In a summer that’s seen a car traverse skyscrapers and a woman in high heels managing to outrun a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the sight of Tom Cruise clinging onto the side of a plane as it takes off should be the most ridiculous of them all.
That Cruise insisted on doing his own stunt speaks to the star’s commitment to a franchise that has outlasted most actor’s entire careers.
John Woo’s dated and misjudged 2000 M:I 2 aside, each of the Mission: Impossible movies has forged its own identity and brought something different to a genre that’s well endowed with memorable figureheads.
A big reason for this is because each film is helmed by a different director and in Rogue Nation it’s Christopher McQuarrie’s turn to sit in the big chair. His association with Cruise can be traced back to Valkyrie (2008) and the pair have worked together numerous times since, most recently in 2012’s so-so Jack Reacher (McQuarrie’s previous film as director) and in the underappreciated Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), which McQuarrie wrote.
That partnership bears fruit in M:I 5, which sees Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his cohort of fellow IMF-ers Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) going up against the Syndicate, a SPECTRE-like terrorist consortium that wants to bring Hunt down almost as much as CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) does. As Hunt tries to get to the bottom of who and what the Syndicate are, he encounters the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an agent seemingly working for both sides.
The one area the M:I franchise has struggled with most has been with its villains, so it’s pleasing that in the Syndicate and its nefarious leader (played with psychotic calm by Brit Sean Harris) Hunt finally faces an opponent that is his match.
Where Mission: Impossible has never struggled has been in its set pieces and Rogue Nation delivers some of the best blockbuster action you’ll see all summer. The much-hyped plane dangling sequence would be the climax of most action movies, but here it’s merely the preamble for what’s to come; a rip-roaring adrenaline shot that Bond would be proud of.
While the prologue has garnered the most attention, the film’s best set pieces take place later in the film, the first and best being a stand out and nail-biting sequence at the Vienna Opera House that invokes Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and is soundtracked to suitably dramatic effect by the performance of Puccini’s Turandot taking place inside the hall. A later sequence involving an underwater break-in a Moroccan power station may not be as strong as the Langley infiltration from Brian De Palma’s 1996 original, but it’s the sort of material the Mission: Impossible franchise does so well.
While his personal belief system may be just this side of loony tunes, it’s hard not to be won over by Cruise the performer and once again he’s up to the task. Quite how long he can kep putting his aging body through the rigors that such a film as this demands is anyone’s guess, but for a guy who’s now settled into his early fifties, he handles himself as well as he did back when the franchise kicked off almost 20 years ago.
Mission: Impossible should never just be about Ethan Hunt, though and it’s good to see his co-stars getting a fair crack of the whip (Rhames’ Luther aside), most notably Ferguson who gives a star-making turn as an ass-kicking agent who can look after not only herself but Hunt too and has the wherewithal to take off her high heels when serious running is required.
Finding the right balance of engaging espionage and flat-out action, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a Cruise missile that really delivers the goods.
Solid review. May nip off to see this today…
Cheers bro. Did you check it out?
Nah, was too ill. Just stayed in bed and watched obscure foreign academy award submissions!
There’s worse things. Feel better!
Nice review, Rogue Nation was a solid addition to the M:I series and I very much look forward to the next one – what could they come up with next to top the action in this and Ghost Protocol?
A remake of Moonraker might have to follow this. Ethan Hunt in space!
Good review. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
Very glad to hear it! Pleased we’re on the same page; thanks for the feedback 🙂
I’m glad to hear you call MI2 misjudged. I agree. I quite like it and its drastic change from the first film.
Appreciate the feedback as always Keith. Nice to see we’re in agreement here.
I will defend MI2 forever. I like the fact that the franchise alters; it has to when you have different directors. I also think it makes the franchise interesting that there is a difference. The opening rock climb sequence is magnificent. The metaphoric cars flamingo dancing on cliff’s edge is original and interesting. People say the dialogue and acting is lame. I don’t think it sways much from the others. Woo’s details are great to me like the white pigeons in the fortress and the white scarf flying away off the neck of Thandie Newton. That whole sequence reminded me of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I don’t care much for wooden, robot heroes like Bourne or super-detached Bonds. Ethan Hunt is human and Cruise gives him an emotional edge that I appreciate. Otherwise, I do very much like Rogue Nation and I think your review is nicely written.
While it’s my least favorite of the MIs, I love your defense of it, Cindy. I rewatched all of them before seeing Rogue Nation and the Wooesque features of the second film stand out (for good and bad). Certainly, the Tom Cruise stunt work took a major risk escalation and became the franchise’s calling card — for which we can all be grateful*. Good one, Cindy.
* that is, till he pulls a “Harrison Ford” and gets put into a cast. 😉
Thanks, Michael! For the record, it’s not my favorite, either, but of all the versions, Woo’s imagery and cinematography clings to my memory.
Hi Cindy. Thank you for that considered response. Very much agree with you that one of the franchise’s strengths is the use of different directors for each installment. I’m a fan of John Woo and like his US stuff, Face/Off especially, but I think his style isn’t quite suited to M:I. There are moments in the film that stand up, but having watched it again recently it feels dated, over-the-top (way more than any of the other films in the franchise), badly acted (I think Dougray Scott’s bad guy is simply not up to scratch) and ultimately forgettable. The soundtrack is terrible too. That’s my thoughts anyways!
🙂 If we all agreed, it would be boring.
This looks good – I think I’ll be sad that I missed it in the theater… nice work, lad!
Cheers son. You’re a busy guy; it’s understandable.
I just watched MI:3 today (again) it’s a pretty good franchise –
That movie really holds up
Another of my favorites of the year. Fine review, Mark.
Cheers mate! I liked your thoughts on what Cindy had to say on M:I 2 as well!
YES!!! Awesome review and I’m glad you’re on my corner on this one Mark!! I hope Christopher McQuarrie will be back for future MI installments, and so will Rebecca Ferguson!! LOVE her, hope her star will rise because of this movie.
Thanks! Agree agree agree! Ferguson kicks ass (literally); I hope to see her again too. Did you see her in the BBC’s The White Queen from a year or so back?
Hi Mark! No I haven’t seen The White Queen but it’s on my queue on Amazon Instant. Can’t wait to see Rebecca in a period drama, I’m sure she’s excellent.
Stellar review, I may just catch this one in cinemas.
Ah, thanks buddy. It’s well worth watching at the flicks; probably won’t have the same impact on the small screen.
Cheers buddy for that heads up, nice to hear from you man.
And you my friend 🙂
Superb review, man. This was an incredibly fun ride. Tom Cruise has still got it! (and how the hell does his skin still look that good?)
It must be all that Scientology! Cheers Fernando; it was a great ride indeed.
So I’m going to have to go back and re-watch M:I 2 to see why everyone keeps saying that one sucks. I really remember liking it, and at least it still had some uniqueness to it. The longer this franchise has gone on the more indistinguishable it really feels. Haven’t felt the itch for Rogue Nation nor Ghost Protocol unfortunately. Killer review all the same, though my friend.