Dir: Christopher McQuarrie, 2015
Exasperated by their increasingly reckless activities, CIA chief Alan Hunley disbands the Impossible Mission Force and reassigns its agents. But the timing couldn’t be worse as Ethan Hunt and his team discover the existence of the IMF’s terrorist counterpart – a mysterious agency known only as ‘The Syndicate’.
For the past two decades, the Mission: Impossible franchise has established a reputation the like of no other action series in the world – it has taken its leading man and utilised his death-defying mantra to dumbfound its audience with some of the most astonishing practical stunts that we have ever seen. Like him or not, where Bourne brandishes ballpoints and Bond wields Walthers, Cruise achieves the impossible. Not only that, he embraces it.
The fifth in the series, Rogue Nation makes good on the franchise’s promise and does one better. Whereas its predecessor Ghost Protocol built the film around that spectacular set piece with Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world with Abu Dhabi’s Burj Khalifa, Rogue Nation is daring enough to place that Tom-Cruise-clinging-to-a-plane stunt at the opening of the film in a pre-credit sequence that is more exhilarating than anything 007 has ever fired at us. The fuse ignites and burns up and down in rollercoaster fashion for the next two hours as we are lavished with exotic locations, tongue-through-cheek humour and bonkers plots which act as welcome excuses for Cruise to jump off things.
The cast reunites Ving Rhames as old-school Luther Stickell, Simon Pegg as tech-savvy Benji Dunn, Jeremy Renner as company man William Brandt and Cruise along with newcomers Rebecca Ferguson portraying Ilsa Faust, an ambiguous “M:I-5” ally of Hunt, and Alec Baldwin as the weary CIA chief who grows more discontent with Hunt’s devil-may-care attitude by the minute. McQuarrie, writer of The Usual Suspects and director of Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher, has such a tailored cast to work with that it shines a harsh light on the likes of the Marvel franchise which is compelled to establish solo stars before uniting them as an ensemble. With Rogue Nation, every member of the cast bounces off one another that it’s difficult not to yearn for ‘The Adventures of Ethan and Benji’ or ‘The Odd Couple starring Luther and Brandt’.
If there is a slip in Rogue Nation’s step it’s with its antagonist, Solomon Lane, played by Borgias alumni Sean Harris. With an adversary as dramatically compelling as an anti-IMF, surely there should exist some mirror image of Ethan Hunt? Regrettably we do not get such a battle of wits or fists but the remainder of the cast click so well and the film in itself is so exhilarating that it’s hard to dwell on its shortcomings. Luckily Rebecca Ferguson’s mysterious rogue British agent keeps us playing the guessing game long enough as to her true nature that the thought of any fixed villain is abandoned.
Dodging its Christmas Day release date and the Star Wars/Bond competition that comes alongside it, Rogue Nation slots into a last-minute summer placement. Not primo-positioning for an ageing movie star trying to keep a franchise alive in its fifth instalment but Cruise and co. prove that Mission: Impossible is the unorthodox, adventitious blockbuster that abolishing would be a mistake we may regret.
Mission: Impossible remains an innocuous pleasure where logic is tossed aside faster than Michelle Monaghan and stunt coordinators take precedence over writers. Nevertheless, Rogue Nation is a mission so bold and bright that it’ll keep me clinging to the side of my seat until their next one, should its audience choose to accept it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