Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to think of a time when you said to yourself; “I really hope they make another Mission Impossible movie”. Be honest now. They seem to be the sequels no one asked for, and yet consistently come out of nowhere every five years or so to deliver quality action and suspense every time. Well, most times.
This fifth instalment sees the return of Ethan Hunt and the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) as they face a secret Syndicate composed of ex-government agents marked as missing or confirmed dead who have formed an elaborate terrorist network in order to stage global terror attacks for financial gain. Just as this is going down the CIA have deemed the methods of the IMF questionable at best and the U.S. senate officially declares the branch to be shut down and immediately disbanded.
Hunt is left with no choice but to go rogue in order to take down this mysterious terrorist sect all on his own. In between there’s a double cross from newcomer Ilsa Faust; an undercover British intelligence officer with skills to match Hunts own, a lot of in-fighting with stuffy CIA Director Alan Hunley played by Alec Baldwin, and the recovery of some vital top secret encrypted information that traces all the way up to the highest officials of the British government including the Prime Minister himself.
But really that’s all trivial; because as we all know the villains plan is only a McGuffin used to string together a series of loosely connected set pieces and this is where the movie delivers. Opening with the much advertised plane stunt that Cruise performed himself, Ethan attempts to stop a plane containing bioweapons from taking off. But when overriding the plane isn’t as easy as it seems he’s left hanging on as it takes off, ascending into the sky with Cruise hanging on the outside by his fingertips.
No matter what anyone says of Cruise in his private life, on screen he is and always has been a movie star. He has a screen presence like no other and time and time again he shows just how committed he is to giving audiences spectacle. But it’s not only that scene that delivers thrills; there’s high speed car chases, motorcycle chases (one leading directly into the other no less) and a tense intricately woven suspense sequence at an opera that plays out in a long ever-evolving game of cat and mouse.
The play on the Mission Impossible movie trope of Cruise dangling from a height is taken to new depths (pun intended) when he must dive into a water-pressurised server room an hold his breath for three minutes. Again his commitment to performing his own stunt sells a scene so intense that it will have you holding your breath for as long as Cruise does on screen. The tone maintained by director Chistopher McQuarrie is for the most part serious but there’s enough humour to keep things light overall. Though even with all that to enjoy; the movie still feels overwritten and incredibly long with huge gaps between laughs and thrills filled with exposition, villainous monologues and inter-office politics. When the plot kicks in the momentum hits the brakes hard and at a running time that feels so much longer than two hours and eleven minutes, that’s a lot of braking.
I commend the movie for committing to practical stunts over CGI and the score or lack thereof in some scenes is really effective. A big part of the series is the classic theme and it’s utilised perfectly in key moments. The hand-to-hand combat on display is frenetic but there seems to be a trend of cranking the shutter speed of the camera to make movements seem faster; instead it can make it hard to see what’s going on, which is a shame because at age 52 Cruise still has moves.
Actress Rebecca Ferguson is brought in to add some sex appeal and although she pulls of the dresses she has a plain look to her that just makes her kinda bland. Especially when the film-makers are clearly building her up to be this really sexy bad-ass; lingering on her arse for just a little too long while she walks up stairs or giving her an obligatory underwear and shirt-off scene. While these all seem unnecessary in this day and age there are many times when it seems more like her character’s movie than Cruise’s. At times it’s almost a star vehicle for Ferguson and she definitely has some kick-butt moments; but not one female cast member has ever returned for a sequel so it’s odd that they would be building her up so much in this when she’s likely never to return. Simon Pegg once again brings comic relief, whether it’s being out of his depth in the field or his genuine care and unwavering dedication to his friend Ethan, he really feels like the third lead in this one. Poor Jeremy Renner, he manages to land roles in these huge blockbusters but is then relegated to standing around in the background. Here he at least gets a few fun back and forth scenes with Alec Baldwin who, like Jon Voight, Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Fishburne before him, is really only there to add gravitas and credibility to the franchise.
While everyone is present, they don’t have much to do and it feels like their just collecting a pay-check for turning up. This is especially apparent with Ving Rhames, whose role slowly diminished down to a series of cameos in the franchise as the movies went on. Here he acts like he just happened to be on set that day, they ask if he wanted to join the scene and it turned into a steady gig. Are people forgetting that he used to be the computer hacker of the team and now with Pegg around to fill that role why is he here exactly? And you’d think with an entire Syndicate of enemies the odds would be against our four heroes yet you only ever really see Sean Harris as the suitably creepy and soft spoken psychopath Solomon Lane and a handful of his henchman used for cannon fodder when gun fights break out which is confusing and really decreases the stakes.
Plus it kinda seems pointless to disband the team since the only members in the whole IMF join up again to do the job they would normally if they were still together anyway. In fact, for once I wish they’d just have a mission that didn’t involve double crossing, the team breaking up and having to go rogue while running from their own government only to save the day and make up again. Or at least have the decency to alternate the same story with a fresh one in between.
Can someone please explain what is with the trend of sequels using the same plot again and again and just assuming the audiences have forgotten this has all been done before. Jurassic World did it, Terminator Genisys tried something very similar and now Mission : Impossible- Rogue Nation pulls off the impossible again. To trick the audience into paying to see the same plot again with a few things just switched around. It really seems to be a study on how to get five different directors to tell the same story in their own unique way. Just read these plot outlines and tell me they couldn’t apply to this movie or any of its sequels:
– American IMF agent Ethan Hunt, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organisation. (Plot Synopsis for Mission: Impossible 1996).
– Ethan Hunt leads his IMF team on a mission to capture a deadly virus before it is released by terrorists. He must also contest with a gang of international terrorists headed by a former agent turned bad who has already managed to steal the cure. (Plot Synopsis for Mission: Impossible II 2000).
– The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in a bombing, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name. (Plot Synopsis for Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol 2011).
At the end of the day, you’ll enjoy the set pieces and some fun banter between old friends while watching them; but by tomorrow it will be quickly forgotten. It’s all been done before and better elsewhere. I regret to say Rogue Nation is more Mission Forgettable than Mission Impossible.
Review by Dylan Boaden.