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Thursday, 13 August 2015 02:53

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation; Irrational Man

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Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is out to save the world again in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, another in the very profitable series of action films that Cruise turns to when he needs a bona-fide hit.

This latest outing, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (who helmed Cruise’s Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow), is perhaps the most entertaining entry since Cruise’s first Mission in 1996.

It’s also one of the most enjoyable films of the summer.

The plot, such as it is, has something to do with Cruise’s Hunt being on the run as he and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) colleagues Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner try to prove the existence of—as well as take down The Syndicate. No, it’s not your garden variety group of mobsters, but an international criminal organization led by a menacing and murderous Sean Harris, that has somehow remained under the radar. Alec Baldwin is on hand as the bellowing CIA director bent on dismantling the IMF and spouting some hopelessly corny dialogue along the way. The most striking newcomer is Rebecca Ferguson as a lovely and lethal agent who may be working undercover for British Intelligence, or who may have another agenda altogether.

The action sequences are well-done and fairly credible, at least as far as these genre films go, starting with an unplanned plane trip for Mr. Cruise in the exciting prologue, a tense assassination sequence at the opera in Vienna, and a motorcycle/car chase along the roads of Morocco. The screenplay is serviceable and occasionally witty, while the chemistry among the players elevates the proceedings whenever they threaten to flag. Renner and Rhames are pretty capable, but Pegg practically steals the film (along with the fetching Miss Ferguson) with the right blend of brains, bravado, and comic incredulity—he and Ferguson even manage to help Cruise appear more committed throughout. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a very entertaining action movie and one of the most satisfying films of the summer. One hopes that the IMF’s adventures will end on this high note—but you can probably expect a sequel when Cruise decides he needs another big hit.

I finally got around to seeing Woody Allen’s latest film, Irrational Man. With Ramsey Lewis’ jaunty music (notably “The ‘In’ Crowd”) as jazzy accompaniment, Allen is in tragicomic mode here as protagonist Joaquin Phoenix is struggling to explain what it’s all about—which puts him at a loss since he’s a despairing, creatively (and otherwise) blocked philosophy professor starting anew at a college in Newport, Rhode Island. With his reputation of casual sexual encounters preceding him, Phoenix attracts the attention of a frustrated married colleague (Parker Posey), as well as a “starstruck” student (Emma Stone) who finds Phoenix’s reticence all the more alluring. Overhearing a discussion at a diner leads Phoenix to make a momentous (though highly morally questionable) decision that recharges all his batteries and leads him to wholeheartedly commit to life. However, his decision does breed some unforeseen consequences…

I went into the film not knowing much (or expecting much) so I don’t wish to spoil things.

Suffice it to say that Allen’s work here is somewhat reminiscent of Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, and while they were both superior, there is much to enjoy here. Parker Posey and Emma Stone are both engaging as the women in Phoenix’s life (although Stone’s student manages to land a couple of Allen’s more uncomfortably written lines). The real surprise here is Phoenix. In other films, he has been so quirky that one can’t help but notice it’s the actor calling attention to his own work. Here though, Phoenix finds the right blend of ennui and emerging passion; he’s more relaxed here, and also more accessible and involving. It’s too bad that Allen’s script gets a little lazy in the last twenty minutes; another twist or two might have helped.

It’s a minor Allen work, but still his Irrational Man is worth a look.

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Mike Peros

Mike Peros is an author whose new book, DAN DURYEA - HEEL WITH A HEART, the first biography of classic Hollywood's iconic villain, was recently published by the University Press of Mississippi.  He is  also an educator with a passion for movies ever since he saw John Wayne riding toward the bad guys, reins between his teeth, in TRUE GRIT.  Some of his favorite films include THE BAND WAGON, THE WILD BUNCH, OUT OF THE PAST, THE SILENT PARTNER, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER ( a great musical--if you're a Gene Kelly fan, what are you waiting for?), and KONGA with the great Michael Gough.

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