Impossible Missions- The Rogue Cut
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie and stars Tom Cruise in his fifth appearance as agent Ethan Hunt. Also reprising their roles are Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner. Newcomers to the cast are Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Simon McBurney, and Tom Hollander.
The fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise is easily the most confident of the bunch, the critical and commercial success of Ghost Protocol being proof of what works best for a Mission: Impossible film, using the right amount of action and the right amount of espionage. In addition, Ghost Protocol was the first Mission: Impossible film to show faithfulness to the original TV series, displaying a sense of team work that wasn't quite on display in any of the first three films. Stepping into the director's chair this time is Christopher McQuarrie, who had worked with Cruise previously in 2012's Jack Reacher, as well serving as co-writer for Edge of Tomorrow, one of Cruise's better action films to date. Upon first viewing of the film a year or two back, I found it to be the best Mission: Impossible film yet. Though on a second and more recent viewing, I would like to rescind that statement, because much of what makes Rogue Nation work well is owed in part to Ghost Protocol.
Rogue Nation presents another nice blend of action, hi-tech espionage, and humor, and makes a diligent effort to ensure that Ethan Hunt isn't running the entire show. The only trouble is, there's not as fresh of a taste to everything as there was in Ghost Protocol. Still, the movie knows what it is and doesn't have any boring stretches. Tom Cruise hasn't lost any of his muster as Ethan Hunt nor as a charismatic action star, and once again, the man puts himself through some insane stunts. The major stunt that Cruise pulls off this time is hanging off the side of a plane (it happens in the movie's opening scene, believe it or not), and if you thought falling off the plane was Cruise's biggest fear, Cruise stated in an interview that his biggest fear was actually a bird or random debris hitting him in the face. The man's got balls of steel, I'll tell you what.
So anyway, Rogue Nation's plot is about Ethan Hunt's attempts at proving the existence of a criminal organization known as the Syndicate. The CIA does not believe that the Syndicate exists, and CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) believes that the IMF should be shut down, as the IMF has no active secretary, and the work done by Ethan and his team in Ghost Protocol was considered destructive acts of misconduct. Hunt is captured by the Syndicate in London, but he is able to escape with the help of Ilsa Fest (Rebecca Ferguson), a disavowed MI6 agent and operative of the Syndicate. Hunt's only lead is the face of a man with blond hair and glasses (Sean Harris), believing the man to be the Syndicate's leader.
Six months later, Hunt lives in Paris as a fugitive, and he enlists the help of former colleague Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) in order to try and gather more information about the Syndicate. Hunt and Benji eventually meet up with Ilsa, who identifies the blond man in glasses as Solomon Lane, a former MI6 agent who went rogue and became leader of the Syndicate. While Hunt and his group pursue Lane, Hunley and IMF Field Operations Director William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) begin a mad hunt for Ethan, though Brandt quickly proves to not be very loyal to Hunley.
Rogue Nation's plot has some striking similarities to that of Ghost Protocol, mostly in the sense that Ethan Hunt and his team are on their own with no backup from IMF or anywhere else. The only new wrinkle is that Ethan is now considered a fugitive, but even that wrinkle was sort of done already in the first film, in which Ethan was framed and pursued by the IMF. But despite Rogue Nation loaning plot threads from previous Mission: Impossible films, everything about the story is polished and sensible, which is a luxury that the first film does not have.
- Rogue Nation gets a lot out of its fresh blood, particularly Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin. Ferguson remains an interesting enigma throughout the film, as she always keeps us guessing where her true loyalties lie. Meanwhile, she puts herself front and center of all the action going on and has just the right amount of sex appeal, enough that we like watching her on screen, but never enough to think the movie is trying to turn her into a sex object. Baldwin is great as the snappy CIA director Alan Hunley, whose heated conversations with William Brandt and desire to capture Hunt livens up the plot more. These new faces seamlessly fit alongside all of the returning faces, and I have all the confidence that Ferguson and Baldwin will keep it up in the next movie.
- One new face that I could not get behind for the life of me was Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, whose soft, mousy voice deflates his villainous prowess instead of enhancing it. Lane is a professional villain who has manners, and when he's not speaking, he still has a sinister vibe to him. It's when Lane starts talking that I started to take him less seriously, because Harris talks like a twelve year old boy who went through puberty too fast, being only a few notches above whispering. There's much more menace in Harris's eyes than in his words, and had the script given him a minimal amount of dialogue (or no dialogue at all, which I believe was totally possible), he certainly could have been the best villain of the series outside of Owen Davian.
Flaws aside, Rogue Nation is a summer action film that works, with a meaty cast, exciting action sequences, and the never-ending commitment of its central star in Tom Cruise. Five films later, and it's pretty amazing to believe that this series still has a lot of juice left in the tank, showing no signs of slowing down. It'll be very interesting to see where the series goes next with Fallout, but with the kind of track record the series has had as of late, I have no doubt it'll be another round of summer fun. Cruise won't be able to do jaw-dropping stunts forever, so it's best that we enjoy this Mission: Impossible ride while it's still brimming with high level entertainment.
Recommend? Yes, and you actually don't need to see the previous four films to watch this one and enjoy it.
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