Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (M, USA, 2015)

So if you’re fresh off the blockbuster wave of dinosaurs and teeny tiny superheroes and are ready for some more action packed fun, then this week’s big release Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will be able to fill that gap nicely.

As with any of the Mission: Impossible (aka MI) films, you need to suspend your beliefs at the door before you take your cinema seat. These films have progressively upped the ante with each release in the franchise and this one is no exception. It is a high action, high stakes and high intensity thrill ride that occasionally stumbles over its own ridiculousness at times but still manages to be enjoyable.

Picking up where the previous MI film Ghost Protocol left off, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) is trying to piece together and track down The Syndicate. A shadowy organisation that appears to be conducting terrorist activity around the world unchecked and unchallenged. With what remains of the team, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and aided by the mysterious MI6 agent Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt must track down the Syndicate and its villainous leader to not only prove their existence but eradicate them altogether.

Excitingly Rogue Nation has a really captivating and excellent double agent narrative plot line running all the way through the film. As with all good spy films we’re made to question everybody’s loyalties and how far each character is willing to go. The upshot of this is that it leaves you guessing right up until the last 15 minutes of the film as to who is on whose side. The downside of this is that it doesn’t really leave much room in the story for actual character development. So this leaves our supporting characters orbiting Hunt, to feel a little flat and repetitive to what we’ve seen before. Benji is always the optimist, loyal to Ethan and eager to be in the field. Luther is the one with the stone cold quips, weaponry and intel, whilst Brandt is the cynical sassy one who never approves of Hunt’s methods. Faust is a strong independent woman who is probably a double or triple agent and you can never quite tell which side she’s playing. There’s also the addition of CIA boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) who is basically just an annoying bureaucratic thorn out to shut the IMF down, but he does get some really great lines.

But one of the keys to the success of these films is the thrill ride of it. When it comes to mind blowing stunt sequences, the MI films have always been able to deliver them in spades and Rogue Nation is no exception. The film begins with the scene that we’re all familiar with from the trailer (see below), of Hunt dangling off the side of an Airbus A400M as it takes off. 100% real and that is most definitely Tom Cruise hanging off the side of an airplane, for your entertainment. Then of course there’s an obligatory high speed car and motorbike chase sequence with Cruise riding at ridiculous speeds, for your entertainment. As well as a crazy underwater sequence that required Cruise to hold his breath for up to 3 minutes free dive style, for your entertainment. Say what you will of him, you can’t deny that he is a man 110% committed to his art and your entertainment. We also get some cool new gadgets and there is of course as always, mention of the face masks, though this time it’s more of an in-joke than practicality.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) and also written by McQuarrie with some assistance from Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) they’ve kept the script and pacing tight overall with three main acts each leading to the next set piece of an exotic location to progress the story. Our performances particularly by Cruise and Ferguson are stellar, Cruise gets a gratuitous shirtless scene to show just how buff he still is for his 53 years and Ferguson (and her respective stunt double) are insane in some of those fight sequences. And it’s nice to see Pegg’s involvement get bumped up more, sadly though both Rhames and Renner get less screen time and shared interaction with other cast members than I would’ve liked. Also any hints post Ghost Protocol of Renner’s character Brandt succeeding on from Cruise’s Hunt seem all but dust in the wind now. The biggest let down is that of our antagonist the leader of The Syndicate, Solomon Lane played by Sean Harris. It just seems a little stereotypical to be casting a Brit to play the evil villain, and when he is onscreen we never see him actually do anything horrible, so his dastardliness feels a little disconnected.

The fascinating thing about Mission: Imposible – Rogue Nation is how at its core it feels very much like a classic spy film with its structured acts and puzzle piecing motions. But on its exterior it comes with all the crazy bells and whistles of a Hollywood blockbuster full to the brim with exciting OTT action sequences. Here’s hoping that they can do a quick turnaround on the next MI instalment before Cruise has to officially hang up his belt and pass the torch on to somebody else.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 131 minutes

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is out 30 July 2015 through Paramount Pictures Australia