Alibi V.24 No.32 • Aug 6-12, 2015 

Film Review

Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation

Cruise and Co. do the impossible: make the stiff spy series silly fun again

Not a shot from the movie, but an image of Tom Cruise dealing with paparazzi
Not a shot from the movie, but an image of Tom Cruise dealing with paparazzi

Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation (2015)

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg

For the last 20 years, Paramount Pictures has thrown a tremendous amount of money and a wealth of talent in writing (David Koepp, Robert Towne, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci), directing (Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird) and acting (Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Jean Reno, Kristin Scott Thomas, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Monaghan, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Billy Crudup, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne, Paula Patton) at its Mission: Impossible franchise. Though financially successful, the films have always been less than the sum of their parts. Thinking back on four blockbuster films, it’s easy to remember a handful of jaw-dropping stunt sequences, but nearly impossible to recall the actual stories, characters and villainous schemes that surrounded them.

With its fifth outing, Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, the series attempts another jump-start and emerges with one of its most effortlessly entertaining entries. Tom Cruise pal Christopher McQuarrie (who worked with the actor on Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher and Valkyrie) wisely boils the formula down to its basics. Gone are the overly baroque plots and crowded cast lists of the previous entries. McQuarrie doesn’t try anything fancy here, giving audiences exactly what they’re expecting out of a Mission: Impossible movie.

As we start Impossible Mission Force honcho William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) has been hauled in front of Congress alongside CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). The CIA wants the unpredictable, rule-breaking IMF defunded and disbanded. Cliché as it is, Hunley gets his way, and IMF is shut down for what must be the umpteenth time. Unfortunately, that leaves superspy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to drift in the wind—just when he was about to close in on the slippery international mastermind (Sean Harris from Prometheus) who has been assembling a secret army of allegedly dead secret agents from around the world. But a little thing like having to turn in his badge and gun isn’t gonna stop an unpredictable, rule-breaking rogue like Ethan Hunt.

With his resources cut off, our man Hunt goes into full James Bond mode, hopping around the globe to assemble the pieces of the puzzle and find out what the big bad guy’s scheme really is. Mostly this consists of “go to (place) and get (thing),” but it’s delivered with enough forward momentum that most viewers won’t mind the Mad Libs-style story line. Along the way, Hunt crosses paths with a hyper-competent spy named Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson from the recent Dwayne Johnson Hercules flick), who’s either trying to help him or kill him. Simple as the story is, there are enough double and triple (and possibly quadruple) crosses to keep the audience on their toes. And of course, the occasional exposition is spiced up with an almost nonstop array of action/chase scenes.

McQuarrie’s script embraces all the high-tech gadgetry and identity-switching hokum that has made Mission: Impossible famous. At times it’s pure silliness, but the film knows it and goes with it. Harris is appropriately evil. Ferguson adds some zest to the proceedings. And Cruise? Well, his Ethan Hunt has never been anything other than Tom Cruise with a gun. But he’s got an ace in the hole this time around. That’s Pegg, who spends most of the film doing the buddy comedy thing with Cruise. He makes for the perfect foil—loosening Cruise up and taming the superstar’s often too-self-serving screen persona.

Let’s face facts: These films are never going to be award-winners. They’re popcorn movies, pure and simple. By accepting that fact and casually—almost nonchalantly—rushing ahead with the gunplay, car chases, parachute jumps, motorcycle crashes, rooftop chases, twists and turns we crave, Cruise, McQuarrie and the rest of the Impossible gang have given us the sexy, energetic summer thriller we all know, love and deserve.