Tom Cruise’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to somehow top his insane skyscraper-walk on the world tallest building the Burj Khalifa. How about hanging onto the side of an A600M airbus as it takes off and climbs to 5,000 feet? Yes, that should to it.
So the stakes are high for the fifth instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Each outing has been helmed by a different director, resulting in a unique tone and style each time with each entry trying to top the last in terms of thrills and excitement (the franchise peaked magnificently with J.J. Abram’s M:I-3). Director Christopher McQuarrie is calling the shots this time around, re-teaming with Cruise once again (he directed Jack Reacher and wrote Valkyrie and Edge Of Tomorrow). Jack Reacher boasted some fantastic action sequences which harked back to 70’s cinema with high adrenaline stunt work, so hopes are high for Rogue Nation’s action.
The M:I films can be neatly put into two categories: the first and third are dark and serious affairs (and are my personal favourites), while numbers 2 and 4 are good old multiplex popcorn entertainment. Rogue Nation firmly sits in the latter category, so don’t expect any complicated plotting. The story picks up directly after Ghost Protocol, with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of IMF agents - Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) - investigating the mysterious counter-IMF agency known as the Syndicate (a nod to the original series). After an exhilarating pre-credits sequence which sees Cruise performing his CGI-free crazy aircraft-acrobatic stunt (and yes, that is him hanging on to dear life!), we’re launched straight into the story proper – the CIA, headed by Alec Baldwin’s Alan Hunley, has shut down IMF after their implication in the Kremlin bombing seen in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Ethan’s team must go rogue in an attempt to clear their name.
The Syndicate is headed by evil whispery villain Solomon Lane (played menacingly by Sean Harris), who has the uncanny ability to predict Ethan’s every move. Thrown into the mix is Isla Faust, played superbly by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson. She’s classy yet tough, handy with martial arts, and we’re never quite sure whose side she’s on. The first act involves a tense set-piece at the Vienna State Opera House, with Ethan clambering around on the backstage rigging as he attempts to prevent the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor. McQuarrie’s direction is exquisite, and he ratchets up the tension superbly with a fight sequence that literally has Ethan dangling from the rafters.
Then we’re off to Morocco for yet another breathtaking sequence – breathtaking in the literal sense, as Ethan must dive into a submerged vault in order to access a security hard drive, but without the aid of an oxygen tank, due to the presence of metal detectors. This predicament means he – and the audience for that matter! – must hold his breath for over three minutes in order to complete the mission and swim to safety. Cruise being, well, Cruise, has once again gone into full method mode. The intense underwater scene is shot without a cut, and so Cruise filmed the entire scene without the aid of an oxygen tank, after having trained extensively for weeks until he was able to hold his breath for up to 6 ½ minutes at a time!
And the thrills just keep on coming. We are then treated to one of the most insane car/motorbike chases seen on screen. The action then (thankfully) slows down somewhat in the third act, giving the audience a chance to get their pulses rates down to normal. We’re in London, and Lane is after the Prime Minister, who is the only person who’s able to access millions of dollars hidden in an account (I told you not to expect an over-complicated plot!).
Overall the film does exactly what it is designed to deliver – thrills, excitement, Tom Cruise running, and lots of explosions. McQuarrie firmly steps on the acceleration pedal and doesn’t let up. My only gripe with Rogue Nation (and it is only a slight gripe) is of main baddie Lane. Sean Harris just doesn’t quite have the presence of someone who is truly dangerous and unpredictable – just look at Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s sublime performance in M:I-3 to see how it should be done. Alec Baldwin is also underused, relegated to spouting overblown speeches. Simon Pegg, meanwhile, gets all the best lines (“Join the IMF and see the world. On a screen. From a closet.”) and it’s great to finally see Benji finally become a full-on field agent. The highlight though, is Rebecca Ferguson. She’s a welcome addition to the Mission: Impossible team, and can definitely hold her own with Cruise when it comes to high adrenaline action.
Rogue Nation isn’t as immersive as M:I-1 or M:I-3, but for sheer thrills and excitement it delivers in spades. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to catch it on the big screen and treat yourself to 2 hours of solid action entertainment.