Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)
Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning writer of Bryan Singer’s terrific 1995 The Usual Suspects – as well as of last year’s (mostly) equally smart Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow – but also the director of the terrible Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher – clearly has a thing for action thrillers (be they of the gangster or sci-fi variety). On paper, based on his previous work, he could be a great person (not counting Jack Reacher) to take on the most recent incarnation of the Mission: Impossible series, which originated in 1966, on CBS. The first movie in the Tom Cruise era was helmed by Brian De Palma in 1996 – almost twenty years ago, when its star was only 34. The last entry with Cruise was in 2011, entitled Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (otherwise known as Mission: Impossible 4), and was directed by Brad Bird, he of such animated gems as (especially) The Iron Giant and (a little less so) The Incredibles. That film did well enough (and was pretty fun, I must say, if dumb) to revive the franchise after the comparatively dismal showing of Mission: Impossible III. And now, 4 years later, with a now-53-year-old leading man, Ethan Hunt, lead agent of the IMF, is back. Look up at the poster, above. That should tell you all you need to know about the kind of film this is. Action-packed and completely unbelievable. So how do McQuarrie and Cruise do?
Wonderfully. Suspend your disbelief. Forgive (for 131 minutes of the movie) Tom Cruise his association with Scientology (if that’s possible, though some reports indicate he may be leaving the cult). Sit back, relax, and let this perfectly plotted jocular espionage romp take you for a ride. Well, perhaps “relax” is the wrong word, since this movie never stops, just as its star never stops running. There are a few moments of down time, to be sure, but otherwise this is mostly one powerful energy drink of a film. Even the opening sequence – the one involving that image on the poster – somehow works, probably because all of the actors involved seem to be having such a good time. Indeed, in spite of his crazy on-screen stunts, even Cruise seems in on the joke, which is pretty spectacular, given how self-serious he can so often appear. He’s helped by a very entertaining cohort of co-stars which include holdovers from the previous films like Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) and Jeremy Renner (Kill the Messenger), and newcomers like Alec Baldwin (Still Alice), Sean Harris (Harry Brown) and Rebecca Ferguson (“The White Queen“). The latter two particularly shine, he as the villain and she as a lethal super-agent femme fatale who may be friend, foe or some combination of both.
To share the plot would spoil it. Also, to be honest, I no longer remember all the details. Let’s just say that this is a movie made in the vein of the long-running “24” television series, in which Jack Bauer is eventually cast out of his organization and hunted by his own government. The “rogue,” in other words, refers to more than just the terrorist organization that Ethan Hunt tracks with his usual tenacity. Hunt is hunted, too.
What I most remember, however, is that opening airplane, and a later motorcycle chase, featuring Ms. Ferguson, that took my breath away. Ms. Ferguson can also fight pretty convincingly, and one of the additional pleasures of the film is seeing a woman on screen who is fit and thin, but certainly no waif (in other words, she’s normal, if in shape), more than holding her own with the men. So hats off to all involved. May they all return to the fray again in another 4 years or so. Let’s see how long Tom Cruise can go before running no longer suits him. He certainly still looks good doing it. Maybe there is something to Scientology after all (just kidding). If you’re looking for a good mid-summer adrenaline rush, then look no further. This is it.