There are a lot of parallels between the Mission Impossible and Fast and Furious franchises. Both started quite small-scale, based around a specific idea, and as they’ve gone on they have got bigger and sillier and seemed to settle into what they want to be. They’ve also at this point, both peaked with their fifth film.
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation will feel very familiar to fans of the series. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is now chasing down the shadowy Syndicate, an anti IMF who he has linked to a series of events across the globe. Unfortunately, the events of Ghost Protocol have led to the IMF being shut down and absorbed by the CIA, who are now hunting Hunt after his refusal to give up his mission. Cut off from help, he is on his own, at least until he pulls his old friend Benji (Simon Pegg) into the mix, who is quickly followed by the whole gang.
Rogue Nation is ridiculous. It’s so over the top that to take it seriously would be silly. However, it’s all the right kind of ridiculous. From the opening scene, which sees Tom Cruise hanging off a plane as it takes off (something the mad man actually did), right through to the end, it is big and brash and oh so much fun. Cruise is so comfortable in Hunt’s skin that they almost feel like the same person. He’s the IMF agent/actor who has passed over into legend and by this point he is more myth than man. Cruise is also a wonderful physical performer, smoothly flowing through action scenes. Most importantly though, he also adds a lot of humour to the role. He knows when his tongue is supposed to be in his cheek and the tone is spot on more often than not.
His adversary/ally for most of the film is Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, which surely must go down as one of the worst character names of the year. She matches Cruise in nearly every scene and easily keeps up her end of the badass scale. If nothing else, it is nice to have a male and female lead in a big action movie that don’t feel the need to cop off with each other at every opportunity. Which would be hard to do, because if there’s any romantic leads in this film its Cruise and Pegg. Pegg has grown into the Mission: Impossible franchise, and you now can’t imagine these films without him. Benji is the square peg in the round hole of IMF operations and is a much easier character for us mere mortals to identify with than Cruise’s Hunt. Benji and Hunt may well be this years best screen couple, a relationship that is summed up in a scene when Hunt tries to send Benji home and he stubbornly refuses. There’s a natural on-screen chemistry between the two, which makes them great fun to watch.
In the supporting roles, Alec Baldwin is wonderfully Alec Baldwin as CIA head honcho, Alan Hunley. It’s a role he’s played before and he’ll play it again because he’s damned good at it. While Jeremy Renner continues a very successful year of taking one note characters and making them mean something. Sadly big bad, Solomon Lane, continues the recent trend of big movies having weak villains. He’s very one-dimensional and you never really feel like you understand his motivations. Sean Harris does his best in the role, but is let down by the script.
Of course a Mission: Impossible film lives and dies on its set pieces and this one knocks it out the park. Director Christopher McQuarrie seems to have got this franchise. The highlight is the absolutely wonderfully constructed action scene set at the Vienna Opera House. Taking place while an opera goes on in the background, it’s much smaller scale than Cruise hanging off airplanes or things that happen later in the film, but it’s so wonderfully put together and atmospheric that it catches you up with it and becomes a genuine moment of tension in the film. You’re not quite sure how it’s going to end and the fact that even for a second you might believe Hunt is not going to achieve his goal, is a big feather in the director’s hat
In a year jam-packed with summer blockbusters, Rogue Nation is battling up at the top. While it never quite reaches the heady heights of Mad Max (but let’s be honest, what does?) it more than holds its own against other competitors and may well have got that second place spot all tied up. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation seems to be this franchise truly finding itself and I’m more than happy for them to keep doing this if it’s what we can expect in the future.