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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

| August 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

There is no way in the world that I could ever begin to explain the plot of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and not make it sound like the last ten spy movies that you saw. That’s probably because the plot of this movie doesn’t really matter anyway, it’s beside the point. Believe it or not, that’s kind of a compliment. I have come to realize that this is the method that makes this series work. Take a bland spy plot about All-Star International Team of Professional Bad Guys armed the latest technological whozee-whatzit trying to bring down nations with a bullet and a keystroke, then plug in some highly entertaining well-planned, well thought-out action sequences that hold our attention. It’s a formula that seems to work.

Rogue Nation is the fourth sequel in a series that I have come to have a lot of affection for. It is a product that offers a certain seal of approval, especially when it’s being produced by Hollywood’s current whiz-kid J.J. Abrams. A few years ago, Abrams climbed on board this flawed, clunky series with the supremely underrated Mission: Impossible III and did something amazing – he made it fun. While James Bond and Jason Bourne steered toward grungy, real-world stuff, The Mission: Impossible pictures swim comfortably in the kinds of fun, inoffensive waters that the Roger Moore-era Bond pictures did.

The plot – let’s just get it out of the way – involves Ethan (Tom Cruise) and the IMF team hunting down evidence of the All-Star International Team of Professional Bad Guys who are called The Syndicate (I think my name is better) who want to infiltrate the top governments of the world and bring them down by assassinating their key leaders. Meanwhile the CIA (led by Alec Balwin, playing the stuff-shirt role for all its worth) wants to disband the IMF due to its repeated instances of collateral damage and for its inability to uncover proof of The Syndicate. Got all that? Good. Let’s move on.

The Syndicate is pretty indistinguishable from Hydra or S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or The Galactic Empire, only you can’t easily spot them and their uniforms aren’t as interesting. Their chief assassin is a quiet, creepy little man called Solomon (Sean Harris) whose odd face and silent demeanor gets under your skin. He’s really an effective bad guy.

What is special about this series, and this movie in particular is Tom Cruise. While his drama films repeatedly fall flat, he’s made himself a really effective action star. As Ethan Hunt, he spends nearly the entire film performing stunts that should either put him in traction or in a cemetery. In that way he’s a little like Indiana Jones. He gets hurt, a lot. When he crashes through a window or gets punched in the ribs by a Russian the size of a gorilla, you feel the crunch. At one point is he captured by Syndicate agents and beaten by a Russian called “The Bone Doctor.” Later he jumps into a centrifuge full of water with no air tank. Then he gets into a long car/motorcycle chase down the busy streets of Morocco, and gets into an accident that by all laws of physics should have gotten him killed.  Plus, you care about him.  There are moments when he genuinely looks scared.  How many action heroes do that?

But the single best action scene in the movie takes place in The Vienna Opera House where Ethan must deal with two assassins at once, climbing around on the catwalks during a performance of Puccini’s “Turandot,” and battling a six-foot German killing machine. The scene works because of the way it is orchestrated with the music, and the way that the action is relatively quiet, as if the combatants are being respectful to the performers on stage. Having been inundated with so many bad action movies, I figured that it would end with a body falling on stage but, you know what, it didn’t. This is a movie full of nice surprises.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who is most famous for his Oscar Winning (and in my opinion overrated) screenplay to The Usual Suspects some 20 years ago. Here he shows a sure hand, letting the action scenes move on just a little longer then we might expect. They’re so good that we want them to go on.  The music plays such an integral part in this film.  There is a beautifully directed moment when Cruise and his female counterpart are at gunpoint in an outdoor cafe in Vienna; the music drop out as the camera pushes in on their faces.  They eye each other, silently working out a plan without words.  Then Puccini’s opera swells on the soundtrack as the action kicks into gear.  To my knowledge, I haven’t seen this kind of approach in an American action film; that’s the kind of thing I usually see in Italian or Japanese pictures.  If the filmmakers must steal, at least they’re stealing from good sources.

That’s what you notice, the technique, not the plotting.  The plot is small enough that it gets out of the actor’s way.  We care about the characters, especially Ben Dunn, played wonderfully by Simon Pegg. He has such a substantial role in this movie that it almost becomes a buddy movie.  He could have been just a comic foil, but his connection with Hunt is so tight that we feel that they genuinely care for one another. The same goes for Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson as the wonderfully named Ilsa Faust, a Syndicate operative whose loyalties are always in question.  She has an unpredictable relationship with Hunt that moves back and forth.

On the whole, this movie is just plain fun. Is it preposterous? Yes. Is it too long? Yes. But you don’t mind because the movie gets the job done. It’s a step above the usual fare of this type. You remember the action. You remember the characters. But you don’t care anything about the plot. It’s a fun ride, better than the average, but it accomplishes it’s mission.  That’s all we ask.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Action