The first Mission Impossible movie was something rare – an intelligent blockbuster. The plot was dense and often, it was hard to follow who was double crossing whom. It eventually delivered a few iconic action scenes, turned Tom Cruise into a legitimate action hero and grafted a franchise worth billions. None of the sequels have been as lean and smart as the first directed by Brian de Palma and yet, they’re all entertaining as hell.
The latest installment, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation follows the formula to the hilt and while it isn’t a classic, it’s still very satisfying.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, it packages all the standard ingredients of a Mission Impossible movie into Rogue Nation.
1. Ethan Hunt (Cruise), on a mission that — gasp! — lands him in trouble.
2. A femme fatale, with a dubious motive.
3. A villain (Sean Harris) whose identity is unknown, but whose nefarious aims of global domination are obvious.
4. A snafu that compromises the entire Impossible Mission Force (IMF) and forces Hunt and his team to hide in the shadows and find whoever is responsible.
5. An enemy as well-trained as the IMF that wants to take out the IMF.
6. And Ving Rhames, in his trademark hat, who must clean up the mess and save Hunt.
McQuarrie is one of Cruise’s long time collaborators and an experienced Oscar-winning screenwriter who knows the Mission Impossible formula well enough to stick to the basics while adding details that mix things up. There’s no wasting time in Rogue Nation – Hunt’s mission goes haywire and the villain shows up very early on. Only this time, the bad guy is connected to the mysterious voice that generally asks Hunt if he wants to accept his mission.
Faust, the femme fatale, played by Rebecca Fergusson is without contest the most culturally significant female character in modern action cinema. Not only does Fergusson kick villainous butts in her action scenes, she does so with her acting too and successfully makes every other Bond girl and even Black Widow look artificial and wimpy. When a female character in a film is more interesting than Simon Pegg in a film, you know she’s something special.
The villain in Rogue Nation isn’t any old nemesis for Hunt. His supervillain activities are grounded in contemporary geopolitics and he’s always one step ahead of Hunt. It’s very satisfying to see Hunt going back to basics to snare the bad guy. And just when you think the origin of the The Syndicate is sounding filmy, McQuarrie springs a hilarious moment of subversion by bringing in a stoned British Prime Minister during the expository reveal.
Complementing the plot, the action does not disappoint – there’s a throwback to the motorbike sequence from MI:2, only McQuarrie shows you how director John Woo screwed that one up and how that stunt should be done. He manages an innate bond between Cruise and his bike at top speed – they just look awesome together.
Amazingly, the big action sequence is one you’ve already seen in the trailer. Not just that, it takes place in the opening scene instead of coming at the end of the film, as its climax. When the most anticipated scene happens at the very beginning, the film sets a bar for itself and happily, Rogue Nation meets it. Plus, if the plane stunt (executed by Cruise himself) doesn’t impress you, then the heart stopping underwater mission certainly will.
The final scene, on the other hand is rather unexpected because it is anti climactic. This may divide viewers, but there’s no denying how audacious it is of McQuarrie to develop a thematically-rich, subtle and elegant climax, rather than a nonsensical CGI orgy action set piece. McQuarrie demonstrates that character dynamics are sometimes more powerful than kung fu-karate-slow mo fights. Still, some might feel let down by the ‘lack of action’ at the end – after all they’re watching a Mission Impossible movie.
What everyone will agree on, however, is that the finale is way better than the cringe-inducing ‘Indian’ segment from the previous movie. If this is the direction that this franchise is taking, then it’s a good sign that there’s only a gap of two years until the next Mission Impossible.