Here’s proof that ‘Spectre’ and ‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’ are the same film

Writing original big spy movies must be hard these days. Simple formulas and explosions don’t cut it anymore, at least for me, and it’s increasingly hard to be authentically original. This brings me to the latest forgettable and mediocre installment of the James Bond franchise Spectre, which reminded me way too clearly of the very good Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. The former shares so many aspects and patterns with the latter, and with many other movies, that I could sum up my reaction to it with the word ‘facepalm’.

Here’s a list of patterns the two films share with each other or with similar big budget flicks:

  • There’s an international criminal organisation that is behind many if not all world’s problems (like illnesses and terroristic attacks). It looks like something that could come out of the mind of your average conspiracy theorist. According to these plots, the evil in our world is the result of a single evil entity, lucky us!
  • Our hero’s organization is in the process of being dismantled because its means are too old and/or violent. This puts in the ‘underdog’ position, along with our hero.
  • Our hero is now working alone behind his agency’s back, he disobeys orders but that just makes him much cooler and in the end he will be proven right and helped by his own agency, which will be reactivated.
  • Luckily, while our hero is on his own, he still has a man on the inside, a former colleague with exceptional technical skills and kind of goofy, which we obviously sympathise with (he’s also generally the youngest actor of the main cast).
  • Meanwhile the boss is generally someone we don’t sympathise with initially, because he’s gonna slowly take our hero’s side and we will end up liking him too.
  • One very powerful figure among the ‘good guys’ (generally the new guy) is actually working with/for one powerful figure among the evil guys. This is almost instantly obvious to the audience, but somehow not obvious to the whole world in the movie.
  • The criminal organization has at least a meeting in which its evil members say what they do in a ridiculously explicit and self-compromising way (“we made these things explode, what a success”, “we own these illnesses in Africa” etc.). This is probably the element that I hated more in Spectre, since it was so unrealistic and funny that I started thinking it was a kind of meta-weird-sarcasm, but it wasn’t. In Rogue Nation Ethan (Tom Cruise) himself sputters about the evil that the ‘Syndicate’ does, and how it’s behind so many bad things that happened in the world. Again, this stuff just sounds like the worst kind of conspiracy bullshit.
  • Surveillance technology and other advancements used by the bad guys are seen by the good guys ONLY as things that can be used by the evil guys to do evil things; nobody says “hey technology is not inherently bad, it just shouldn’t be used to control the world!”. Instead, good old man-on-man violence is seen as the right thing to do, the rethoic being that the “old way” to deal with stuff is the right way. And some high-profile characters still say shit like “you can’t let a drone decide to kill, you have to look a man in the eyes”, you know, like our hero does. Seriously? Are we in the Far West?
  • (Speaking of which, even if new amazing technology is showcased in these films, nobody seems to care about developing non-lethal weapons and other similar systems to minimize deaths.)
  • There is at least one big/muscolar/silent bad guy which the hero will have to deal with, using his intelligence/tactical skills and often being saved at the last minute by the femal co-protagonist.
  • The hero won’t double check if the big/muscolar/silent bad guy is actually dead, at least one time. I guess this one’s a non-written rule in Hollywood, and it’s applied also to the main bad guy of the movie, which will come back scarred and angrier to kill the hero.
  • At least one important character will be left on his/her own (generally the female co-protagonist) while the stakes are still high, and that will obviously lead to him/her being in danger or held hostage, so there could be a last minute rescue by our hero.
  • There’s at least one torture scene where the hero is unarmed and being hurted badly, but luckly the femal co-protagonist is often there to save him. This torture porn works very well, it’s easy to write and direct and engages the audience more than many other types of scenes, so I expect to see much more of this stuff in the future.

If you’ve seen the two films, you know that most of these elements can be found in both of them. I’m honestly very tired of watching the same stuff on screen, and Spectre in particularly uninspired. I think that Rogue Nation, on the other hand, is actually a very good movie, even with all its cliches, for a simple reason: it works. It’s entertaining but pretty smart, it doesn’t overplay the cliches but uses them consciously, it succedes in making cool characters and strong female characters who feel alive and vibrant, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously (something very hard to do, if not impossible, with Bond’s legacy). Also, it has a clear thematic coherency, it feels like one single movie with a reason to be, while Spectre looks like a montage of Bond films, trying to be many things at once and failing miserably.

Hence no, the two films aren’t the same film at all, sorry for the link-bait title. Still, the commonalities are so abundant that many parts of the plots are almost interchangable. But plot isn’t everything, execution makes the difference. I found most of Spectre to look so fake and constructed that when, for instance, Madelein (Léa Seydoux) said ‘I love you’ to Bond, I just laughed out loud. It looked completely out of place and not plausible.

For comparison, watch this scene from Casino Royale.

That single dialog tells more about the nature of that man and that woman than the 2 and a half hours of Spectre tell about either James or Madelein.

Now think about the labyrinth game sequence at the end of Spectre. It was clearly constructed to make us fear for the life of our heroes and to create some tense and dramatic final moments, but the problem is that it doesn’t make sense at all. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz at his best, one of the reason Spectre might be worth seeing) is a very rational, methodic person who wouldn’t ever risk everything just to play games with Bond, even if he is a sort of ‘evil brother’ (or ‘big brother’, pun intended). He’s not the Joker goddamnit. That sequence, like the whole movie, is written for the spectacle and not much more, and unfortunately it’s not even a great one (just like the first car chase, which felt slow and clunky, while the helicopter scene was perfectly timed and constructed).

One last thing: please, stop putting Italians that look like imbeciles in American movies, we are normal people who just happen to speak another language. Thanks.