"Finnish expat columnist and critic. Lover of all things geek. Living in Houston with his wife and three dangerously smart cats."
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Kicks All Kinds of Ass, Delivers Big Time
Tom Cruise is 53 years old this year. Let that sink in.
In the first five minutes of this latest Mission Impossible iteration, he hangs on the outside of a airbus A400 military aircraft as it takes to the skies. Cruise did the stunt himself, with no CGI involved. During the shooting of a scene that takes place later in the film, the actor reportedly held his breath for six minutes to complete a no-cuts take underwater.
No matter what can be said about the man in his private life, Cruise has never been one to phone in a performance. Combine that with a snappy, witty screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, who is also directing, and it’s no wonder that Rogue Nation easily leaps to the top of the pile of best Mission Impossible films to date.
Cruise is back again as Ethan Hunt, as are Jeremy Renner as Brandt, Simon Pegg as Benji, and the ever reliable Ving Rhames as Luther. Jessica Ferguson joins the team as newcomer Ilsa Faust, kicking all kinds of ass in the part. Alec Baldwin has a bit part as the head of the CIA, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see him more – he and Renner have great chemistry together, and their bickering adds a bunch of charm to the film.
The plot revolves around Hunt tracking down The Syndicate, the Mission Impossible version of James Bond’s Spectre. But when the Impossible Mission Force is shut down by Baldwin, and the Syndicate has seemingly the upper hand, Hunt must go rogue in order to stop them for good.
It’s all very silly, and much of it is in service to the beautiful locales and amazing stunts, and that’s all fine. Rogue Nation is delivered with such fine craftsmanship that it could have been about Hunt looking for a new apartment, and it still would have been exciting.
Director McQuarrie has a fantastic visual style, where his action is always clearly shot, allowing for the viewer to actually make out what’s going on screen. No shaky-cam to be found here. There is an amazing scene which takes place in the opera house of Vienna that would have Hitchcock cheering. It’s a sublime build up of tension, raising its stakes higher and higher with each passing minute before a wholly satisfying conclusion.
It’s also cool to see Simon Pegg be elevated from the comedic sidekick to an integral part of the team. Years ago the concept of seeing anything remotely like a buddy spy film starring Pegg and Cruise would have seemed like lunacy, but the duo are a surprisingly good fit.
Cruise, for one, doesn’t take himself too seriously, which adds to his charm as an action hero. He’s not afraid to let Hunt be whacked around like a living teflon doll, or let the joke be on him for a change. But at the same time, when he swings, dangles, jumps, runs, chases and falls through the multiple set pieces the film throws at him, you don’t doubt for a second that it’s him doing all of it. As with his previous film with McQuarrie, Jack Reacher, and last summer’s amazing Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise continues reminding audiences just how good of a leading man he actually is.
While it could be argued that Rogue Nation doesn’t add much new to the series — and it’s a fair argument — the big picture is so well put together that it really doesn’t matter. Sure, the main villain is probably the dullest since the second Mission; there never really is much of a threat that this would actually be the “final” outing for anyone, and the plot is a little too convenient by the end. But all that aside, watching the film is still such a thrill, especially when the team finally gets to work together, that these become minor issues – unworthy of larger scrutiny.
Rogue Nation is the kind of ideal entertainment that deserves a big screen with a great sound system. It’s entirely devoted to exciting and thrilling the audience, and does so without equal.