A good way to kill two hours

Movie Review
ON January 28, 2008, the world woke up to the sad news of the passing of rising Hollywood star, Heath Ledger. At 29, Ledger allegedly overdosed on drugs and was found unconscious in his Manhattan apartment.

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The autopsy found an assortment of drugs in his system, something that in retrospect did little to affect his legacy.

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Ledger was not what one would call an A-lister, but he was well on his way to that status after daring roles in “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008).

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It is the latter project that is the focus of this week’s review, particularly as it relates to our movie of the week — “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”.

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Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in the Christopher Nolan blockbuster “The Dark Knight” is legendary in modern cinema. Some critics have actually gone as far as labelling his portrayal of the Joker as the standard by which all baddies in the action genre should be measured.

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It is classic method acting, as he is said to have locked himself in his hotel room for weeks on end and stayed in character throughout production. There are claims that this role took its toll, leading to his eventual death.

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With action movies, the line between success and failure is often thin. Some managed to disguise their weaknesses with elaborate CGI and cheesy humour.

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The protagonist is either a clear-cut hero, one who always toes the line and is upright in every manner; or a dark hero, one who often flirts on the edge and is a victim of his circumstances.

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However, when it comes to the antagonist, there is no clear formula and one has to rely on a strong writing team and high calibre actors to create a well-rounded character and bring it to life.

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Now, I have read some “Rogue Nation” reviews and to some extent I agree many of them.

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Tom Cruise did an outstanding job in his latest outing as Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Mission Foundation (IMF). His stunts, particularly hanging from a moving plane, are out of this world and the fact that he does most of the work himself is impressive.

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The supporting cast, particularly Jeremy Renner (William Brandt), Simon Pegg (Benji) and Alec Baldwin (Alan Hunley), all play their part to the letter.

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But then, what else is new?

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Haven’t we seen all these things in the previous four Mission Impossible films? Ethan Hunt still loves to “die” and “resurrect”, and his character remains slightly wooden.

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For everything they did well, there are a dozen films that have it better.

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The biggest fault, in my book, is the continued failure to find a good antagonist or a “good” baddie. Sean Harris was definitely not the most inspired pick.

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At least with Jon Voight in the previous instalment we had a big reveal at the end to act as a face-saver, while Dougray Scott had a back story to help ease the overloaded visuals of “Mission Impossible 2”.

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The late Philip Seymour Hoffman could actually act, so they had that to save third the instalment; while “Ghost Protocol” pushed the envelope in terms of stunt work and elaborate CGI.

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With “Rogue Nation”, we have is no back story for Harris. This is compounded by an MI girl who switches sides every time you blink, and an MI6 boss, Simon McBurney, who we are force-fed into accepting as the architect of all the madness.

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All in all, while “Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation” is a good way to kill two hours or so, one will find it extremely difficult to give it a second look.