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Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation Is A Worthy Addition To An Action Series As Solid As Tom Cruise’s Abs

By Zachary Colbert · July 31, 2015

For the fifth installment of the Mission:Impossible series Tom Cruise has employed The Usual Suspects’ Christopher McQuarrie to write and direct this flimsy but functional film. Of course, you can’t spell functional without ‘fun’ and what Rogue Nation lacks in originality and coherence, it makes up for in boyish charm and stylish stunts.

Picking up where M:I 4 Ghost Protocol left off, Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Mission Force are under heavy scrutiny from CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) who has shut them down and is looking to lock Ethan up. On this backdrop of a disbanded team, there’s the murky Syndicate – a collection of international ex-operatives headed by the villainous Solomon Lane, played by Alex Harris in full-on creep mode.

As the Syndicate carry out acts of terror across the globe Ethan and his team of now series regulars Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames, must surreptitiously stop them behind the US government’s back. But the only thing impossible about this mission is understanding the plot. The familiar tropes of stolen lists, double-agents and the word ‘disavowed’ are all here, but wrapped in a story that tries far too hard and ends up tying itself in knots. The antagonist is thin, and no matter how much our heroes repeat ‘the Syndicate’ over and over again I failed to care about this evil organisation and even less, understand their motivations for world destruction or whatever the hell it was.

However, perhaps this is beyond the point. The real conflict comes from scene-stealing Rebecca Ferguson who plays ‘can she be trusted’ British secret agent Ilsa. Like a film noir femme fatale Ilsa is beautiful and deadly and McQuarrie wisely drops the love interest element from her role to instead focus on her character’s drive and predicament – an agent deep undercover who’s boss at British Intelligence is ready and willing to cut her off whenever he needs to.

McQuarrie’s direction is undaunted in the wake of Brad Bird’s gripping yet light-hearted Ghost Protocol, which itself confidently followed J.J. Abrams’ series high with M:I 3. There’s some exhilarating set pieces made all the more thrilling when you know 53-year old Tom Cruise does the majority of his own stunts in-camera without the aid of CGI. These moments of heady action and the on-point comic relief from Simon Pegg and even more so Tom Hallander, who plays the British Prime Minister, make the convoluted plot bearable. Another fine touch from the writer/director was the climactic chase through foggy, monochrome London alleys, again harking back to 1940’s film noir with some stylish cinematography that had the final scenes looking like an old black and white photograph.

Often, the script is somewhat lackluster and guilty of crimes endemic in franchises right now (yes Jurassic World, I’m looking at you). Making nods to the originals is all well and good but it does not exonerate franchises of their repetitive lack of originality. And screenwriters talking directly to the audience through characters is uncouth and heavy-handed, such as Jeremy Renner’s line at the end of the first act, “This could be our last mission, Ethan, so let’s make it count.”

Fortunately, Rogue Nation does make it count. A breakthrough performance by Rebecca Ferguson, glittering action sequences peppered with the right amount of comedic camaraderie is enough to make the fifth Mission Impossible film a worthy addition to an action series as solid as Tom Cruise’s abs.