Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

★★★

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Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation PosterDirector: Christopher McQuarrie

Release Date: 30th July, 2015 (UK); 31st July, 2015 (US)

Genre: Action; Adventure; Thriller

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner

The Mission: Impossible films, in general, are good because the franchise knows exactly what it wants to be, and subsequently what it is. Rogue Nation, which once again pairs Tom Cruise with his Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie, understands its place in the action-thriller lexicon just as well as its four predecessors. The film opens with an exhilarating sequence familiar to those who have seen the trailer: IMF agent Ethan Hunt attempting to clamber inside a gigantic cargo plane as it takes off.

When he eventually boards, the spy-cum-trapeze artist aims a sly shrug at the camera and a shocked bad guy, before parachuting out of the plane with tonnes of nerve gas in tow. The moment reaffirms Cruise’s insanity whilst also ushering in an infectious tongue-in-cheek vibe that thrives indefinitely. “I’ve heard stories, they can’t all be true,” says an Impossible Missions Force operative to Hunt in the calmer scene that follows. They’re definitely all true.

This story centres on the IMF’s unauthorised motion to take down a terrorist organisation reeking global havoc, known as the Syndicate. It’s righteousness versus evil. Mission: Impossible knows it isn’t as gritty as Bourne or as intelligent as Bond, and Rogue Nation’s high-concept plot somewhat reflects that. McQuarrie’s movie is not in any way mindless though — quite the opposite. It purveys a frothy exuberance that relentlessly breathes life into the screenplay and a coyness reflected in said screenplay’s playful genre jabs.

The film constantly pokes fun at itself, reaching out and nudging viewers amid all of the high intensity nonsense and popcorn silliness. “Nessun Dorma” chimes out as Hunt and a big baddie perform combat acrobatics on a lighting rig above an opera performance. The higher the note, the more absurd it gets. But it’s entertaining, one of a few tremendous action set pieces. An underwater spectacle conveys the same technical merit as Gravity and is probably the best of the bunch, highlighting some really intuitive camera work from Robert Elswit — his shots manoeuvre with the stunts and become part of the slick show. We shouldn’t be surprised given his portfolio (There Will Be Blood, Nightcrawler), and here Elswit introduces a cheery energy that those films didn’t have.

At one point Hunt ponders the location of a MacGuffin. Morocco apparently. Cue Lalo Schifrin’s mischievous theme and an ironic Cruise smile (not another sunny location!). He and Simon Pegg are fun to watch as odd buddies whose friendship you genuinely buy into. They meet up with Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust who, in an earlier scene, promptly turns Hunt’s condescending, “You should go before it gets ugly,” into something more appreciative (she rescues him by beating up a ragtag band of tough guys as he struggles to unlock his handcuffs). The character is a super addition and Ferguson nails it. She is tough like Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, but a great deal more emotionally receptive than Rita Vrataski.

Back to Morocco, where Faust outlines a seemingly impossible mission. Wink, wink. Her five minute spiel detailing the most difficult heist in history is delivered with such credible nonchalance that we actually believe the group can pull it off. They do. The conclusion of said heist signals a lengthy stretch during which the film loses steam. Like many overexuberant blockbusters, at almost two and a half hours Rogue Nation is too long, which means we get unnecessary gap-filling acts where characters speed around in fast vehicles with very little at stake.

McQuarrie tries to inject ambiguity into an otherwise conventional narrative by contemplating the trust-related pitfalls faced by agents (“There are no allies in statecraft, only common interests”). A fleeting Cold War-esque paranoia infects the air and sort of muddies various characters’ credibility. The aforementioned opera scene includes a three way shootout embodying this uncertainty. Is Faust a double, or triple, agent? Is Jeremy Renner’s — whose brilliantly snarky performance warrants much more screen time — William Brandt secretly liaising with Alec Baldwin’s CIA director? The suspicion mantle is overworked, demeaning characters’ decision-making and suggesting their motives lack focus.

On the other hand, the film’s modern day socio-economic terrorism angle isn’t explored enough. Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane is an underwhelming villain. He relentlessly places misguided trust in Faust, which only serves to undermine his intellect. Lane is not a hulking enemy — a guy called the ‘Bone Doctor’ fulfils our hard-hitting desires — which is fine, but because we don’t comprehend his savvy as much as we should he never feels like much of a threat.

This sticks its tongue out until the very end and earns the right to be whimsical. There aren’t any attempts to sit at tables already reserved by other action staples. The film resultantly doesn’t have a sharp bite, which might be for the best given the flippant nature of its only moderately engaging thematic endeavours. Rogue Nation is still probably the IMF’s best outing to date though.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - Cruise & Ferguson

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collier

Images copyright (©): Paramount Pictures

Author: Adam (Consumed by Film)

I'll be at the cinema if you need me.

9 thoughts on “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)”

  1. This review is somewhat a sigh of relief. Up until now I was concerned if I’d ever read a slightly less than glowing review about Rogue Nation! 🙂 I sound pretentious thinking that there ought to be *some* criticism leveled at everything, but in my eyes, unlike the Fast & Furious franchise — which started with a very very basic premise and has slowly built into something much more by spiderwebbing out into deeper character relationships and seemingly more ridiculous stunt choreography — the Mission Impossible one has gone the opposite way. I feel like the first outing was supremely sophisticated stuff. Arguably it was too complicated what with all of those double-crosses and such, but i really loved it. I liked MI:2 as well and then the third to a much lesser degree. Never bothered with Ghost Protocol but I should so I have a better sense of what’s really going on here.

    Sterling write up though man. I think I would be inclined to give it a similar rating if and when I do see it.

    1. To each their own of course but for me personally, I sometimes struggle with getting caught up in the hype of a good-great movie. It’s normally more of a “do I give this 3 or 4 stars” thing, rather than anything to do with the content of my review. Happened with American Hustle for me, and Thor: The Dark World too.

      I did have a really fun time watching Rogue Nation and it’s certainly not a dumb blockbuster. But there’s nothing particularly cutting edge here (apart from that underwater set piece which I loved). It’s just what it is, and that’s fine. I think. Thanks Tom!

  2. Well, that’s the M:I franchise for you. I watched the original over this weekend and it really stood up in my opinion. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a sucker for this franchise and I’m looking forward to seeing this tomorrow (hopefully).

  3. I think the villain is indeed underwhelming but I like this flick a lot more than you. I don’t mind the whimsical tone and the crazy action sequences, it’s an escapism sort of movie and that’s what I expected. I like Rebecca Ferguson who has a good character arc, she’s more than just eye candy for the movie, thank goodness. LOVE the “Nessun Dorma” scene at the opera, can’t wait to watch this one again. Like Mark said, I’m a sucker for this franchise too.

    1. Oh no, I did really enjoy the action and the silliness. I don’t think it’s a dumb movie. For me, it just never quite advances to the next level — which is fine. The “Nessun Dorma” scene is super.

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