Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

I can neither confirm nor deny this is the best Mission Impossible film yet.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher).

Cast: Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher, Oblivion), Jeremy Renner (Avengers, American Hustle, The Hurt Locker), Simon Pegg (Absolutely Anything, The World’s End, Run, Fatboy, Run), Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, The White Queen), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead), Sean Harris (Harry Brown, Prometheus), Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, 30 Rock).

I can neither confirm nor deny this is the best Mission: Impossible film yet.

Tom Cruise swaggers from one set piece to another in a franchise that’s expected to have stagnated by now. Director Christopher McQuarrie manages to maintain excitement and urgency throughout the film, bouncing too and from Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Jeremy Renner.

Rogue Nation starts with the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) being hounded by the C.I.A, led by a wonderfully short role from Alec Baldwin. Baldwin’s character Alan Hunley is lobbying for the IMF to be shutdown, citing the consequences of their previous missions as the main reason. But our lovable hero Ethan Hunt is on the verge of discovering critical information about an anti-IMF organisation, the Syndicate. It’s not the most original story, the Syndicate’s leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is a Machiavellian, glasses wearing British guy whose motivations, just as he shares with most spy-movie villains, have mistaken saving with killing.Money in the millions is transferred to digital bank accounts, the team has to decode messages, and everyone’s chasing MacGuffins.  It’s a mismatch of Bond tropes but every now and then there’ll be a slight twist on them, keeping the plot from going stale.

But you haven’t come to watch Mission: Impossible for its narrative. You’ve come to watch Tom Cruise turn up the crazy and out-do his stunts from the previous installment. The film opens up with Cruise clinging for dear life on the side of an A-400 airplane. Most blockbusters would have saved that for a third-act, Mission: Impossible serves it up for breakfast. The film follows Hunt through London, Morocco and Vienna, raising the stakes every half hour of the two-hour-plus running time. However, the movie breezes past and barely gives you time to recover from the events that have just occurred. This is likely due to the director and writer being the same person.

Rebecca Ferguson Mission Impossible Rogue Nation.fw
Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Set pieces play important parts in pushing movies forward, but don’t mean much if they aren’t filmed correctly. McQuarrie has directed one of the most beautifully shot Hitchcockian action scenes of 2015, using an opera performance to provide a strong backdrop to what could have otherwise been a punch-up in an alley. It’s one of the most impressive and gorgeously filmed environments I’ve witnessed for a while, no doubt aided by cinematographer Robert Elswit and editor Eddie Hamilton, who to no surprise also edited Kingman: The Secret Service. 

A high tension assassination attempt between Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, Ethan and a couple more assassins moves the piece along. Ferguson provides the needed emotional beats for the film, getting caught up in her own morality, allegiances and relationships. She superbly plays this character who we’re never sure is friend or foe, but soon after the opera she’s helping Ethan literally dive into another enthralling situation. Ethan’s underwater adventure leaves the audience breathless and McQuarrie finds such a fluid way of filming it. He expertly conveys how Ethan moves through the water and the camera follows suit.

Simon Pegg’s comic relief was welcome in the film’s predecessor Ghost Protocol, but he comes into his own this time around, especially during the second and third act. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames backbench the film but any accusation of the cast starting to feeling bloated is untrue.

Rogue Nation isn’t bogged down by backstory, and McQuarrie has managed to reinvigorate the series by letting a spy-thriller be a spy-thriller. As cinematic universes begin every five minutes, he lets the film stand on its own two feet, only using previous films to borrow characters from. Rogue Nation is a ‘best of’ package of the franchise.

Despite being in his 50s, Cruise is rejecting all notions of slowing down and gives it his all. With great additional casting introducing the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, I can only be excited to see just how Mission: Impossible 6 takes the stakes even higher and the stunts even more impression. The Cruise missile never stops.


Feature image credit: Paramount Pictures.

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