' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: M:I - Rouge Nation Version

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Shout-Out to the Extra: M:I - Rouge Nation Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

As the curtain on “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (2015) raises, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is trying to board a cargo plane in Belarus about to take off to prevent a gaggle of nerve gas from winding up in the wrong hands. But to get onboard he needs Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), who is on site, to hack into the plane’s operating system to get the door open. But to hack into the operating system Benji needs Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), who is patched in remotely from Malaysia, to hack a Russian satellite, a governmental no-no. In the midst of all this, instructions, in a manner of speaking, are relayed from William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Operations Director, at IMF headquarters on the other side of the globe. And despite this hopping back and forth between different time zones, the moment still feels intimate, the camera cutting between the four mentioned characters as if no one else is even involved. But other people are involved. As all this transpires, the plane begins to taxi, which Brandt realizes. “The package,” Brandt says with the air of a Domino’s manager who just realized his deliveryman left one of his deliveries in the store, “is still on that plane.” As he says it, we suddenly see an extra in the bottom left hand corner of the frame.

As first she is looking forward, in the same direction as Brandt, presumably at the IMF’s version of The Big Board. But when Brandt advises the package is still on the plane, she glances at him out of the corner of her eye.

This extra could have merely turned her neck, nothing more, but expressively she goes for it, and good for her. Her face betrays worry, but it is not the kind of worry that is necessarily worried about how they are going to get the package off the plane. If it was that kind of worry her brow, no doubt, would be more furrowed, connoting insta-brainstorming. No, this worry resembles a passenger in a car when the driver decides to floor it in the middle of rush hour traffic. The whole scene, frankly, is played as much at a comic pitch as an action-adventure one, and this extra’s A+ expression is evidence.

Stakes in movies like this are always high. If it’s not America, then it’s the world; if it’s not the world, then it’s the universe. The stakes are definitely high in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.” Still, even as the story trots the globe and encompasses geopolitics, this extra functions as a droll ode to the flunkey’s plight. As Brandt makes clear in the moment, his agency is under investigation, and hacking into a Russian satellite un-approved will no doubt cause additional consternation. Maybe hacking into it and preventing that nerve gas from getting where it should not go can be attributed to national security, sure, but in that extra’s expression you see how sometimes national security, and all that it entails, goes hand in hand with job security. “Am I,” she seems to be thinking, “about to get fired?”

Pour one out for the extra.

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