My mindset before the release of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was one of middling intrigue. At this point, the only Christopher McQuarrie film I saw was Jack Reacher (2012). A decent movie that didn’t exactly make me believe MI 5 could surpass what Ghost Protocol did before it when it was announce he would be director. Then came out another film once again uniting the duo of Cruise, and McQuarrie by the name of Edge of Tomorrow (2014) which despite some laps in logic did impressed me on many levels. However, when I finally saw Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation did it dawn on me that McQuarrie had a great understanding of the Mission: Impossible series than previous directors ever did before him. Feeling like he took the time to see each individual entry before crafting Rouge Nation. Christopher McQuarrie basically took defining aspects of previous movies putting his own flair to them; the at times high brow writing of the first movie, the romantic tension between Hunt, and love interest in the second, the strong chemistry between Ethan, and the film’s villain in the third, and finally the team banter, and comedy from Ghost Protocol. In Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie is able to expertly combine all these different traits into a high brow blockbuster film finally perfecting the series formula in such a spectacular manner.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation once again follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) on the run from the CIA, following the IMF’s disbandment as he tries to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a mysterious international terrorist group. Let’s get the obvious out of the way by addressing Ethan Hunt is once again disavowed from the IMF. However, this is actually used to the film’s story advantage in a clever way. Addressing the lack of consequences of the many destructive methods, and near misses to save the world the IMF had in this series. Witnessing the courtroom scene where CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) making a case to disband the IMF is one that finally demonstrates repercussion the series had been largely ignoring. This immediately put the movie on the right track forward because it’s not shoehorned, and the arguments for the IMF to be disband have reasonable ground to them recalling events from previous movies. Eliminating the notion that after every M:I film’s ending has Hunt, and his team walk off into the sunset after every mission. In turn giving the stakes of the film’s story greater gravity in a natural way without feeling the need to one up itself.
Another small detail that McQuarrie did is breaking the tradition of the usual mission briefing. Before Rogue Nation, the mission briefing simply serve as a way to deliver exposition about Hunt’s mission objective to the viewer. In this installment it’s no different, but executes in a manner where it expertly kicks off the rivalry between Ethan Hunt, and the film’s villain Lane (Sean Harris). Immediately showing Lane ability to think outside of the box to pull one over Ethan Hunt. Making a strong impression on long time fans being the first villain in the series to make his presence know directly to Ethan Hunt in a such big way. Getting into Ethan Hunt head in their first encounter, and showing the viewer that Lane might be a greater challenge than anything Ethan Hunt has faced before.
When it comes to everything else in the writing it does a excellent job making you question the loyalties of all party involve. Brandt (Jeremy Renner) for instance has ever increasing doubt about Hunt’s ability to make the right call anymore. Showing a nice progression of Brandt, and Hunt friendship being in murky water with their disagreements on how to approach the situation at hand. As the film progresses, it plays around with viewer expectations by throwing in a few twists that make the film’s story more complex. Never becoming convoluted, or to difficult to follow as it easily delivery information through a clear, and concise manner.
My favorite moment of high brow writing would easily be a sequence before the action climax starts. Ethan goes to a specific location to meet up with Lane, and attempt to save his friends in the process. The way the sequence plays out is a work of art. Expertly setting up mood that both sides simply hate each other. Making you question if there’s a way for Ethan Hunt to turn the tide in his favors during this sequence. The movie is filled with smart moments like these being more intelligent than your average movie, and respecting the viewer intelligence by not spelling out to the viewer its plot filled with some twists. While I’m at it, there’s only one usage of the face mask used in the entire movie. A refreshing change of pace making its only usage be a an actual surprise instead of something expected.
The best new addition to the film series is disavowed MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Easily being the best written female character the series had walking a fine between her vulnerable, and cold experienced agent side of her. Allowing another to display the effect of being an agent has on its operatives. Her characterization is handle well being able explore the obligations one has to their nation as a agent, and if it’s worth it. Being able to draw some parallels between her, and Ethan Hunt characters. Hinting at a possible flare of romance between the two which is done nicely without it taking over the story. In a very subtle way, Ilsa Faust character also has traits that remind Ethan Hunt of his wife from the third installment. Never making this aspect be brought to the forefront is a nice detail for long time fans of the films series to catch.
Returning once again to the series the team banter with one other. This time though, Luther (Ving Rhames) finally gets back into the series fitting nicely with Brandt, and Benji making for some hilarious interactions. Another nice callback from Ghost Protocol is Benji getting excited for having the chance to use a facemask. Surprisingly, the friendship between Benji, and Ethan Hunt in this installment sees some great growth between them. Getting to the point where the series finally evolve from the starting point where the team felt like an accessory, and now finally feel more like their long time friends adding more emotional involvement for the characters involved.
Then finally comes the villain Lane (Sean Harris). Much like the third installment villain, Lane brings back the amodisity, and the tension between our hero, and villain missing from Ghost Protocol. Doing more than just getting the upper hand on Ethan Hunt. Lane brings in more of a mind game element as he constantly escapes Ethan Hunt grasp at every turn. Getting to Ethan Hunt head, and seeing the psychological effect Lane has on Ethan Hunt to the point where Hunt dilludes his mission objective from his obsession. In turn creating a blurred line between Hunt, and Brandt friendship in the film. Spending some time to also explore his motivation to be more than just a evil doer whose only in it for the money. Making Lane a good foil for Ethan Hunt, and far more compelling to see how in the world would Ethan would be able to beat someone equal to him.
