In an era obsessed with remakes, reboots and sequels, it comes as no surprise that 2015’s summer Blockbuster season has given us a fifth sequel. And once again, movie-goers must face the age old question- why is no. 5 worth seeing?
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission Impossible film opts for a simple, tried and true plot line of many past action films. This is no slight towards McQuarrie’s writing abilities, who earned an original screenplay Oscar for the sleek crime thriller The Usual Suspects. But he knows such twists and turns do not fit the Mission Impossible mold. Audiences flock to the MI series for the impressively staged action sequences and whacky virtuosity of Ethan Hunt (and Tom Cruise). Both are in full force here.
The finals moments of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, have Hunt and the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) barely saving San Francisco from nuclear annihilation. In Rogue Nation, the director of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) opposed to the Hunt’s unconventional tactics and admittedly lucky breaks shuts down the IMF and a search for Hunt begins, who is to be charged with treason. Out in the cold, Hunt is in the midst of his own pursuit— tracking down a terror network known as the Syndicate. Hunt has linked them to a series of global terrorist attacks. After an early face to face encounter with its leader, the composed yet cunning Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Hunts will stop at nothing to find him and bring down the Syndicate.
Rogue Nation marks the third collaboration between McQuarrie and Cruise in recent years. Their first pairing came in 2012 for the rather flat, more Bourne-esque thriller Jack Reacher. Last year’s under-watched sci-fi film Edge ofTomorrow earned the two greater praise. What worked in Edge of Tomorrow that was absent in Jack Reacher, is Tom Cruises’ often unspoken of and underutilized charm and comedic timing. Ethan Hunt is not Jason Bourne and at no point does he ever try and mimic James Bond. In fact, Hunt can be thought of more as like a younger brother of 007. He gets into trouble and occasionally relies on a little luck to get himself out of a jam. Regardless, Hunt’s formidable charisma never strays too far and this is why we like him.
Cruise is certainly not the only actor who deserves praise in Rogue Nation. Already mentioning Sean Harris’s brilliantly restrained evil; Simon Pegg, always a crowd pleaser, is as good as ever as Hunt’s genial, sarcastic wingman. Rogue Nation also wins many fans for the return of Ving Rhames as the calm and cool Luther Stickell who was very noticeably and surprisingly absent from Ghost Protocol. New to the film is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust who appears right at home as the double/triple/quadruple crossing “frenemy” of Hunt. The ensemble works like a charm. No character, big or small, steps out of their role to try and overtake the Ethan Hunt show. Early on in the movie, as Faust helps Hunt out of an early predicament, he has to ask her, “this is the first time we’ve met, right?”
Like the last one, Rogue Nation opts for a livelier, funnier tone, something pushed aside in the darker, more intense MI 2 and 3. That is not to say the movie does not have its share of edge of your seat, final-seconds-before-it-goes-kaboom-type drama we crave in Mission Impossible—motorcycle chases through the tiny streets of Casablanca, Hunt hanging onto a flying plane’s hatch in Belarus, scuba diving underneath a powerplant- without oxygen…A particularly memorable scene finds Hunt trying to desist three assassins high above an ongoing performance of Turandot at the Vienna Opera House. Its an unusually long scene for an action film, but the intricate staging, cross cutting and rich opera soundtrack make this scene and the movie as a whole, a pure delight to watch.
Ghost Protocol saw resurgence in the critical praise of the MI series, but Rogue Nation rightfully surpasses it. And if such a trend continues, I wouldn’t mind seeing the 53 year old Cruise throw himself off buildings and onto planes (and/or vice versa) again in a few years, maybe even into his 60s, but at that point, hopefully he’ll keep his shirt on.