Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★
Parallel to the discovery that the IMF had been a pawn by an international terrorist group called The Syndicate, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fellow IMF agents (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames) have been dissolved thanks to the CIA director’s (Alec Baldwin) insistence to the Senate committee that the group is a liability. He argues that Hunt and his crew often go off-track from established protocols and although they are able to deliver favorable results, these are almost always accomplished through sheer luck. Meanwhile, Hunt attempts to locate the leader of The Syndicate (Sean Harris) but it proves especially difficult because the man is often already three steps ahead.
Based on the screenplay and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” is another fine addition to a series that had seemingly lost its way during the second installment but it has since, like a phoenix, risen from the ashes during its third outing and has only gotten better since. Perhaps a critical factor of the series’ success is, aside from Cruise’s magnetic presence as well as willingness to perform his own outrageous stunts, the decision to hire directors with the required vision and efficiency to frame and execute highly effective action sequences.
The picture reaches its peak when Hunt engages in a mission in Casablanca. It involves an underwater sequence so complicated and exciting that I found myself squirming in my seat because there came a point where I could not come up with ways how he could possibly extricate himself from increasingly impossible situations. A powerful statement is made when the audience already knows it is all going to turn out all right eventually and yet the material still manages to surprise. And despite the dangers the characters go through, the script is able to sneak in a handful of bona fide laughs.
Rebecca Ferguson plays Ilsa Faust, a woman whose allegiance is, for the most part, remains rather gray. In a lot of ways, the actor is perfectly cast. She is very beautiful —which is very necessary if we were to believe that Hunt would be drawn to her—and yet it is difficult to trust that beauty. For instance, time and again the character seemingly has a tendency toward betrayal but because she is written as someone who has a distinct set of circumstances, we root for her to make the right choices not only for herself but also for those who set up the chess pieces just so in order to allow her to execute more moves during the game. I enjoyed watching Faust because there is intrigue behind the character. This makes her a cut above many recent kick-ass female characters in action pictures released in the past ten years—within and outside of this series.
Movies in this genre is almost always defined by its villain. Solomon Lane, the leader of The Syndicate, is smart and can be genuinely intimidating at times—especially Harris’ voice and manner of phrasing threats—but we do not come to know very much about him. This is a weakness because even though we know his endgame, the nook and cranny of his motivation is left in the mist.
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” commands effervescent chase scenes, whether vehicles are involved or old-fashioned running toward a target. Notice the level of danger mounting when the score goes silent and all we hear are the footsteps and their echoes. It takes elements typically found in thrillers and sandwiches them between moments of catharsis, from knife fights to eyebrow-raising surprises.