Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Review

This review was originally published in the Monroe News

Yet another summer sequel, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” marks terrific Tom’s fifth venture in the iconic series. Under director Christopher McQuarrie, this globe-trotting installment tosses the 53 year old Cruise into ever more breath-taking (literally) set pieces strung loosely together by a flimsy Sherlock-Moriarty styled back and forth.  

The film begins with Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, the now legendary operative of the Impossible Mission Force, tracking down the mysterious (and not so cleverly named) Syndicate, an international terrorist organization made up of ex-superspies promoting war a destruction on a global scale, as villainous organizations are wont to do. However, some - chiefly the CIA agent Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) - accuse Hunt of fabricating the organization’s existence to justify his thrill-seeking hero complex. Citing the fallout from the film’s predecessor “Ghost Protocol,” Hunley succeeds in dismantling the IMF, forcing Hunt and friends to, once again, work as fugitives of their own government to dismantle yet another the global threat.

Several times the film dances around the idea of psychologically examining Hunt, a man who puts himself in ludicrous amount of danger, gamboling not just with lives, but with the security of nations, and relying on luck to win the day. But the superspy refuses to yield in his belief that the Syndicate’s leader, Lane (the creepily subdued Sean Harris) isn’t manipulating events from behind the scenes.

But we never question the infallible Hunt, and in order to validate his many high-octane set pieces, the focus quickly transitions to a more external tension between Hunt and Lane. The former obsessively attributes the world’s tragedies to the criminal genius, and the latter tolerates his potentially useful foe in classic bad-guy fashion. The relationship becomes a “I knew you knew I knew that you knew” kind of back and forth.

It’s familiar, but that’s okay. Lane’s megalomania serves for more than a few dramatic, high-tension scenes, especially when including the film’s leading lass, the cleverly named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), whose loyalties - while confusing - are less of a mystery and, again, more of an impetus for dramatic action.

Indeed, a cerebral thriller is not the mission you will accept when you choose to see this blockbuster. The Mission Impossible franchise is all about the crazy action, and “Rogue Nation” delivers. From high speed motorcycle chases filmed in extremely tight shots to maximize the sense of speed to infiltrations of underwater safes, “Rouge Nation” succeeds in moving butts to the edges of their seats. However, it’s the more combat oriented scenes that really steal the show. McQuarrie found a perfect balance of acrobatic speed and strategy to make Hunt seem like the most formidable guy in a  fight without breaching into the unrealistic or relying on choppy editing, a feat most obvious during a great set piece backstage of an ongoing opera.

But Hunt isn’t alone in stealing the show. Ilsa comes in at a close second, flipping around enemies like Marvel’s Scarlet Witch, though without unnecessary displays of cleavage. Appreciably, the film treats Ilsa less like a spy in a man’s world and more like a spy in a spy world. Of course she would slip off her heels when planning to get in a fight.

Beyond Ilsa and Simon Pegg’s Benji, who spends his time in equal parts on a laptop and providing a sarcastic vent amidst the crazy action, the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t get much to do until the film’s third act. Jeremy Renner plays a witty yet conflicted foil to Hunt’s obsession, and Baldwin is a serviceable CIA jerk, but it’s Pegg, with his name brand subtlety and timing, who grounds the film for the non superspy audience members.

Will you leave the theater ruminating upon the nature of men in power and those who devote themselves to stopping them? No - wait for the next Bond film for that (hopefully). Will you run out of the theater and try to slide over the hood of your car while audibly humming the classic Mission Impossible tune? I sure did. While not the smartest in the franchise, “Rogue Nation” provides a more than serviceable action blockbuster experience.

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