Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Film Review: Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin
Runtime: 131 minutes

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation does the impossible; it proves a big budget blockbuster can craft exciting and stylish action without sacrificing a little thing called substance. 

Now onto the fifth entry in the series, it would’ve been all too easy for incoming director Ralph McQuarrie and series stalwart Tom Cruise to phone it in on Rogue Nation. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, they’ve upped their game across the board by delivering a compelling, character driven popcorn film which also happens to be chock-a-block with gasp-inducing action scenes.
Following the events of 2011's Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the IMF team (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames) have been disbanded by the US government; off the grid and on the tail of the nefarious Syndicate, they must ally themselves with an uncompromising English agent (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring down Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and his formidable international network of killers.

Cruise could play this in his sleep, so it was good to see that he still applied himself to the role of Ethan Hunt just as much as he did back in the 1996 original. You can tell he is passionate about the series and believes in the material. Jeremy Renner is back as Brant, and provides a nice counter to Ethan; not one to just roll over and do whatever Ethan wants, there is an element of tension between the two that keeps Ethan in his place.

Simon Pegg also returns as Benji, the IMF's resident tech nerd. He's got a lot more to do this time around, and as you can expect, the bulk of the jokes fall his way as well. Fans of the series will appreciate the expanded role that Ving Rhames is afforded in this entry after he mostly sat out Ghost Protocol

Whilst it was great to see the gang back together, the real star of the show was Ferguson as femme fatale Ilsa Faust; with her allegiances being continually called into question, we’re left guessing where this compelling, strong-willed female character will steer the narrative next.

That being said, Ilsa is essentially the only female character in the entire film, or the only one of note anyway. It might be a detail that only goes noticed by a few, but it did kind of play on my mind after the film. It doesn't detract from Ferguson's performance, but her inclusion at the expense of others does make you think.

Plus, she gets all sorts of sexualised; slinky ball gowns, bikinis, tight-fitting motorcycle leathers - watching her is like playing bingo for tired female character tropes. She might be a self-proclaimed match for Ethan as a spy, but McQuarrie has no qualms calling on some really outdated clich├ęs to emphasise her best 'assets'. Like I said, don't let that take anything away from Ferguson's acting or the way Ilsa is written - I just wish they'd been a bit more mindful of how their only female character comes across.

An area where the MI series has suffered in the past has been its villains; namely, how piss weak they are. In Rogue Nation, Sean Harris is the evil-doer out to get Ethan's team, and I have to say he was actually pretty good. Not Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre good, but certainly a step up from Michael Nyqvist's bland enemy in Ghost Protocol.

Rogue Nation is a globetrotting affair (from Minsk to Morocco to London, Langley and Vienna) that sees Cruise once again prove himself to be an action star without equal. Whether it’s clinging to outside of a cargo plane at 5000ft or holding his breath underwater for over five minutes (seriously, McQuarrie doesn’t cut away throughout this whole sequence), his commitment to the stunt work in this film is unparalleled.

That being said, there are a few other nitpicks I have to mention; Alec Baldwin is burdened with some painfully cheesy dialogue as CIA chief Alan Huntley, and the breakneck pace of the middle section meant the conclusion doesn’t excite as much as the first 90 minutes.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Rogue Nation exceeds expectations by combining stellar filmmaking technique with a raft of compelling characters and a great cast. It's just a couple of annoying genre cliches that fail to go unchecked and prevent this from being perfect.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation opens in cinemas across Australia tomorrow (July 30). This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.



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