Both of these Tom Cruise films are directed by Cruise’s handpicked director (Christopher McQuarrie), so it’s a great comparison. Do you like them equally good or do you favor one over the other? If you are a serious Cruise fan it’s like picking which of your kids you love more or deciding which is your favorite Koch Brother. I know, I can’t decide between Ebenezer and Poindexter either.
I’ll admit this upfront; I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan. I do admire his success and how he’s parlayed his acting success into producing his own films, and running Paramount Studios for a while, but not anymore. He chooses and develops his own projects and works with some of the best filmmakers in the business. He has a self-depreciating humor that many megastars lack but he has a very strange personal life. Enough said.
Cruise has developed the Mission Impossible films into an incredibly successful film franchise. I admit to being a big fan of the original Mission Impossible television series and still enjoy watching it on Sunday nights on one of the classic television channels. Mission Impossible was rebooted in the late 1980s as a television series but it was a pale copy of the original. The very first of the Tom Cruise films immediately broke away from the spirit of the television series by having Jim Phelps be a traitor. That turned me off the film series until the fourth film, which put enough distance to stop me from thinking about the original series while watching the latest film in Tom Cruise series. I thought Ghost Protocol was a very good film and I’ve seen it several times so I was very interested when Rogue Nation came out.
The best description I can give of Rogue Nation is that it is a cinematic layer cake. As I was watching it I somehow make the connection of a sumptuous cake of several tasty layers, each divided by a fluffy and sweet frosting. Each layer is distinct from the others with the frosting being like a short and delicious break in the story before entering the next film segment. To me, Rogue Nation was like chapters in a book with each chapter being a short story with a beginning and end. The frosting was like an action sequence or a fancy technology that served to connect one chapter to the next. I hesitate to say that it was like watching several separate films but overall Rogue Nation lacked a strong dramatic spin that pulled the viewer more deeply into a rich narrative. Hence, the layer cake description. The action sequences are spectacular, the locations impressive to look at, the cast is top-notch, and the production values are what you would expect. After consuming the film I felt full but feeling like I’d eaten a lot of empty calories. A great dessert but not to be confused with fine dining.
Jack Reacher is based on a popular series of books by Lee Child and the casting of Tom Cruise was a disappointment to fans that didn’t think that he measured up to the larger than life title character. I had not read the books so I had no feeling either way when I was the film. I’ll skip to the chase, I enjoyed the film enough to purchase a copy for my film library. I felt like the film was smart, contained great pacing and was a very effective thriller. This film has what Rogue Nation lacked for me, a robust dramatic spine that connected every scene in the film to propelling the story forward. No waste, it is lean and mean. Since then I’ve read almost every Jack Reacher book, in fact, I own most of them now.
Everyone has their preferences and you can tell mine. Rogue Nation has been a big hit and will likely earn much more money than Jack Reacher. I may not own a copy of Rogue Nation when it comes out but I might buy a copy of Ghost Protocol. Films are very personal and subjective, and unlike plays, they are critic proof. Even this critic. By the way, I’m not in the mood to watch a film but now I’m hungry for cake.