Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (dir. Christopher McQuarrie, 2015) – When the IMF faces disavowal (again), Ethan Hunt goes against a stealth rogue syndicate to reinstate both trust and peace.
An infallible formula is made sound by Mission Impossible’s daredevil star. Yet repetition have turned it almost indistinguishable from sloth, and the box office results are beginning to look suspiciously like luck.
The boys are back in the field. Quite literally, for poor lovable tech geek Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). Fellow agents Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) join, in sadly fleeting reappearances. But there is just one man the fans look forward to seeing. Minutes into the mission, the one imperative question surfaces both on-screen and off: “Where is Ethan Hunt?”
In swoops Tom Cruise right at the critical moment. The decks are cleared for the star of the film to accomplish his
difficult impossible mission. In mad thrilling fashion, he effectively negates any need for a team. All’s well that ends well and ends up a snug fit for a trailer that will compel us to pay for a ticket, even with full-on knowledge of what to expect.
Humour, real stunts, Tom Cruise and his bona fide insanity. The five-minute action-fuelled opener sums up twenty years of an unabashedly formulaic franchise in its fifth incarnation. Operating the clockwork motion is another returnee Christopher McQuarrie, whose choice of McGuffin revalidates the dull mantra of not fixing what ain’t broke.
The Goldeneye this time, or the Rabbit’s Foot if you will, is once again a flashdrive with secrets – a trope so lazy that the bomb vests and mandatory car chases have started to look inventive. Nevertheless, implausible stunts and impossible Hunt soon have the action-hungry crowd in a very forgiving mood.
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object, when Hunt seems to have met his match. Amid fun banter and genuinely funny in-jokes, a menacing threat against the IMF lurks in the persistent form of Solomon Lane.
But the presage fades into a manageable foe. Sean Harris’ adept subtlety makes the best of bland lines, yet barely saves a woefully underwritten villain. Characterised by light eccentricity and superficial psychopathy, an almost robotic opponent ends up neither as intimidating as Owen Davian, or entertaining as Raoul Silva.
The similarly archetypal femme fatale saunters in to complete the spy film ritual. Lethal in high heels, Ilsa Faust is a character built with deliberate prowess, distracting us from the striking absence of women in the genre and film itself. A single self-sufficient heroine fulfils the bare minimum for women in film, however still exceeding in casting choice. Rebecca Ferguson overcomes her given cliché of ambiguous loyalty, trained in the art of spark and ready for her own franchise.
Of disavowed spies, double agents, and needlessly complex security systems. The most tiresome of myriad predictable mechanisms is one that the movie is thoroughly aware of: Hunt’s fortune at his game of chance.
Still, there remains little interest in upping the utter lack of stakes. Pointing out the IMF’s over-abundance of luck while continuing to push the plot along by mere circumstance, Rogue Nation thrives on a vexatious whisper that keeps repeating: It’s only a movie, only a movie, only a movie…
And that is what this is – another popcorn blockbuster that serves one key purpose of pure fun, which somehow deserves a free pass from criticism. It almost earns the pass too, laying out massively entertaining scenes of elaborate opera gunplay and underwater death defiance.
Yet tremendous pressure remains on action film-makers to push their limits, as the feat of Mad Max: Fury Road have already turned the reliance on breakneck jump cuts transparently mediocre.