Filmsy Reviews: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames.
Quick Summary: Agent Ethan Hunt faces impossible odds, beats them anyway, with help from assorted friends, through incredibly convoluted and mostly unnecessary but cool looking stunts.
Rating: Mission passable, but skippable.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join Tom Cruise as he goes into yet another adrenaline-fueled, self-indulgent, action packed popcorn summer movie. There's gonna be high-speed chases, choreographed fight scenes, cool gadgets, explosions, beautiful women and gun fights. And as the Mission: Impossible trademark, someone will also reveal they had been pretending to be someone else all along by taking off a latex mask right in front of the person they were fooling, and they will make sure to do it in the most dramatic way possible. Similarly, there will also be some kind of heist that for some incredibly convoluted reason will require Tom Cruise to perform a dangerously crazy acrobatic feat without a stunt double. Unlike those fictional mission briefings, the actual movie doesn't self-destruct right after watching it, no matter how much you wish it did. So in that way, it's just like that time you got drunk and sent your boss that e-mail saying what you really thought of his "great leadership ideas", or that time your ex brought the camera into the bedroom, said it was just to spice things up and that the video would be deleted the next day.
Self-destructing messages are like Snapchat for spies, except with even more dick pics.
Based on the TV series from the 1960s, and partially on the sequel/follow-up from the 1980s, the Mission: Impossible movies go all the way back to 1996, when the Eurostar train was a novelty, and dial-up connection was a luxury. It's been almost twenty years, and a lot has happened since. Somewhere along the line, what was supposed to be an adaptation of a spy series where a team of specialized agents carried on tactical stealth missions transformed into the Tom Cruise show. The Cold War theme was abandoned too, for obvious reasons, and the film franchise focused more on mainstream action and risky acrobatic stunts. And for the most part that was okay, since they managed to pull it off nicely, working with top directors (such as J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird) and delivering solid movies, even if they were just barely related to the original premise.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the fifth installment of this cinematic franchise. On this occasion, agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the IMF must deal with a double threat. On the one hand, they must uncover a secret organization calling themselves "The Syndicate" operating at a global scale. On top of that, an investigation led by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is planning to disband the IMF, since he thinks The Syndicate is just a cover for the IMF's shady operations, and that agent Hunt is behind this. His only hope is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a member of The Syndicate Hunt believes to be an undercover MI6 agent, who can help him clear his name and hopefully catch the real culprit, another former agent by the name of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). While on the run, agent Hunt is assisted by former colleagues Brandt, Dunn and Stickell (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames).
Even though the plot is simple and generic enough, and the action scenes really deliver, the rest of the movie is nothing to write home about. Perhaps even worse is that we're supposed to believe the fate of the entire world rests on the shoulders of the IMF, which in turn relies solely on the actions of Tom Cruise's character. In fact, the only reason why Baldwin's character exists is to make it clear, as all the forces he mobilizes to capture agent Hunt are predictably insufficient, and he single-handedly manages to outwit everyone who's chasing him, good guys and bad guys alike. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt is so nonchalant about the whole thing, he even takes time off his very possible mission to hang from an airplane in midair and even take a dive into the world's largest toilet.
I know there's a metaphor here somewhere.
So the whole thing is an ego trip for Cruise, an ego cruise if you will. That's not really a surprise, and it wouldn't bug me as much if it happened in a good movie, with a good script where things actually make sense, but as it stands, this is just a mess that relies on the action scenes to carry it forward. It's just a bunch of (admittedly very cool) action scenes stitched together via endless exposition delivered in the most deadpan way by one-dimensional characters. The villains are for the most part indistinguishable goons, and every scene where Tom Cruise or his female co-star are not kicking ass is more boring than an opera about being married to Tom Cruise. On second thought, that sounds like an awesome idea.
As far as the acting goes, the only mildly interesting performance comes from Rebecca Ferguson, at least when she's not on god-mode, like Cruise seems to be for the whole movie. Simon Pegg is the closest thing to a sidekick and comic relief, but he doesn't have much to work with, and his best lines are already in the trailer. Alec Baldwin's appearance is a missed opportunity, as both his dramatic and comedic talents are terribly wasted; Jeremy Renner's character is reduced to a pencil pusher, despite showing he was a very capable agent in the previous movie, but here he ends up being more useless than Hawkeye. The same goes for Ving Rhames, who barely makes an appearance. What passes for villains are just an excuse for the protagonists to have someone to shoot at, and it never becomes quite clear in what way The Syndicate is supposed to be so dangerous... not with a name like "The Syndicate", which sounds as threatening as "United Colors of Benetton".
The best and worst thing I can say about Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is that it's a run of the mill summer popcorn movie, with great action sequences, but nothing of substance. A decent option if you just want to be entertained without giving it much thought, or if you're just looking for shelter from the heat for a while (or if you bring someone and are into a different kind of action), otherwise you can just wait for it to come out on DVD/streaming, or skip it altogether. Although, as far as I can tell, my opinion doesn't seem to matter much, as Mr. Cruise is laughing all the way to the bank.
Yes... and lots of money... playaaaa!
Now, if by any chance you're anything like me, expecting better from a spy movie based on an old TV show from the 60s, there's another chance at redemption, but you'll have to wait until the next review to find out how that went.
What to watch instead:
Basically Steve Carell's take on Get Smart, except with a woman. It has some funny moments, though.
I guess it's the year of the spy film comeback. This one's actually pretty decent. Colin Firth is awesome, and it's very self-aware of the genre tropes.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Based on the famous John le Carré novel, and it received several accolades... I actually have never seen this one, but it's the only spy movie I could think of that would rival the ridiculous punctuation nightmare that is Mission colon Impossible parentheses numeral five dash Rogue Nation.
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