COMIC REVIEWS
AT THE MOVIES
  KIDS CORNER REVIEWS
VIDEO OUTHOUSE REVIEWS
  STORE HOME PAGE
REVIEW ARCHIVES
 
AT THE MOVIES

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION
(***Ĺ)
Reviewer:   Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Directed by:
Christopher McQuarrie
Written by:
Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, from a story by McQuarrie & Drew Pearce. Based on the TV series created by Bruce Geller.
Starring:
Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner
Length:   131 minutes
Released:   073115
Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
ď...the best film in this series..."

Early in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Ethan Hunt goes to a record store and plays a vinyl album on which is encoded the details of his next mission (should he accept it). This bit isnít just a clever wink to the modern resurgence of vinyl, itís a statement of purpose - as much as it can be, Rogue Nation wants to be an analog film.

Sure, thereís plenty of CGI, but the movieís thrills are predicated on the reality of its action scenes: Tom Cruise hanging off a real plane as it really takes off, Tom Cruise really riding a motorcycle at insane speeds on a winding highway, Tom Cruise really jumping and punching and hitting and running. Itís been said that Tom Cruise is the biggest special effect in this franchise, and here, more than ever, it is true. He is the Siencetologist version of Jackie Chan, throwing himself into harms way at every turn.

That analog nature of the stunts is old-fashioned, but not as old-fashioned as director Christopher McQuarrieís sense of craft. Every set piece in this film is crafted with care and precision, edited with elegance and excitement, shot with clarity and beauty and played for maximum thrills and fun. Every action scene in Rogue Nation is great, and no action scene overstays its welcome or feels shoe-horned in. Every action scene in this movie tells a story, has a beginning, middle and end, and every single one reveals things about characters and their relationships with one another.

I donít know what the best action scene is in the film. Is it the opening with Cruise hanging from the plane, redefining spectacle in a post-CGI age? Is it the elaborate and gripping opera house hunt and silent battle? Maybe itís the chase through the streets of Morocco that feels totally modern and fresh while still doing some old fashioned things like having cars careen through market stalls. Perhaps itís the incredibly tense diving sequence that has reversal after reversal and yet still contains tons of character work. All of them are great, and all of them add up to what would have been the best action movie of the year if the phenomenon that is Mad Max: Fury Road hadnít already come out.

It also doesn't hurt having the instantly recognizable TV series theme by Lalo Schifrin used throughout. It induces an almost Pavlovian response. A call to action in 5/4 time.

Speaking of the television series on which these films are based, I will say that of all the TV series to movie adaptations being done, these last two MI films have been the most faithful. Certainly the action quotient has been raised to keep the attentions of a modern audience. But all of the trappings inherent in the 1960's original are all there.

This time Ethan Hunt has met his match - two of them to be exact. One is Sean Harris as Lane, the mysterious and almost omnipotent head of an evil spy group known as The Syndicate. The other is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Laneís associate whose loyalties are forever in flux, but whose capabilities remain forever at their peak. Lane is constantly one step ahead of everyone, and his uncanny understanding of human nature allows him to second guess every choice Ethan Hunt makes. The only person he canít quite fathom is Ilsa, and neither can Ethan. She goes from aiding him to betraying him, from saving him to almost killing him. Sheís simply very cool.

Tom Cruise is the star of this franchise - itís basically Tom Cruiseís Stunt Spectacular at this point - but Rebecca Ferguson is the star of this movie. She is gorgeous and lethal, tempering Ilsaís super spy abilities with a very human underpinning. Sheís more of a human than Ethan Hunt has ever been, even when there was a whole movie about his wife. I would say that Ethan and Ilsa are truly equals, but the truth is that she is so much more intriguing than he is. She could be the next Imperator Furiosa or Ripley, in terms of female action characters who grab the zeitgeist by the throat and donít let go. If she doesnít quite become that itís only because Ferguson is such a terrific actress that Ilsa ends up with too many dimensions to be reduced to simply an outfit that can be cosplayed. Here's hoping that that Ferguson becomes a regular player in subsequent MI films.

