August 29th 2015


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Same-sex marriage and the SOGI ideological agenda

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Canada: basic freedoms lost since same-sex marriage came to town

CANBERRA OBSERVED Abbott, Shorten fixin' for some feudin' next year

OBITUARY RIP Frank Scully, last survivor of the Labor Split

EDITORIAL Colleagues digging holes Tony Abbott has to fill in

EDUCATION There must be a better plan than Naplan

HISTORY OF INDONESIA Sukarno makes way for Suharto's "New Order"

HISTORY Fateful indecision: the tragedy of Rabaul

FAMILY LIFE A father's presence in the home: part I

SCOTUS: JUDICIAL ACTIVISM On the having of the cake and the eating of it too

LIFE ISSUES When an abomination becomes good business

CINEMA Spy sequel vies with a spy history repeat Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

BOOK REVIEW An important biography of B.A.

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CINEMA
Spy sequel vies with a spy history repeat Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, August 29, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation opens with quite a daring and impressive set-piece, involving a plane, nerve gas, a door that won’t open, an international hacking job and Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) literally hanging on for dear life. While not as elaborate as the one that opens The Dark Knight Rises, it’s in the same league.

Hunt has been tracking an inter­national secret criminal organisation called the Syndicate that specialises in destabilising world trouble spots and other acts of terrorism. On reaching the London safe house of the IMF this is confirmed to Hunt – but in the worst way possible, as he is gassed into unconsciousness while a mysterious blond man in glasses (played by Sean Harris) kills the safe house manager even as he watches Hunt’s frantic efforts to escape.

Hunt wakes up in a torture cell where he is aided by a dangerous femme fatale (played by Rebecca Ferguson) to escape.

Meanwhile, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is testifying before a Senate oversight committee. CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is arguing that the IMF is an unruly organisation whose successes are largely due to luck, often causing major international incidents, and that it should be folded into the CIA. Hunley makes his case successfully and, since Hunt won’t return after his escape, preferring to pursue the Syndicate, he is disavowed.

What follows is a rip-roaring adventure that takes us from Vienna to Morocco to London, with many more daring set-pieces, car chases, plots and counterplots as Hunt, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Braxton (Ving Rhames) and Brandt seek out the Syndicate and who is behind it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. starts more sedately, with Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) travelling to East Berlin to find Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a Nazi rocket scientist who worked with the U.S. As he tries to get her into the West, he is pursued by Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), a seemingly inhuman giant of a man and crack KGB agent. This leads to another phenomenal set-piece, especially as they try to cross the mined field that is in the centre of the Berlin Wall.

Solo succeeds, but the next day is told by his handler, Saunders (Jared Harris), that he and Kuryakin, will be working together. There is a new threat from reforming neo-Nazis operating out of Italy headed by the super-rich Alexander (Luca Calvani) and Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) Vinciguerra. They have kidnapped Gaby’s father and, with the help of her uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth), are forcing him to working on an atom bomb.

Solo is a semi-reformed art thief and lover of luxury, while also being the CIA’s best agent. Kuryakin, nicknamed “Red Peril” by Solo, is the KGB’s most formidable operative, both physically and mentally, but he is also prone to psychotic episodes.

The two definitely don’t play well together. Add the free-spirited German female mechanic Gabby, who is supposed to act as Kuryakin’s fiancée to the mix and the result is colourful. Then there’s Waverly (Hugh Grant), a very English gentleman who keeps popping up.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a Guy Ritchie film. It epitomises the word “style”. Everyone is superbly dressed. The settings are stunning. The cinemato­graphy is rich and vibrant, the editing sharp and compelling.

It is a supremely well-crafted film but, like much of Ritchie’s latest work, there is a lack of substance. As with his Sherlock Holmes films, the interactions between the leads are clever and entertaining, but apart from that something is missing. This is a film where the audience can immerse themselves in the beautiful sounds and pictures, and laugh at the jokes, but not have to use their minds all that much.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation similarly entertains, but without the hyper-real stylings that are possible when your film is set in 1960s Europe. Through its double-crosses and triple-crosses and questions over who’s responsible for whom, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, the film shows some of the challenges and pitfalls associated with working in fields dedicated to deception and misinformation.

These themes do not overwhelm, so there is little risk of this turning into a John le Carré movie with explosions, but they are present. As a result the audience can feel that their brain has been engaged while they have been entertained.

All in all, these movies are further proofs that the masses delight in the triumph of good over evil, while being stylishly entertained.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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