MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ Has Thrills, Laughs, Cruise

Mission-Impossible

Film: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

As you may have seen in the trailers, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation sports the most dangerous stunt yet: Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a cargo plane as it takes off. No matter how silly that sounds, the new entry into the espionage franchise steeps these death-defying acts in an admirable amount of reality. Rogue Nation is the thrilling cross-section between screwball comedy and cloak-and-dagger noir; all adding up to the most fun you will have this summer in a theater. You know, behind Mad Max: Fury Road, of course.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), seeming a tad aged and more fragile, is on the run after the new director of the CIA, Hunley (Alec Baldwin), shuts down the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) and deems Hunt a rogue agent. Hunt will stop at nothing to dismantle an incognito crime force filled with ex-spies, dubbed “The Syndicate.” Although Hunley is chasing him down, Hunt drags in his old pals Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) for some much-needed assistance. There’s also Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), the flirtatious British spy who can maybe be trusted? Or not? You’ll see.

Tom Cruise is one of the last actual movie stars alive. The kind that lifts even the worst movies to watchable levels because of his/her commitment to livening up the material. Rogue Nation makes a statement about his age and legend status early on in the movie. A secretary meant to give Hunt a recording from IMF headquarters utters “are the legends true about you?” Cruise only beams that million-dollar smile. Baldwin’s Hunley even warns the Prime Minister of Britain that Hunt is the “living manifestation of destiny.” Sure, these lines mine for laughs but there’s a deeper truth here that director/writer Chris McQuarrie is building upon: Cruise, despite his age, defies the lofty praise that most people give him. He is that legend.

McQuarrie, whose unfairly maligned neo-noir Jack Reacher deserved much more praise than it got, is clearly having fun directing the material. When Cruise’s Hunt isn’t risking himself to grab physical MacGuffins to further the plot, McQuarrie is showing off his noir fetishism. That means canted angles, villains in trench coats and characters’ respective profiles drenched in shadows. When the plot is at its most convoluted, he swiftly moves into another action set piece to keep the thrills at breakneck speed. There’s a certain scene at an opera house in the film that may become the most memorable of the franchise, fantastically building up tension and then pulling out the rug when you’re brain can’t handle any more waiting. Even in a car chase, McQuarrie keeps inserting awe-striking moments to deter from the norm. The Mission: Impossible franchise is auteur-driven and Rogue Nation may be the slickest one of them all.

This is where I gush over Rogue Nation’s noir and old-timey musical sensibilities. To correctly describe the sexual tension between Cruise and Ferguson, one will need to look back at Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The way Cruise and Ferguson dispatch baddies clearly stronger than them is balletic, shooting people the way Astaire and Rogers danced: cheek-to-cheek. The big baddie played by Sean Harris is almost like Peter Lorre without the bulging eyes but still with the stoically crazed stare and gravely voice. When Hunt is bleeding out and Harris’ baddie is slowly walking towards him, the canted angles arrive and the callbacks to Hitchcock and Carol Reed come to complete fruition.

That isn’t to say that things are always that foreboding and bathed in dark colors, Rogue Nation undercuts whatever references listed above with screwball humor. Jokes are made about Hunt’s height and physical prowess, people randomly fall down and the whole team acts utterly astonished at Ilsa’s fighting abilities. There’s even one long running gag that centers on chipping away at Alec Baldwin’s real-life immense vanity; his smoldering pursed-lips façade crumbling at the foot of Hunt stumbling into success to prove him wrong. Pegg, the comedic centerpiece since Mission: Impossible 3 comes back to crack jokes at Hunt almost dying too many times and to yell loudly when things are at their most ridiculous.

So there it is, Rogue Nation is a petri dish of blockbuster action strengthened by McQuarrie’s physically comedic and noir sensibilities. This coming Friday, go see it on the biggest screen possible. Also, Rebecca Ferguson is about to become a household name. Wait and see.

GRADE: A-

Review written by: Sam Cohen (Follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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  • Thomas Watson

    I enjoyed this movie tremendously. It has non-stop fun and some white-knuckle action scenes that are visceral, yet staged brilliantly.