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New Release Review - MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION

Fifth installment of the big screen reboot of the '60s spy show.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, America Olivo, Sean Harris



"As summer popcorn fodder goes, Rogue Nation is perfectly serviceable, but this franchise seems to have run out of steam at this point, and the face-mask trick really needs retiring. A Skyfall type reboot may be required for Hunt and friends if we're to accept any further missions."



This latest installment of the Mission Impossible big screen franchise can be seen as a microcosm of the entire series thus far. It starts off with a bang, loses its way, grabs our attention again a couple of times before fizzling out to an anti-climax. The series has gotten further away from the tone of the excellent first movie with each installment, and while we've had some attention grabbing action sequences, courtesy of Tom Cruise's insistence on performing practical stunts without the aid of a body double, nothing has captured the thrill of that iconic Brian De Palma engineered heist set piece from the first movie.
Here, Christopher McQuarrie, assuming writing and directing chores, and reteaming with Cruise after Jack Reacher, attempts to follow in De Palma's footsteps by aping Hitchcock with a sequence in the Viennese opera that's straight out of The Man Who Knew Too Much. But while the elements are all in place, McQuarrie lacks the natural gift for scene construction of a Hitchcock or De Palma, and the scene is rendered flat and devoid of tension. The same goes for another sequence that practically reboots the celebrated De Palma heist of the first movie and just adds water. The setup forces Cruise's Ethan Hunt to hold his breath for a death defying three minutes in a high tech underwater vault but it's all too over the top for us to ever feel Hunt is any danger, and the editing doesn't do enough to make us aware of how much time is passing. It's telling that McQuarrie fails to generate suspense with gallons of water, while all it took for De Palma was one bead of sweat. McQuarrie proves more adept at high-octane action, with a mid-movie multi-vehicle chase that really is thrilling.
It doesn't help that the movie's best moment arrives before we've even heard that iconic theme tune over the opening credits. I'm speaking of course of the much publicised set piece that saw Cruise strap himself to a plane as it ascends to the skies. Watching this on a YouTube trailer really doesn't do it justice. On a cinema screen it really is something to behold, arguably the moment of the blockbuster summer. Hunt is forced to use this tactic when technology fails, a self effacing dig at Hollywood's reliance on CG, which can never compete with practical effects and stunts when it comes to creating genuine spectacle.
The plot sees the IMF disbanded, forcing Hunt and Simon Pegg's no longer just a comic sidekick Benji Dunn to go on the run to take down The Syndicate, a bunch of villains described as an Anti-IMF, and led by the always sinister but underused Sean Harris. Thankfully not so underemployed is Rebecca Ferguson in a star-making turn as a British intelligence agent now working for this sinister group. She enjoys a Catwoman-Batman relationship with Hunt, and we're never entirely sure which side she's on. Fegruson grasps the role with both hands, and it's one of the most exciting female characters to appear in recent blockbusters, though there's certainly little in the way of competition. Her scenes with Cruise are decidedly odd however; she casts seductive glances in his direction, but Cruise looks highly uncomfortable with this arrangement, as though the actor is quietly aware of how much criticism he receives from some quarters for pairing off with younger female co-stars. There's more sexual tension between Hunt and Benji here, the implication made in one telling scene that Benji may view Hunt as more than just a colleague.
As summer popcorn fodder goes, Rogue Nation is perfectly serviceable, but this franchise seems to have run out of steam at this point, and the face-mask trick really needs retiring. A Skyfall type reboot may be required for Hunt and friends if we're to accept any further missions.



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