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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (A Movie Review)

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Jens Hulten, Simon McBurney, Zhang Jingchu and Tom Hollander.

Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  131 minutes.  Rated R.

The Mission: Impossible series is in something of an odd position as far as franchises go.  Even though we can expect a new chapter of the story every five or so years – Rogue Nation is the fifth film in the series – none of the movies have really done all that well since Mission: Impossible II in 2000.  Each of the films is done by a different director in a different visual and stylistic tone.

For example, Brian DePalma’s 1996 original was a terse, slow-moving, rather humorless spy caper.  By comparison, John Woo’s 2000 sequel was wild, frenetic and violent, full of the director’s trademark wild camera moves.  JJ Abrams took the reigns for the third take, creating a Bourne-flavored special effects-driven blockbuster.  Brad Bird gave the films a bit of a wilder, more whimsical feel and featured some of the most outlandishly unlikely stunts in a series full of outlandishly unlikely stunts.

Now Christopher McQuarrie has taken on a more comic vibe, making the series something of a parody of itself.  That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing – action movies so complex and wide-reaching can only benefit from a sense of fun – but occasionally in makes Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation a little bit hard to take at all seriously as a life and death situation with serious international ramifications.

And Tom Cruise’s character of Ethan Hunt, if he ever had any real human frailties or self-doubts, is now just a generic superspy hero, a video game avatar fighting off hordes of spooks and moles.  (In fairness, you could probably also say the same about the last film before this, Ghost Protocol.)

Yes, it is fun to watch.  There are some spectacularly staged stunts, interesting plot twists, gorgeous settings, gorgeous women and Simon Pegg’s character is still a hoot, even when he’s disguised as bush.  However, while it’s certainly exciting enough, much of Rogue Nation has a bit of a been-there, done-that feel.

Then again, I suppose people don’t go to Mission: Impossible looking for deep, dark, hidden shadings.

In this story, Hunt has to go deep undercover when he is framed by a group of bad guys called The Syndicate for the theft of lethal nerve gas which threatens the whole free world.  Alec Baldwin chews scenery with gusto as the CIA director who insists on disbanding the IMF (Impossible Missions Force).  Without his team, Hunt fakes his own death to go rogue and travel the world, making dangerous attempts to retrieve the gas and save the world and his force.

The bad guys are suitable evil, the femme fatales are stunning as well as deadly and Hunt has never found a wall that he is not willing to scale.  With the clandestine help of his team (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames), Hunt criss-crosses the globe trying to vanquish the evil-doers, particularly Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).  Hunt also enters into a love-hate tug of war with a comely-but-deadly British double agent (Rebecca Ferguson).

Like I said, you’ve seen it all before, but it is extremely well made.  Whether the world needed another Mission: Impossible film is of course arguable, but at least this one is done with brisk craft and a lighter mood.

Of course, since the Mission: Impossible movies seem to be the only Tom Cruise movies that anyone watches anymore – with the possible exception of Jack Reacher – it seems inevitable that the series will continue on indefinitely, even though the last three chapters have been considered slight box office disappointments.  (Of course, that is all relative, they each made $125-160 million dollars in ticket sales, but that is graded on the curve of the films’ huge filmmaking budgets.)  In fact, McQuarrie has been signed on for a sixth M:I movie, making him the first director to helm two of the films.  As long as they are relatively profitable and keep Cruise gainfully employed, you can expect that Ethan Hunt will choose to accept his assignments for as long as he can.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: December 15, 2015.

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