MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION. Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. 132 minutes. M (Action violence).
Even if the plot feels purpose built around its set pieces, the fifth instalment of this long-running franchise is worth checking out for its white-knuckle stunts and committed performances.
We open with one of the most terrific stunts committed to film – Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of the Impossible Mission Force hangs on to a plane as it takes off, set on reclaiming the stolen nerve gas on board. Much was made of the film’s star genuinely enacting the stunt himself, and it smoulders with a breathtaking realism that greenscreen and computer effects simply cannot match.
The stolen weapons confirm Hunt’s suspicions that a mysterious terrorist force called The Syndicate (described as ‘an anti-IMF’) are in operation, and in fact looking to go after Hunt personally. When the head of the CIA finds reason to believe that IMF has been compromised, he has them shut down, leaving Hunt out in the cold. So Hunt, hounded from all sides by The Syndicate and his own government, must recruit his old teammates Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to help him prove that this global threat is real.
The story is par for the course (of the franchise, at least). We are treated to double crosses, twists, MacGuffins, disavowed agents, nuclear threats and Tom Cruise playing, well, himself. In an interview with the director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie, he made the startling statement that the plotline was literally crafted around the action scenes, that is, whatever insane stunts Cruise wanted to try this time. This is pretty transparent – each plot advancement or twist points obviously to the next feat. However, this is small change when one gets to see Cruise underwater for over five minutes in one sequence (the actor was trained to hold his breath for over six!). Even the high octane car and motorbike chase is elevated by its tactile, gritty authenticity. The fights are brutal, yes, but their balletic choreography is spellbinding. Throw some tongue-in-cheek wit into the mix and the screenplay, for all its unsubtlety, delivers a thrilling blockbuster. It is a little black and white in its treatment of characters – he’s a good guy, he’s a bad guy – but perhaps that’s only appropriate in the nasty business of espionage.
As previously mentioned, Cruise plays his usual, intensity filled character, but shows some flashes of levity and willingness to poke fun at himself. Simon Pegg provides comic relief as only he can, but also gets several moments to flex his impressive dramatic chops (see ‘The World’s End’ for further evidence). Rebecca Ferguson, who plays a femme fatale of sorts, is both enigmatic and compelling in a difficult role, and shows off her impressive fighting ability to great effect on several occasions. Finally, Sean Harris makes for a supremely creepy villain, though his motives remain undercooked.
Director of photography Robert Elswit, returning after lensing Cruise climbing all over the world’s tallest building in the previous film, brings a very purposeful and understandable eye to the action. He shoots the exotic locales – Casablanca, Vienna, London, Havana – with gusto, and his use of long shots can share in the praise for creating maximum suspense. Composer Joe Kraemer also delivers fine work, respecting Lalo Schifrin’s classic theme from the original television show, but also adding his own flair.
Cruise, also a producer on the film, has his fingerprints all over the movie – it is pure entertainment, filled with popcorn thrills and death-defying acts which most actors simply wouldn’t even consider. If you enjoyed the previous film, subtitled ‘Ghost Protocol’, then this will happily satisfy your criteria for enjoyment. Mission completed.
Callum Ryan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out July 30.