DIR/WRI: Christopher McQuarrie • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Tom Cruise, David Ellison • DOP: Robert Elswit • ED: Eddie Hamilton • MUS: Joe Kraemer • DES: James D. Bissell • CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley
Christopher McQuarrie directs the latest Mission:Impossible installment, Rogue Nation. Despite boasting a number of films that sees it saunter dangerously into Police Academy territory, the M:I franchise has done the decidedly improbable and kept the quality at a genuinely high standard. The trick is continued here with a typically convoluted but altogether engaging plot, competent direction and a few well honed performances. Tom Cruise is in it also.
The Impossible Mission Force (referred to in the movie as the IMF, Greece should know), is being shut down by the CIA for acting the rogue on one too many occasions, making Ethan Hunt (Cruise) an international fugitive and sending him on the run. Meanwhile, a nefarious organisation, The Syndicate, is revealed to be the catalyst for the IMF’s dissolution, laying the groundwork for the mutual pursuit between Hunt and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), leader of the Syndicate and long term Hunt-agonist.
Despite the tired old cliche of this one being their ‘last mission’ (a sequel is well into production), McQuarrie manages to wrangle some genuine tension throughout in this installment. The prolonged set-pieces, or missions within the mission, are delivered with style and wit, though admittedly not as well as the last two movies. The first ‘nail-biter’ is set in the middle of the Vienna Opera – a slightly worn juxtaposition between peril and pantomime – but the skill to both introduce and involve key characters with such little dialogue without compromising the intensity cannot be overlooked. The second hour for the most part is breathtaking, an oxygen-sapping diving sequence is followed by an at times hilarious car chase – and that’s just the beginning.
Despite the slightly grating super-human competence embodied by Cruises character that verges on deux-et-machina levels on multiple occasions, if anything, the film is overly tight. The big bum-note is a curiously stodgy screenplay, penned by director McQuarrie, who is also credited with writing one of the finest thriller films ever made with The Usual Suspects. Like ever other movie in the M:I series, the story demands your unedified attention at every beat, and one can’t help but feel that some of the countless twists are frivolous considering the basic framework of the narrative.
The supporting performances are all good. Simon Pegg is given more responsibility than before in the franchise and carries it well. Jeremy Renner is as excellent as ever, and the obligatory femme fatale role is played with conflicted elegance by Rebecca Ferguson.
Though the convoluted plot is bundled into an over-wrought running length, the film stumbles but never falls. And despite Mr Cruise’s continued existence as a morally corrupt exploitative cult-monger, he gives his most famed role just the right amount of ham once again.
Paced well if prohibitively confusing for a general audience, Mission Impossible accomplishes its objectives for a fifth time. The achievement of this franchise’s longevity should not be underestimated, either. By keeping the films inextricably linked through its core cast (Cruise, Rhames), while preserving its currency with self-contained plots and a constantly changing vision through the varying styles of its directors, the M:I gravy train remains unfettered 20 years after first exploding inside a tunnel.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is released 31st July 2015