Hammerle On... 'Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation', 'The Stanford Prison Experiment'

August 12, 2015

bob hammerle movie reviewsMission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

With “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” we find Tom Cruise again delivering a performance that is tailor-made for his talents. Called upon to do very little acting, he simply has to look good while performing great stunts. The movie benefits from a decision to have Cruise defer to a collection of talented supporting actors to dominate the screen.

Regardless of Cruise’s reputation off the screen, and it is uniformly sad, he knows what it takes to make an action film work. As he did in the recent “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), he can take a vicious licking, even dying, and find a way to come back better than ever.

As noted, the special effects in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” are a knockout from beginning to end. It is both ridiculous and enjoyable to watch Cruise hang on to the outside of a plane as it elevates off a runway; fly through glass doors; flee villains in his car as he catapults in reverse off of an elevated landing where everything is smashed to bits but him; wreck a motorcycle at top speed and not even rip his clothes as he rolls to the edge of a highway, etc., etc.

hammerle-rating-roguenation.jpgAnd while you can make fun of Cruise’s antics all you want, the movie works because of some excellent performances from Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Sean Harris. Yes, both Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin have small roles that basically allow them to play themselves, but Ferguson is the star of this movie. She adds to the list of actresses, including Charlize Theron in “Mad Max; Fury Road,” Zoe Saldana in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Michelle Rodriguez in “Furious Seven,” who can kick ass and take names. It is a joy to watch films where actresses are called upon to rescue men.

Pegg is wonderful playing a computer genius with a diabolical sense of humor. He is one of the few actors who automatically bring a smile to your face.

Finally, a movie like “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” never works unless it has a credible villain, and Harris is perfect as the leader of a mysterious organization known as The Syndicate. He is a heartless, brutal leader of a terrorist organization that horrifies you while continually commanding your attention.

The plot is largely irrelevant, but let me simply say that the IMF has been disbanded by the CIA, forcing Cruise’s Ethan Hunt into seclusion as he seeks to dismantle The Syndicate. Destruction waits around every turn and fate will depend on whether Ilsa (Ferguson) is a friend or foe.

Let me conclude this review with a compliment to both director Christopher McQuarrie and Ferguson. Unlike the female lead in this year’s “Jurassic World,” they have the good sense to require Ferguson to remove her high heels when running from enemies. I was waiting for Cruise to yell, “Kill me or love me, your choice. Just take me!”

The Stanford Prison Experiment

“The Stanford Prison Experiment” is a film that few people will see, which is both understandable and unfortunate. Based on an attempt to re-create a jail experience at Stanford University in August 1971, college students who volunteered for $15 a day quickly lost their humanity.

In short, Professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) used the basement of the school’s psychology building in order to film the consequences experienced by young boys acting like prison guards and inmates. While you couldn’t fault the professor’s intent, he was clearly too naive to fully anticipate the personal destruction that would unfold. Finally, overwhelmed with conduct that resembled a training facility for Dachau, Alcatraz or modern day jails that exist in cities like Baltimore, the 12-day project was terminated after 5 days.

hammerle-rating-prisonexperiment.jpgThough this film will not last long in local theaters, it really should be required viewing at all colleges, not to mention law schools. What exactly is going on in our jails, and shouldn’t we as a nation care, given that the United States houses more prisoners than any other country in the western world?

I speak with some experience, as I have been regularly visiting inmates around Indiana since beginning as a law school public defender intern in the early 1970s. My clients have ranged from those facing unconscionable high bonds to Gregory Resnover, whom I visited hours before watching him die in the electric chair in 1994. What you see in this two-hour film summarizes what I and others have seen first-hand for decades, and the system frequently robs both guards and inmates of emotion and decency.

Unfortunately, what this film failed to show was the racial disparity existing in most prison facilities around our country. Today, the inmates are overwhelmingly African-American while the guards are primarily Caucasian, and it creates a plantation environment thought to have ended in 1865.

There have been a number of great films focusing on prison life, none more meaningful than the “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962), the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), Robert Redford’s reforming warden in “Brubaker” (1980), “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) and the unforgettable “Cool Hand Luke” (1967). As Luke, Paul Newman met the fate of many inmates who challenged authority while failing to understand the consequences of the simple phrase, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Like the wizard in the Land of Oz, guards and inmates in our prison systems are left hiding behind a curtain. This film focuses on the ugly reality of this tragic experience, and we ignore it at our national peril.•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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