Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Posted: August 8, 2015 in Film reviews

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg.

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After intercepting a consignment of nerve gas before it can fall into the hands of terrorists, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is captured by a rogue intelligence agency named The Syndicate, an organisation Hunt has been trying to prove the existence of for some time. Before he can be tortured and killed he is aided by Ilsa Faust, an ex MI6 officer turned Syndicate agent who helps him escape.

Before Hunt can come in from the cold however, the IMF (Impossible Mission Force not the International Monetary Fund!) is closed down by a Senate oversight committee prompted by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Suddenly Hunt is on the run from the CIA who don’t believe The Syndicate exists.

All too soon Hunt’s path crosses that of Ilsa Faust once more, and he draws ever closer to the nefarious head of the Syndicate, but he’ll need the help of some friends (and possibly some enemies) in order to bring it down.

It would be wrong to say I didn’t enjoy Rogue Nation, I enjoyed it quite a lot, and even though I’d probably say my enjoyment piqued long before the drawn out ending, I still liked the ending. But like a really good takeaway, though I’m full I can’t help feeling slightly hungry.

It’s hard to believe that the franchise began life almost 20 years ago now and that we’ve now had five Mission Impossible films. It’s also somewhat disappointing that in all that time we’ve only had two films that felt in any way like the original TV series (the first film and Ghost Protocol). At times the franchise has seemed more of a vanity project for Cruise to indulge his yearning to be Bond. This doesn’t mean the films haven’t been enjoyable overall (though the less said about Mission Impossible :II the better) but at times I have had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting “Stop getting Mission Impossible wrong!”

So one of the first little niggles with the film is the focus back on Hunt, admittedly this time he has Simon Pegg’s Benji by his side for much of the film which does shake thing up a little, but it’s a tiny bit disappointing after the more ensemble piece that was Ghost Protocol, and it completely wastes Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner who do very little at all.

The set pieces are well executed, though in places it isn’t just that they’re unbelievable, it’s that they’re not even logical. Take the point where Hunt has to hold his breath for three minutes to swap one computer program for another in an underwater computer designed for no other purpose, presumably, than being difficult (but not impossible) to break into. It reminded me of the bit in Galaxy Quest where Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver encounter the chompers.

The bit on the plane and the chase through Morocco are good (though sadly spoiled to death by trailers and ‘exclusives’) and the scene at the opera nice as well (despite feeling like it’s been lifted from Quantum of Solace) but the finale feels a trifle limp, although the ultimate dénouement is nicely handled.

In between all the action there are bluffs and double bluffs, not to mention betrayals upon betrayals. Some of them work better than others, and some are way more obvious than others (or else I’m just good at spotting them). At times it’s hard to fathom why curiously dry villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) doesn’t just kill Ilsa Faust and be done with it.

Lane and the Syndicate have a somewhat interesting backstory, but as an evil organisation they’re more than a little generic. Lane talks about not being a terrorist, and about bringing the system down with surgical precision, but we’re never given any indication of this. What’s the rationale for wanting to kill the president of Austria for example? What’s the bigger picture? There is none, or none that we’re allowed to see.

The plot may be wafer thin in places but the script is fun, with amusing dialogue aplenty (usually uttered by Cruise or Pegg though Renner and Rhames have one good interchange) and the tone of the film for the most part just the right side of silly, though when Tom Hollander turns up as the British Prime Minister it kind of goes over the line (as it felt like we’d drifted into a BBC sitcom for a moment, no offence to Hollander who’s a good actor).

Cruise is excellent, and you have to admire his dedication to the cause in allowing himself to be really strapped to that plane! Pegg is almost better though, and he and Cruise make for a really appealing double act. The standout however is Rebecca Ferguson who pretty much owns every scene she’s in. Giving her a name like Isla Faust might be a tad obvious, but she plays the role to perfection. She’s not really a household name—coming to prominence in BBC’s The White Queen—but on the basis of this performance Hollywood casting agents will be lining up to sign her, and I wonder if Eon aren’t kicking themselves for not spotting her, because Ilsa Faust is the best Bond girl I’ve seen in a long time. You’re never quite sure where her loyalties lie, but her role goes beyond mere Femme Fatale, at times she channels Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in the fight scenes, whilst at others she has the brittle desperation of a spy out in the cold that wouldn’t be out of place in le Carré or Spooks.

It’s a tad too long, the plot doesn’t hold water, and really how many times can Ethan Hunt go on the run from his own side. It lacks the style of De Palma’s original, and the ensemble nature of Ghost Protocol, but I still really enjoyed it. It’s action packed, funny and sexy, and as pure entertainment it pretty much succeeds.

A film it’s impossible not to like, but maybe one it’s impossible to love.

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Comments
  1. I think I’ll wait for the Man From UNCLE! (So excited about that one…)

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