Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Rating

Director

Christopher McQuarrie

Screenplay

Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce

Length

131 min.

Starring

Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Simon McBurney, Tom Hollander, Jens Hultén, Jingchu Zhang

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity

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Review

There’s something utterly enthralling about the world of covert affairs. Spy thrillers are exciting, ambitious and entertaining when properly prepared. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation shows that the production team behind it know how to create an engaging, dynamic film without sacrificing its complex plot and dense theatrics.

In their fifth outing, Tom Cruise and company produce one of the most exciting adventures the franchise has yet seen. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol may surpass it in terms of action sequences and plotting, but Rogue Nation takes the mystery into deeper, darker realms and positions itself as a franchise that isn’t about to run out of steam in the near future.

Burned by his own agency after a series of embarrassing, destructive successes, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes deep into hiding hoping to uncover the identity of the man (Sean Harris) who killed an innocent agent in front of him. As he soon uncovers, the man is responsible for a string of “accidents” that left important figures dead and positioned him to exact a certain brand of nation building on a global scale. As Hunt hangs captive at the hands a ruthless torturer (Jens Hultén), he’s given an escape by a beautiful former MI6 agent (Rebecca Ferguson). From there, he embarks on an adventure of discovery and danger trying to track down this mysterious assassin.

Dragged into the mission at the Vienna Opera House, “Benji” Dunn (Simon Pegg) becomes the crux of a great deal of the adventure. Sidelined by his tech savvy skills and limited field experience, Dunn is given an opportunity to excel where he had been less important in prior outings. Pegg shines in the role as a wisecracking, determined IMF agent looking to do more for his friends and become a world class operative even without the full array of skill sets necessary.

Cruise is still an affable hero. In most of his recent feature films, the action-friendly star has gripped audiences with his likable presence and brazen performances. He may not be displaying the full range of the acting potential at his disposal, but in this type of film, fronting even a modicum of talent is sufficient. He steps ahead of that and, with a handful of exceptions, exceeds the film’s basic needs.

Although he has the only other character besides Ethan Hunt that has been in the franchise since the beginning, Ving Rhames is give insufficient screen time in this sequel. As Luther Stickell, Rhames’ deep, sonorous voice is soothing when given a chance to perform, but with too many other characters fighting for narrative dominance, he has to sit idly by while the likes of Pegg, Ferguson, and Jeremy Renner, as operations director William Brandt, take the limelight. He has such a fascinating character, it would be a shame not to see him more frequently in the future.

While these actors have been given two or more films to perform their magic and deliver characters that are compelling and fun to watch, Ferguson has the unenviable task of stepping into a franchise that is remarkably light on consistent female representation. In her role as Ilsa Faust, Ferguson quickly makes an impression on the audience. Whether its her staggering physical prowess or that lovely, expression-rich face, Ferguson jumps right into the proceedings with elegance, charm and considerable talent. She wastes no time in making Ilsa a complicated, conflicted secret agent who would be a clear asset to the franchise in future endeavors. For fans of classic films, the realization that Ferguson has a staggering visual similarity to a young Ingrid Bergman makes the character’s name and the eventual cinematic destination of Casablanca feel all the more fascinating, adding a layer of depth that might not be interesting to anyone else.

When legendary director Brian DePalma brought the classic ’60s television series to the big screen in 1996, few thought Mission: Impossible could soar to the heights of the only other spy franchise existing at the time. With Cruise in the starring role, the film became an undeniable hit and launched a franchise that had its ups-and-downs, but has mostly been a consistently engaging series. Director Christopher McQuarrie understands this heritage and gives the audience everything it expects from such a movie, but adds even more with his literate and richly detailed screenplay.

As screenwriter behind The Usual Suspects and Edge of Tomorrow, McQuarrie has crafted a film that digs deep into the world of espionage and creates a complex, twisting narrative that never gets lost under his assured direction. He may not have quite the flare for visual splendor as his predecessor Brad Bird did, but the film is a shade more claustrophobic at times, and in those scenes there are plenty of stylish and fascinating cinematic elements that exceed Bird’s effort.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will appeal to fans of the franchise, but those who had given up after the second or third outing need to give it another shot. This is a remarkably entertaining production that, like Ghost Protocol, gives the audience plenty of what it wants while making the case for being more than your average big budget actioner. The elements are brought together almost perfectly and when the audience is through, they can’t help but anticipate the next film.

Oscar Prospects

Potentials: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

Review Written

September 8, 2015

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