This is the first entry in the series that feels like itís an entry in a series; thereís even a bit that explicitly calls back to the ending of the last film. While the premise of these movies have always been that they are mostly standalone, I like the feeling here that itís all settled into a rhythm. The relationship between Ethan and his team has gone from professional to personal, and thereís a lot of talk about helping friends and being there for friends. Itís an entry in a series where everything gels together. It makes me wonder if someone will die in the next installment; even though Ving Rhamesí Luther has been in every single one of these movies it wasnít until this installment that I realized I would hate to see him bite the dust - which means that after Ghost Protocol Iíve finally become emotionally attached to some of these guys!

The team ably assists Ethan, with Simon Peggís Benji getting the most screen time. The relationship between Benji and Ethan is, frankly, weird, and I like that about it. These two shouldnít be pals, but the chemistry between Cruise and Pegg is real. At the same time Pegg seems to clearly be always aware that heís sharing a scene with Tom Cruise, and that works for nerd turned field agent Benji as well - this guy is friends with Ethan Hunt, but Ethan is also his hero.

Meanwhile Jeremy Renner remains an odd fit. I think heís an odd fit in almost everything, and like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Rogue Nation turns that to its advantage. The film keeps Rennerís Brandt out of the action for a long time, and when he does finally join Hunt in the field thereís a real sense of distrust; is Brandt truly part of the Impossible Mission Force family or is he planning on betraying Ethan? In Avengers it was the reveal of Hawkeyeís family that helped integrate him into the larger fabric by making him more whole, here itís the way that BrandtÖ well, that would be spoiling.

This isnít a spoiler: McQuarrieís movie (written by McQuarrie and Drew Pearce) is so smart that it actually textualizes the fact that Tom Cruise will not die in one of these films. We all know the hero wonít die, but that everyone else is fair game, and in this film the bad guys realize the same thing. Textually itís because Ethan has info they need, but meta-textually it works just as well, with Ethan literally putting himself between his friends and bullets because he knows no one will shoot him.

That meta-textual smartness extends to conflict at the center of the movie. Lane is using his training as a superspy to create havoc in the world in order to effect change. He accuses Ethan of using violence to maintain the status quo and to protect the system. In many ways this is indie actor Sean Harris talking to Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, and Ethanís reply is perfect - whether it be about the state of global power or the state of the movie industry - you canít blame The System as though it is a thing that exists outside of us. We are all part of The System, and the choices we make impact it all. This is McQuarrie planting a flag, saying that you can walk into Hollywood and make a huge, expensive, star-driven franchise sequel based on a TV show and still make it really, really good. The System isnít the problem, itís how the people in The System approach it. And McQuarrie approaches it, like Ethan Hunt, as something that can be used for good as long as you believe and work hard and are willing to put it all on the line.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation proves that theory by being absolutely excellent; it is the best film in this series, and it is a perfectly realized piece of cinematic craftsmanship, one that would make any of the truly skilled great filmmakers proud. Thereís no reason your TV adaptation has to suck. Thereís no reason the fifth film in your franchise has to be a cynical cash grab. Thereís no reason your big blockbuster movie has to be filled with incoherent pixels attacking other incoherent pixels. Thereís no reason your big Hollywood movie star canít get out there and work his ass off to entertain and thrill you. Thereís no reason to make a bad movie. Christopher McQuarrie walked into The System and proved that one man can make a difference.


MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION  © 2015 Paramount Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2015 Alternate Reality, Inc.

RELATED REVIEWS...

AVENGERS 2

 "Avengers: Age of Ultron" carries the vague aroma of uninspired, box-checking functionality." (JR)
MI GHOST PROTOCOL

ď...easily the best in the series and a genuine spectacle with set-pieces that will knock even the most jaded viewers for a loop or two."   (JR)

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3

"... yearning for a flashy, leave-your-brain-at-the-door summer movie? MI3 has what you're looking for."    (JR)

RETURN TO TOP