The Action and the Villain Highlights “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015)


8/10

MV5BMTQ1NDI2MzU2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTExNTU5NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_The Mission: Impossible series is a maddeningly inconsistent franchise.  It started off with “Mission: Impossible” (1996), which was well-made but had an ending which infuriated the fans of the original TV series.  The franchise sank to its lowest in John Woo’s “Mission: Impossible II” (2000), which forgot what Mission: Impossible was all about, then reached its apex with J.J. Abrams’s “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), which recalled what it had forgotten.  A haphazard “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011) followed, so history suggested that the fifth movie in the franchise, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015), would be an improvement.

It’s a little perplexing why the franchise has been so inconsistent. After all, Tom Cruise has produced and starred in every movie, and the formula for success is relatively simple.  First, write a story involving a mission with the Impossible Mission Force led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) that requires some intelligent planning and a lot of luck to pull off.  Then follow IMF as it executes the mission as a team, hopping from one scenic location to the next with several preposterous action scenes thrown in along the way.

“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” has all of these elements, particularly the last.  The film begins with Ethan Hunt hanging from a plane in mid-air as he tries to steal nerve gas from terrorists in the plane.  Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the film, has been relentless in advertising this sequence to the point of over-exposure, although it’s hard to blame Paramount for wanting to show off scene in the trailers and the posters.  It’s breathtakingly realistic.

This is just one of the many sequences that rank as the most memorable in the franchise.  The action shots were undoubtedly aided by Tom Cruise doing his own stunts 5,000 feet in the air at 500 miles per hour, deep underwater for over three minutes and  on a motorcycle on land at a hundred miles per hour.  But credit is also due to relatively unknown director Christopher McQuarrie, along with cinematographer Robert Elswit.  They were able to bring a new level of intensity to scenes like the otherwise clichéd motorcycle chase sequence by filming really up-close and with the camera facing both the front and the back of Cruise on the motorcycle.

“Mission: Impossible” has been the best when it has a villain who has the wits to match Hunt’s, and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” has it in the Syndicate, a secretive organization which comprises highly-trained spies that has managed to infiltrate the IMF by imitating its methods.  The name of the organization will be familiar to the fans of the 60’s TV show, and the filmmakers have done justice to the classic villainous organization by infusing some sophistication into the man leading it, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

Hunt wants to chase down the Syndicate, but Hunt for the most part is being pushed around by Lane who gains leverage over Hunt to force him to carry out numerous impossible missions.  Helping Hunt along the way are IMF members Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames).  They are all returning from the last movie, but like with the rest of the movie, they are sharper this time around.  Stickell, who has appeared in every film in the series since the first, gets more screen time, while Dunn has become a more convincing field agent as his comedic relief, mercilessly, has been toned down.  Brand plays his most important role away from the field and in Washington, where he seems to belong, trying to fend off CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) from shutting down the IMF.  Hunley doesn’t believe that the Syndicate exists and is determined to capture Hunt, who has gone rogue to try to bring down the Syndicate on his own.

With a smart villain and great cinematography the film has a lot going for it, but it isn’t without its share of weaknesses.  This is the third straight film in which there has been a field against the head office storyline, and it’s starting to get old.  Nor was Rebecca Ferguson as the undercover British agent Ilsa Faust a strong link in a film with strong performances.  Ferguson gets lost amidst Cruse’s star power and Harris’ quiet presence.  She also wasn’t helped by the screenplay that made half-hearted efforts to add some intrigue into the plot by creating ambiguity about whose side she was really on.

Still, if the fault of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” is trying to fit in too much and falling a bit short, the series has done far worse.  One can only hope that the franchise achieves this kind of success in the even-numbered films.

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2 Responses to “The Action and the Villain Highlights “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015)”


  1. 1 Caitlin Lynch October 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Tom Cruise is a national treasure. I didn’t like him back when he was still pretending to be sane, but man, no one brings the batshit intensity like he does. I love him. He’s starting to show his age a little, but his 53 is still better than most people’s 43. I hope he keeps making action movies forever.

    I also loved Rebecca Ferguson. I hadn’t seen her in anything before, but I thought she had a quiet depth that complemented TC’s mania well. I believe she did her own stunts too.

    • 2 joesas October 12, 2015 at 3:36 am

      Caitlin,

      Thanks for reading!

      Cruse is a nutjob for sure, but he can put on some exciting action sequences! Hard to believe that he’s 53. He can still keep on making these high intensity action films.

      Rebecca Ferguson, though, underwhelmed me…


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