“I didn’t need help”
Mission: Impossible is a franchise I’ve never warmed to. The first film was a dull affair. The second one was a sub-par John Woo film. The third one tried very hard to impress, but failed. The first three caused me to disregard the fourth one, but with the release of Rogue Nation, I thought I’d give the franchise another shot. I didn’t regret it, either! What I was served was typical but perfectly adequate popcorn fare that peaked too soon to leave us with an underwhelming ending. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which negates the various plot conveniences and absurdities. I’ll only remember the action sequences, and only a little of the plot. But for sheer entertainment, the first two-thirds of Rogue Nation is a hit!
Rogue Nation finds the IMF being disbanded after the efforts of CIA Director Hunley (played with aplomb by Alec Baldwin). Ethan Hunt has been investigating the ‘Syndicate,’ a rather uninspired name for an ‘anti-IMF,’ who are using assassinations etc to change the world, rather than keep it the way it is. When I first heard them use the term ‘Syndicate,’ I wondered if we would get an IMF/The X Files crossover. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be…But I digress. Although the IMF is disbanded, Hunt eventually reunites with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Stickell along the way to hunt down the leader of the Syndicate, Solomon Lane. Hunt is aided by a member of the Syndicate, Isla Faust, who is undercover in the anti-IMF…but who is she working for?
“You want drama…go to the opera”
Of course, Faust is the only female of note in the entire film (apart from the extras, I’m sure she’s the only female in the entire film!). She is the typical lady spy character: a sort of love interest for Hunt, and a Black Widow-esque ass kicker. Early on in the film, she easily takes out a few Syndicate henchmen (although Hunt has to come to the rescue). However, she’s nuanced enough and played very well by Rebecca Ferguson to rise above the cliché and make her presence felt in a film full of big names and brilliant performances. All the actors are obviously having fun during the film, and their enjoyment increases the audience’s enjoyment as well. They know that the film is a big action blockbuster, and nothing more. They treat it as such, not taking everything too seriously.
It’s a good job, too. The plot does keep you guessing, especially about Faust’s ulterior motives. There are plenty of shocks and twists that raise the stakes in the surprise department. However, it’s the usual spy thriller tale of undercover agents and betrayals interspersed with high-impact action scenes. It reminded me of the various plots and twists of 24. It’s a ridiculous chess game that falls apart if you think about it too hard. Both Hunt and Lane think out plots to an unbelievable degree. Like the machinations of the Joker in The Dark Knight, or Jigsaw’s seven film ‘plan,’ there are too many variables that aren’t accounted for and could push things off track. The over-explanation of the plot also causes the film to drag at certain points. On the occasional scene, I did feel the length of the film, which isn’t a good sign.
“Destroy the system that created them”
Fortunately, the film kicks off with a great action scene involving Hunt clinging onto a taking off aeroplane. It’s a thrilling and ingenious way to start the film. For the first two thirds of the film, the action scenes are the best I’ve seen this side of Mad Max: Fury Road. The peak action sequence is the extended car chase/motorbike chase in Casablanca. Brilliantly staged, choreographed and executed, it’s a visceral and realistic (well, apart from a recently resuscitated Hunt being able to drive a car…then an motorbike…then falling off said motorbike at 90 miles an hour without a scratch…) chase scene that blows you away. Unfortunately, after the great chase scene, things slow down and never really pick up. The final stretch is strangely muted, as if all of the cash was spent on the other action scenes. An action film is supposed to build up to a crescendo, not peak before the finale! The lack of menace from Lane, too, drags the film down. A former spy who’s gone rogue? Give me a break! A stale character that is given stale lines and little else.
But Rogue Nation was entertaining. The film looks gorgeous; every shot is filmed with an eye for beauty. It’s funny throughout, with Simon Pegg providing much of the humour. As I said before, Ferguson as Faust is the real stand out of the cast, but Tom Cruise is always a reliable lead. There are some hilarious and topical quips, such as the British Prime Minister telling the British spy Atlee to save his excuses “for the public inquiry.” That one in particular made me laugh. We Brits know that public inquiries never achieve anything or imprison anyone and are a waste of money! (I thought the reference to a flight going missing was a little too close to the bone, especially with the disappearance of Flight MH370 still a mystery). But for two hours of a twisting, turning, and mostly action packed spy film, you can’t go far wrong with Rogue Nation. I may even go back and watch all of the franchise again…even the one I missed out, Fourth Protocol!
VERDICT: 7/10. Perfect summer blockbuster fare. A plot that keeps you guessing and some brilliant action sequences are let down by a relatively quiet final act.