We’ve been running along with the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) for nineteen years now, and we’re onto our fifth “impossible” mission. Surely, we can’t make these missions any more extreme by now? You would think. But Tom Cruise and his lust for doing as many outrageous stunts as he can sweeps this worry aside, as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation consistently delivers enjoyably ludicrous entertainment.
After the heavily publicised opening set piece of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) going for a ride on the outside of a plane, the IMF is deemed too hazardous for the good of the world following the events of Ghost Protocol (a nuke grazing a tower in Seattle and the Kremlin blowing up), and the CIA dissolves the organisation. Hunt goes into hiding and with the aid of Benji Dunne (Simon Pegg) tracking down the Syndicate, a tactical terror organisation consisting of agents who were MIA or presumed dead, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of friend and foe alike. A standard story arc with its share of convolutions – but nothing stretching too many clichés.
Looking back at Cruise’s filmography in recent years – Knight and Day, Jack Reacher, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow – it’s clear he’s making every effort not to have stains on his film career by keeping his roles as authentic as possible, during and between stunts, to maintain his action star illusion. He did all of the driving in Jack Reacher, and all of his running jumping and shooting stunts himself and maintains the stance that a green screen only be used when absolutely necessary. Rogue Nation works as the showcase for his efforts – the stunts are all well-handled and professionally executed, and a critic can bash the rest of the film all they like, but the action thrills are unquestionably solid.
Let’s not neglect the rest of the cast surrounding Cruise, who all do their jobs rather well. Pegg provides the sweetly flustered comic relief, constantly reminding Hunt of the barbaric and illegal nature of pretty much everything they’re doing, but still going along with it because he’s Cruise’s best bud (‘Oh that’s it? That doesn’t sound impossible’). Jeremy Renner is the team’s civilised side, and whilst his character doesn’t have the big newcomer revelation twist he previously had, he seamlessly integrates his presence within the team, primarily dealing with a grumpy CIA director (Alec Baldwin). What’s always been likable about the series is the strength of the female characters – and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Furst (a name that screams double agent) is no exception. Constantly switching sides and constantly kicking some serious bottom, her character arc plays a vital role in the story, and her physical durability constantly impresses.
The film is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who while being technically proficient, doesn’t bring a significant signature stamp to his work. Granted; some sequences he adds a crunching grit – highlights being Cruise and Pegg tearing round the streets of Morocco in a BMW and motorbikes being hurled into the dirt from twisting highways – but there is never a unique vision applied. Brad Bird, director of Ghost Protocol, essentially brought out his own toy box to play around with, lavishly painting up big set pieces with Bond-esque gadgets and slickly executing them. Whilst Bird’s direction was more fun, it’s never fair to be overly critical of less playfulness and more dirt in your action – McQuarrie’s grit remains solid.
Rogue Nation does its job of being your perfect two hours of popcorn action, despite sticking to formula – the plot is slightly convoluted, a standard session of people double crossing other people with a generic bad guy mastermind, a bunch of set pieces and a standard resolution. But within the formula, the characters are strong, the thrills keep coming, the laughs occur, and the smile remains on your face once the credits roll. Cruise has established himself as an action superstar, and his love for his own stunts will always be welcome.