Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, 2015.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin.
Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.
Yes, that’s Tom Cruise running on the wing of a cargo plane as it speeds down a runway. Yes, that’s still Cruise hanging from the side of the plane as it’s taking off. And yes, that’s our Tom hanging on the plane at 5000 feet. Why? Simple – because Cruise commits. Cruise delivers. Cruise knows what we want and knows how to get the best from everyone he works with to ensure we get it. He only works with the best, because only the best is good enough. Far too often we have to settle for sub-standard fare in action cinema today, with flat characters saying flat dialogue delivered by second rate ‘stars’. When you sit down for this fifth Mission rest assured you’re getting the best there is. Except no substitutes.
The plane stunt is well publicised because it’s real, but it’s more than just a insane stunt from Cruise – possibly the only remaining A-List star making blockbuster movies today who refuses to give anything less than everything to everything he does – it’s a promise from the star and his team that they have us, the audience, at the forefront of every set-piece they create. How do you top the Dubai sequence from the previous film? You can’t. But what you can do is show the audience something equally jaw dropping in its execution and make each new film stand proudly on its own. Yet, whilst most action films would love to have a stunt as outrageous as this, they’d all kill to have one or two memorable set-pieces; Rogue Nation has six sublime scenes of varying action. Outside of the Mission series, I’d have to go back to 2006 and Casino Royale for a film which combines the quantity and quality of action seen here. There was a huge ask to follow in Brad Bird’s footsteps after the last film but the way McQuarrie captures his action – the speed and ferocity of the motor bikes in Morocco, the triple threat at the Viennese opera, a deadly knife fight in a London street, or the ‘how will the ever pull this off?’ intensity of an underwater ‘switcheroo’ where Cruise held his breath for six minutes – is masterful for a guy only directing his third film.
The thing which struck me watching Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation on my second viewing on opening day was how effortless it all seems for Cruise, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, cinematographer Robert Elswit, producer J.J. Abrams and the rest of the cast and crew. Nothing ever feels forced, rushed or unnatural despite the film moving at the speed of a bullet for the first hour. McQuarrie’s screenplay playful balances the usual Mission staples of global trotting, mask wearing, espionage and action with a sense of humour running throughout which is never self-deprecating or smugly knowing. McQuarrie, who has demonstrated time and again with screenplays for The Usual Suspects and the criminally overlooked The Way Of The Gun an affinity for fully realised characters in thrillers, treat not only Ethan Hunt but his entire IMF crew (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) with respect as people; they have a true friendship, bond and a code they live by. This, too, extends to perhaps the most compelling new addition to the film, Isla Faust, the rogue operative whose loyalty is never clear cut from the start. Playing Faust is Rebecca Ferguson, a relatively unknown name but one which will be surely sought after following her performance here, and in combination with McQuarrie’s dialogue – so rare a woman is given a role to match her male co-star, but there’s yet another reason why the film is so damn great – stands out as a major reason why the storyline holds up so well, despite all the twists and turns along the way.
Beautiful but never used solely for her looks, Faust is the strongest female character in the series by a long shot and reminds us of Emily Blunt’s equally well-written character from Edge Of Tomorrow – no coincidence then that starred Tom Cruise and was written by Christopher McQuarrie. Hunt and Faust share many scenes together and remind us that spies are people, too. They can be used, mistreated, lied to and cast aside like anyone else and this ensures the moments when the film pauses aren’t merely for filler. Making action this exciting with characters this intense, humorous and intelligent (just look at the questions Hunt and Benji ask during their plans to get inside an underwater safe) in a story which always keeps you guessing is, of course, a collaborative task for many talented people giving 100% for several months… but it all seems like business as usual when you’re watching the best in the business.
We’re now nineteen years from Brian De Palma’s original entry into the Mission: Impossible film series and the seemingly impossible keeps happening. The energy levels for the movies start high and stay there until the final credits roll (the John Woo-directed second film notwithstanding of course, not even I can defend that misstep) and I’ve felt that energy and creative spark radiating from the screen each time I’ve sat down for the newest film. The promise of expect the impossible has always been deliver on and the series has never floundered or found itself in desperate need of recasting/remaking/rebooting but instead going from strength to strength. I’ve always been a huge admirer of the series but with the three and a half years between the fourth and fifth films, it seems to have now found its perfect rhythm and has struck the right tone between action, humour and staying true to its TV series roots. Cruise has already said he’s planning to shoot the sixth film next year and on the evidence of the past two decades’ worth of thrills, spills, and must-see, genre-defining moments it’s going to be one hell of a film – but right now the king of action in 2015 Ethan Hunt, “the living manifestation of destiny” to quote the film itself.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rohan Morbey – follow me on Twitter