Tom Cruise is back as gifted IMF agent Ethan Hunt in the fifth film of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Rogue Nation. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, director of Jack Reacher), it is evident during the soaring prologue that this instalment is in professional hands. While the unnaturally complex narrative does take some absurd turns, the modestly stylish action sequences are brilliantly executed and the whole experience is a great deal of fun. Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames reprise their roles from previous installments, and are joined by Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris. While Ghost Protocol’s threadbare plot moved fast and mostly serviced the amazing action set pieces, Rogue Nation has more espionage and deep-rooted political corruption. This is a much heftier film than its equally incredible predecessor, and I admire the fact that the franchise has continued to evolve and not just re-create the same formula on a larger scale.
With the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) denounced by the CIA chief Alan Hunley (Baldwin), as a result of the force’s reckless behaviour and alleged cause for the Kremlin attack a year earlier, an off-the-grid Hunt becomes a target. He has been investigating a rogue multinational group of ex-operatives known as The Syndicate, led by Solomon Lane (Harris), who are responsible for an escalating series of terrorist attacks. In order to stop them Hunt assembles his team, including Benji (Pegg), Brandt (Renner) and Luther (Rhames), and joins forces with a mysterious disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Ferguson), whose skills are outstanding but motives are unclear.
This is a pretty big gig for Christopher McQuarrie, who only has a pair of films under his belt as director. His excellent direction of the action, and the way he manages to reign in the rather elaborate script into a cohesive and satisfying resolution, are what ultimately made this film a real standout for me. Cruise’s underwater plunge into the depths of a Moroccan power station during the ‘impossible’ mission is heart-palpitating stuff, there is a spectacular high-speed bike pursuit, and the numerous sequences of hand-to-hand combat (mostly involving Ilsa) are so well shot and choreographed. But, I left the cinema keep thinking about opera, and how phenomenally tense, unpredictable and well-constructed that covert reconnaissance/rescue sequence was.
Cruise’s troublesome personal life is going to shadow him for the remainder of his career, and there are people out there who flat out refuse to see his films. More fool them. Cruise hasn’t put a foot wrong recently – see Jack Reacher, Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow if you don’t believe me – and is synonymous with this franchise. You will leave Rogue Nation with great admiration for the man’s efforts. Being able to clearly associate Cruise with the peril of his character makes such a huge difference.
While Cruise is the unequivocal heart and soul, the support cast is, as expected, fun. Pegg has been such a winning addition since MI: III, a playful companion to Cruise’s seriousness. Harris, a typecast villain, is perhaps the weakest new addition, but as an opponent he is formidable. Baldwin, who seems to be forever in the same role, is also given the freedom to have some fun with that character. If I have one criticism with the film it is that Renner and Rhames aren’t given a lot to do. It is the astonishing Ferguson, confident and capable of going to distance with action legend Cruise, who excitingly leaves the biggest impression.
The star of acclaimed series The White Queen is not only gorgeous, but handles herself as well as any female action star in recent years. Right there alongside Theron’s Furiosa in Fury Road. If anyone deserves their own spin-off it is Ilsa Faust. At the same time, I hope that doesn’t happen because the chances of that film being this good is very unlikely. Less a Bond-girl and more of a kick-ass femme fatale, she performs her own stunts alongside Cruise and is always captivating.
Ghost Protocol DP Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice, Nightcrawler), one of the world’s master cinematographers, returns and McQuarrie has brought in composer Joe Kraemer – who worked with him on his directorial debut The Way of the Gun as well as Jack Reacher – to provide the score. McQuarrie clearly has a well-oiled machine and this has translated into a quality film. Pretty rare you see an action film this thoughtfully executed.
A credit for Cruise as the biggest action hero of all time is no longer up for debate. From circumnavigating the world’s tallest building to hanging onto the side of an airplane as it takes off by his fingernails, he takes his work very seriously. There’s no one else I would take this journey with. While the Dubai sequences in Ghost Protocol remain the franchise’s action pinnacle, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s villain in MI:III remains unmatched, just about everything in Rogue Nation is amongst the very best offered by this seemingly-immortal franchise.
By Andrew Buckle
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie (Screenplay)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames
Runtime: 131 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 30, 2015