Tom Cruise (as he usually does) is fantastic as Ethan Hunt. This time the movie gives Cruise well balance material to work with again. Balancing the superhuman, and the everyman aspect of his character perfectly. For instance, only someone like Tom Cruise will make you believe he can skillfully drive a car in narrow alleys during a high speed chase sequence minutes after barely coming back to life. Being able to display Hunt more obsessive, and self doubt to his character that previous entries didn’t allow Cruise to touch on. Getting to see more of Ethan Hunt flaws whereas previous movie would usually portray him of being calm, even under extreme pressure. Here you visibly get a glimpse of the mission getting to Cruise. Beyond showing the usual from Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise also plays off his other actors pretty well. Especially with Simon Pegg whom both manage to bring together plenty of laughs, and surprisingly amount of dramatic weight in a few scenes.
There’s an underwater sequence where Tom Cruise holds his breath underwater for over a minute. While the sequence itself has some usage of CGI. When Tom Cruise holds his breathe in that sequence that is actually Tom Cruise holding his breath underwater. While you don’t get to see a continuous shot of Cruise holding his breath for the entirety of those six minutes the fact he even learned to do that is some serious commitment to his craft.
Simon Pegg plays Benji with his screen time increasing. He adds a lot of humor to the film, and his back & forth banter with Tom Cruise is stellar. Being able to get to display a bit of his more serious side in a few scenes. Like in Ghost Protocol, Pegg never forgets to portray Benji as a just normal character instead of the relegated comedic relief. Jeremy Renner return as Brandt with a role that received a slight downgrade. Renner doesn’t participate in the action sequences as he did in Ghost Protocol, but the movie still makes good use of him. Usually having Renner break up some serious moments through his comedic delivery. Simply seeing him reluctantly go along with everything Cruise suggest despite his best knowledge makes him enjoyable to watch on screen.
Ving Rhames, the other long running staple of the Mission: Impossible franchise makes an appearance, and gets a good amount of screen time in a supporting role. Rhames has always been an enjoyable part of the MI films, and here it’s no different. Seeing him for the first time interact with Renner, and Simon Pegg for a good amount of time was a enjoyable part of his return. Also, there’s one moment where Ving Rhames, despite not looking what you expect a computer whiz to look like, absolutely sells a line of how good he is. Alec Baldwin has a supporting role in the movie, and he too is another nice addition in the series. He interacts with Renner the most for a good portion of the movie. He simply knows how to properly deliver his dialogue whether it’s building up how awesome Ethan Hunt, or expressing the unlikelihood of everything simply a coincidence.
Rebecca Ferguson steals the show from the rest of her co-stars. How can’t she when she’s basically portraying the female equivalent of Ethan Hunt in the movie. Showing she’s more than a pretty face carrying herself during the action sequences as she does during her dramatic scenes. Her chemistry with Tom Cruise is simply smooth you believe every encounter they have together. Getting ample of opportunities to show a wide arrange of emotion. Being a flirtatious, a bit saddened, and a bit humorous allows her to steal the show whenever she’s on screen portraying a cool character.
Finally the last bit of actors worth mentioning. Simon McBurney gets a decent amount of screen time to make an impression as a classy, but slimy MI6 handler. Then comes the villains of the film in Sean Harris, and Jens Hulten who plays his main henchman. Saying very little on screen Jens Hulten is able to pick the weight of being a formidable foe where Sean Harris expertly portrays a cunning man who’s willing to do anything to win. Both together create a perfect balance as the foils to the heroes. While Sean Harris lacks the intimidation of MI 3 villain. Harris, and Cruise are still able to match that rage filled chemistry between the two of them.
Christopher McQuarrie delivers when it comes to the action sequences with some stellar set pieces to behold. One of them takes place in a opera house with Cruise attempting to stop an assassination on the Austrian Chancellor. When Cruise eventually encounters one of the assassins they get into a fight scene as the opera equipment around will occasionally move. This whole sequence is masterfully set up in every aspect. Using the music within the sequence to circulate tension as times quickly runs out, and Cruise is put into a corner on how to best come out of the situation. There’s also another good fight scene early on in the movie where Cruise, and Rebecca Ferguson beat up some of the members of the Syndicate in a torture room that’s pretty creative as it is somewhat brutal.
A lengthy chase sequence in Morocco, Casablanca is easily the most impressive sequence on a technical level. Especially one moment where Cruise during the car chase is getting chased by three armed motorcyclist in a narrow street, and manages to take out two of them. However that specific moment was done it certainly looked cool. Then after that another high speed chase sequence, but this time on a motorcycle, and Cruise himself performs the entire chase sequence without wearing any protective gear. It’s impressive to see the skill of the motorcyclists smoothly maneuvers around traffic. By the time the climatic actions sequence arrives you’ll be wondering how they’ll top that, and they find a way through a mixture of hand to hand combat, and a bit of gunplay. Whether it’s all conversation, or action on screen Christopher McQuarrie knows how to keep his viewers eyes glue to the screen.
The music this time was composed by Joe Kraemer elevating the movie to another level. It’s exciting, tension racking, exotic, and so much more that he’s able to get across properly. You might not remember the soundtrack once it’s over, but it will definitely improve the overall enjoyment of the movie without drawing too much attention to itself. Heck, even Giacomo Puccini famous orchrestrated track, “Nessun dorma”, even makes an appearance. Yes, Lalo Schifrin theme song for the Mission: Impossible gets another redenition, and another usage in the movie. At this point, there’s no need for me to you tell how good the opening sequence is, and simply retaining the spirit of it while adding to the track is more than enough to keep it good. Also, another nice going on the credits sequence for looking the closest to the original tv series.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation manages to take elements from previous movies either matching them, or surpassing them with Christopher McQuarrie own take on them. All without feeling like it’s simply copying from other movies able to establish a strong identity of its own. Not only is Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation one of the best entries in the franchise perfecting the formula, but also one of the best, and smartest action movies you could find in the genre.