Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity
Running Time: 131 min.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Simon McBurney
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie

Review published July 31, 2015

The seemingly ageless Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow, Oblivion) continues to escalate to even higher levels of high-octane action thrills with the fifth entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Rogue Nation, and does it with success. Despite being 53 years old, he continues to push himself to the physical limit in his films, including a death-defying stunt to open the film in which he attaches himself to an airplane as it takes off into the air from the runway. The stunt looks amazing, far better than a pure CGI simulation could ever do, and it kicks off the excitement factor for just about every action sequence that follows, as we're never quite sure what's real, what's tinkered with, and whether Cruise and company put their bodies on the line to secure the best possible shot.

In this film, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has to go it on his own as the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), for all intents and purposes, is shut down by the CIA head Alan Hunley (Baldwin, Aloha) for a lack of results on their latest mission, plus mishaps such as the Kremlin getting destroyed from their previous mission (as chronicled in the fourth M:I flick, Ghost Protocol).  Hunt really wants to take down shadowy international terrorism syndicate leader Solomon Lane (Harris, Serena), who has been orchestrating a series of seemingly unrelated catastrophes for a higher purposes we don't come to fully find out until later in the plot.  For reasons he can't make out, Lane has an operative in his employ, Ilsa Faust ((Ferguson, Hercules), who is as deadly as she is alluring, and she is helping Ethan Hunt while also committing some heinous acts -- a potential double agent in their midst. 

This series started off with three films in which the individual directors left their own imprint, almost wholly separate from each other, with Brian De Palma offering his take with Mission: Impossible, then John Woo making it a typical John Woo flick for Mission Impossible 2, and finally JJ Abrams offering his signature services to punch up Mission Impossible III. However, these last two films, Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol and Christopher McQuarrie's Rogue Nation, seem to have solidified the series into its defined look and feel that one can see will likely hold for any entries to follow, independent of the director attached, much as the James Bond series has done for decades. McQuarrie has directed Cruise before to middling success with Jack Reacher, and helped pen the Cruise vehicles Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow, though most who recognize his name will know him as the Oscar-winning screenwriter for The Usual Suspects.

Rogue Nation continues to solidify the team aspect of Mission: Impossible to reflect the television show, bringing back loyal Ving Rhames (Piranha 3DD), comical Simon Pegg (The Boxtrolls), and conflict-resolver Jeremy Renner (Avengers: Age of Ultron), while introducing a couple of new ones who could potentially be in the mix for future entries.  One of them, Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Ilsa Faust, is a real find for the series, as the actress has a perfect blend of being attractive enough to make for a good match, potentially for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, but also matches him very well in terms of her physicality, as she looks like she could pack a solid punch, and with a good deal of intelligence with an enigmatic character.  Few, if any, will be going to see Rogue Nation to see Rebecca Ferguson, but few, if any, will walk out of the theater not hoping they can see more of her in the future.  That Cruise and Ferguson generate good screen chemistry is also a major asset, as on-screen sparks has been something that has eluded Cruise more often than not in his film career.

There's a decidedly Hitchcock-meets-film noir vibe to Rogue Nation that serves it well in terms of bringing not only a good deal of homage for film fans, but also a bit of class.  The name Ilsa will conjure up memories of Casablanca in the minds of those who love it, but given that part of the movie is actually set in Casablanca, Morocco, there's no doubt this is the vibe McQuarrie is striving for.  The 'sniper in the opera house' moment is a call back to Hitchcock's 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, also set in Morocco, coincidentally, right down to timing the actual shot for a specific moment in the orchestral composition to mask the sound.

As good as the cast is here, what you'll likely come away remembering most about Rogue Nation are the action set pieces, including the intro where Tom Cruise is really attached to a cargo plane while it takes off, the assassination attempt in the Vienna Opera in which it isn't clear who is good and who is bad (a theme of the movie), and an exciting motorcycle chase in Morocco that gives anything in the Fast & Furious franchise a run for its money.  Cruise's faith in McQuarrie over the years proves to have merit, as he has delivered an exciting, funny, smart, and thrilling entry in the admittedly derivative series. 

The movie is occasionally silly in its delivery, which does tend to go against the grain of its seriousness at other times, and the movie does get a bit more creaky in execution as it plays (a scene where Hunt infiltrates a massive (and probably purposeless) underwater vault is too lengthy for its payoff, in addition to being the one sequence that truly looks fake at times), but that shouldn't take away from the sheer enjoyment factor of the film when it shifts into high gear for some truly death-defying action moments, many of which feature real, practical stunts.  It's a Hollywood product through and through, a tent-pole release to generate money for its star/producer as well as its studio, but also one of those spectacular commercial endeavors made by people that deeply care about customer satisfaction.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo