962,211 in 39 days worldwide. With a production budget of $150 mio. and I’d guess a relatively high marketing budget, Tom Cruise has shown again that he can hold his own on the crowded market. And the movie has just opened in China on Tuesday, which should bring in at least $60-80 mio. if not more.

If I could just forget his XENU-antics and private beliefs. He’s one of the big movie stars of a dying breed. There’s just enough heart in the M:I movies to make it more relevant than, say, the Expendables or The Transporter franchises and I still catch the glimpse of the old Tom Cruise in its execution. The story is coherent and plausible (in its outrageous narrative structure) and still fun, (unfortunately) making it even more rare in the action movie department.

If you want some ballsy, over-the-top but still enjoyable action movie with the old school charme of the original M:I movie, go see Rogue Nation. Accept the format and go for it.

image: Jacob Wilti, unsplash.com

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