Insults to Katie Holmes
by ALEX CARNEVALE
Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
dir. Christopher McQuarrie
Tom Cruise’s body is barely slipping, but his face is becoming notably more bloated. He enters a vinyl shop in the opening scene of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and starts talking Coltrane with a woman in the shop’s employ. Later, he prevents another, similar looking woman from assassinating the prime minister of Austria. There is a type of woman that Tom Cruise is attracted to: she is a brunette around 145 pounds (a blonde would be too silly), she wears her hair to her shoulders, and she absolutely implores Tom to stay safe. “They want to kill you,” she informs Tom.
Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s documentary about the Church of Scientology from earlier this year, spent a solid half hour documenting how Tom Cruise has profited from his association with the organization. It went a little bit past the point of ‘the lady doth protest too much’ — I guess Tom really upset Gibney, perhaps by forcing him to watch Mission Impossible III.
Gibney did us all a major disservice in that we can never watch Tom Cruise smile at a woman without thinking of some other peripheral woman being harassed by T.C.’s religion. For that describes Scientology perfectly, and it is not even the worst of its kind. All religions are quite cruel to their apostates.
To Tom Cruise’s credit, he has just kept on going on with his life despite the fact anyone who has seen Going Clear views him as a massive joke. At one point he is in a car which flips over seven times, and he is absolutely fine, so why would a smear campaign related to the method by which he rid himself of dangerous thetans have any effect on him whatsoever?
Tom’s main market is outside of the U.S.A., where no one has seen Going Clear. Many people in the East and West probably see no meaningful difference between Scientology and a kind of disturbed Americanism. Tom is still exporting himself as a representative for this silliness. Going Clear, however, was also kind of a mess. It made Scientology seem like a cruel prank rather than a genius plan by focusing on the peccadilloes of its founders. “Isn’t this wacky?” it crowed. Looking down on something, even something evil, from a great height is gratifying. It is also a waste of time.
It is harder than ever to watch Tom prance around Europe. First he is in London, where he pops into a phone booth and escapes the dully named Syndicate that wants to use him for purposes he doesn’t quite understand. The action moves to Vienna, where director Christopher McQuarrie does his best with an opera set piece that involves Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg flirting with each other mischievously on Google Glass. Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation might actually be interesting if it brought out the clear romance between these two men, but instead Tom has another brunette love interest to conquer.
Cruise’s Katie Holmes-esque opposite number is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Like Holmes, Ferguson was a teen model. Her vague Swedish accent only accentuates the general sense of innocence she gives off. Cruise becomes her corrupter, tempting Ilsa with another life path. The overall complexion of the situation is downright creepy, especially when Cruise and Pegg start ogling Ilsa in a bathing suit after flying to Casablanca.
Ferguson’s cadence and general mien is rather dull, and her resemblance to Ethan Hunt’s wife (a conspicously absent Michelle Monaghan) is never even commented on in McQuarrie’s script, which has set pieces of twenty minutes or more when almost no words are spoken at all. Tom has moved beyond them into pure signification.
McQuarrie tries his best to spice things up, but the problem with Mission: Impossible is that the second we stop being able to take what is happening seriously, the series becomes a bloated parody. The water weight in Cruise’s cheeks aside (he looks like he is storing food for the winter), not even Alec Baldwin seems like he is having any fun in his role as Alan Hunley, director of the CIA. He probably should have just been cast as the villain — it would have made Rogue Nation about a thousand times more entertaining.
Eventually Simon Pegg is abducted by Tom’s enemies, and he suddenly springs into action. For a moment you can feel him hovering on the brink of confessing his love, but then he draws himself back. He stores his excess thetans for the winter, hoping to release them at some other, future time. Though it would have been nice if he at least gave Jeremy Renner a soft hug.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
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