‘I’ ON CULTURE
The Mission Impossible franchise is probably the most reliable in the film industry. All the films have been slick and filled with non-stop action. The latest, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, is one of the best of the series. This time around, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is older and wiser. But director Christopher McQuarrie focuses more on suspense and style rather than big-time action scenes to keep the story going, and it works very well.
The whole Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is officially disbanded because of the demands of CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) just at the moment Hunt is captured by the shadowy evil group, the Syndicate. As he is hung up in cuffs to be pummeled by one of the film’s more effective villains, Janik “Bone Doctor” Vinter (Jens Hultén), a huge, nasty man, he has no more backup. However, enigmatic agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), manages a rescue for him. That sends Cruise in a long chase to find her, as well as the leader of the Syndicate, the slimy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), with the assistance of his friends, particularly Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). What follows is a series of action sequences that keep moving so fast and well that any holes in logic are simply forgotten.
Action sequences are tight. The best is centered on the Vienna Opera, where during a performance of Turandot, the Syndicate plans to assassinate the Austrian chancellor, one in a long sequence of disasters and terror actions undertaken by the group, which works very hard to keep itself secret. Aside from a few rifles brought in as musical instrument parts to be assembled in place, everything is small-scale and, at several points, hand-to-hand. That is followed by an escape scene, and then one of the typical Mission Impossible set pieces involving Hunt having to break into a computer strongpoint so well protected that getting in is considered impossible. Several more action sequences follow, as well as one misdirection scene that fits beautifully into the old television series’ kind of action. Even better, there are enough occasional bits of humor to relieve tension before revving up for the next big sequence.
The film depends on style and good dialogue far more than similar offerings in the genre. Hunt is no longer a kid; even though he is clearly indestructible (during the film he hangs from a plane in the air, is shot at by machine guns at close range, is drowned, has two major vehicle crashes, and still keeps going), he does show wear and tear.
Cruise has used the franchise well. While other action stars have simply aged enough to become more or less irrelevant, he, at 53, seems young enough to do the action while able to portray a sense of wisdom, often not seen in other action heroes. Pegg is excellent; he not only manages to be funny but provides the “everyman” reaction to events. His character is almost as heroic as Hunt’s, even while complaining most of the time. His interrogation scenes by the CIA were marvelous. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames are pretty much wasted. Harris is good as the villainous Lane, more slimy than outwardly dangerous, although Hultén as the villainous bad guy provides a good balance. Baldwin is his usual blowhard self, but does provide a sort of good-guy villain as he sends the CIA people after Hunt. The most interesting performance is by Ferguson. Although there are no love scenes in the film, she has great chemistry with Cruise. Even better, she manages to not only confuse him, but the audience, as to where her true loyalty lies. She also manages some really good action scenes fighting bad guys, riding motorbikes and attempting assassinations.
There are holes in the plot, as in any film of this type. Could such a quietly effective terrorist group exist? Would an allied nation withhold information from its friends? Are top government officials all idiotic power seekers? Years ago, I would have totally scoffed. Now, well…
However, one thing is certain about the film. It is really well-done, easily the best action film of the summer. If you want non-stop action, or even if the weather is simply bad, this is a good movie to see.