Review by Erick Barrientos
Trailer and all images courtesy of www.missionimpossible.com and Paramount Pictures
Since we first met Ethan Hunt in 1996’s Mission: Impossible, a cinematic reboot of Bruce Geller’s 1966 cloak-and-dagger televions series of the same name, it seems like the M:I films have been around forever, with a new one popping up every few years. This isn’t really a bad thing, especially considering the last couple installments were very strong, with the last entry, the Brad Bird directed Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, being the best in the series so far.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation essentially picks up where Ghost Protocol left off, so to speak. At the end of Ghost Protocol, our buddy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) receive their next mission; to look into, and stop, an organization called The Syndicate. The Syndicate is essentially an organization hellbent on making changes in the world through extreme measures (i.e. they’re terrorists, but don’t consider themselves to be). This doesn’t bode well for the IMF, whose job is basically the opposite of that and keep relative peace in the world. That’s when Hunt goes to receive his next mission and deals with The Syndicate first hand.
Meanwhile, it just seems like the IMF can’t catch a break because to make matters worse, we have Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) going toe-to-toe with CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) in front of a committee deciding the fate of the IMF. Hunley says the CIA handles these kinds of operations now and the IMFs track record, while completely successful, seems more like a lucky streak and points to bad things happening while they’re around. In short, the IMF is officially disbanded and Ethan is stranded. Brandt and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are reassigned to the CIA, Ethan goes dark and the stateless IMF’s hunt (no pun intended) for The Syndicate begins! After a first-hand run-in with The Syndicate, Ethan meets Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a double agent with questionable loyalties, and things get interesting.
I feel like a disdain or some sort of hatred towards Tom Cruise has become a popular opinion, but fact of the matter is he’s a talented dude. Sure, he’s been in not-so-stellar movies here and there, but Ethan Hunt is one of his prime roles and he does extremely well in this role yet again. Let’s also address the fact that he does most of his own stunts and the shot of him hanging from the side of a plane as it takes off, which is in the trailer, is something that he actually did while filming. EIGHT TIMES. That’s insane and he deserves major props for that. Speaking of which, that scene is in the very beginning of a movie during a cold open which is probably the coolest cold opening to a film you’ll see this year.
Aside from Cruise, the acting was great in this film. Now, this might be my bias, but Simon Pegg definitely stole the show for me. He provided comedic relief without that being his sole purpose. He was an integral part of the team and the plot and, though he is the funniest guy on screen with the most jokes, that’s not all his character is. Sean Harris also does extremely well as the very sinister head of the Syndicate, Solomon Lane. It's one of those situations where you see the guy and the way he acts, and you just know he's not a good guy. And Harris does great.
Rebecca Ferguson’s character Ilsa is the kind of female character I like to see in a film. They never address the fact that she’s a female kicking ass because they don’t need to. There’s a scene where she comes out of a swimming pool in her bathing suit, but it’s not oversexualized. Hell, aside from some red-faced nervous looks on the faces of the male characters in the scene, it’s hardly even addressed. AND she doesn’t come out of the pool just to be an attractive female coming out of a pool in a bikini; it serves a purpose in an extremely important scene shortly after. She does become a quasi-love interest for Ethan, but there is no palpable sexual tension looming over their scenes together and, though there are a couple moments that lean toward the romantic side, it does not end with them running off together and that was great. She’s a strong (literally, she’s ripped) female character who is never pandering to any group. She’s an important character that stands on her own and that’s what cinema needs more of.
On the visual side, this movie is full of super creative scenes shot in interesting locations with fantastic cinematography. The one’s that really stood out for me were an extended sequence in an opera house as well as an anxiety-inducing underwater sequence that I don’t want to spoil. You will not be disappointed by the action in this film, especially if that’s the reason you’re going to watch this film. The movie picks up basically as soon as it starts and you’re rewarded just for sitting in your seat and watching. However, if you’re looking for some more substance, the twists and turns in the script are well thought out and, honestly, Christopher McQuarrie’s script and direction combined with the great cast is what really elevates this movie.
There are a few moments that felt odd. About halfway through the film, Ethan needs to be resuscitated via a defibrillator that seemed to leave him with temporary brain damage, because he is dazed for the next 20 or so minutes of the film before he finally “comes too”. It felt out of character for Ethan and was not addressed past Benji asking him if he was alright.
There are some unrealistic moments, like when the Brandt has Luther searching for Ethan on a computer in CIA Headquarters with Director Hunley easily able to see Luther on the computer. Luther was part of the IMF, now retired, it’s hard to believe he’d just be on a computer where sensitive CIA materials are probably accessible without anybody to check that.
That being said, the CIA is also looking for Ethan right from the beginning. And we’re talking a CIA in 2015, with access to drones, city CCTV, satellites, whatever. You name it, they probably have it. They even address this, but they can’t find him. It almost seems like they gave up on actively looking for him and decided that he’d eventually contact Benji or Brandt and give himself away. In Ghost Protocol, the Russian SVR agent after Ethan has no problem tracking and following him to Dubai, even taking him into custody for a brief moment, but the CIA can’t even spot him once? It’s just frustrating and hard to believe.
I loved Brad Bird’s directorial work on Ghost Protocol. It was easily the best entry in the series. But Christopher McQuarrie, who most recently directed Cruise in Jack Reacher, really comes into his own with this film. He not only directed, but wrote the screenplay, and he seems to show an obvious passion for this franchise with Rogue Nation. It’s not a perfect film, but it has edged out Ghost Protocol as the best entry in the series.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out and watch this great film. Good luck.