Screenwriter: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, and Ving Rhames
A scene early in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (a title so dramatic, it requires both a colon AND a dash!), finds our heroes in Casablanca, Morocco – a city fairly iconic in American cinema lore. In one shot Tom Cruise, reprising his role as Ethan Hunt for the fifth time, seemingly looks at the camera and gives one of those Tom Cruise smirky smiles that he has perfected over the past 34 years. A smile that at least in this case seems to say to director Christopher McQuarrie, “This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
And it just might be! McQuarrie, most famous for his Oscar winning screenplay for 1996’s The Usual Suspects, has written three of Cruise’s most recent projects[*] and served as director for two of them, including this film. This time McQuarrie “rounds up the usual suspects,” and puts together this year’s best action film that does not involve super powers or dinosaurs.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation begins right where Ghost Protocol left off. The nefariously named Syndicate (gasp!), has managed to force the American government to basically dissolve the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) over that nasty Kremlin incident from Ghost Protocol. Now the Syndicate has its eyes on…world domination, Mwa, ha, ha, ha, ha! Yes, the Syndicate’s goal is to set off a series of global terrorist attacks, creating a need for an entirely new world order. Now Ethan Hunt is a rogue agent who will stop at nothing to bring down the Syndicate and clear the name of the IMF.
But he can’t do it alone…although he tries. Eventually, Hunt has to recruit his old team including William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). Hunt’s only lead is a blonde man with glasses named Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), whom Hunt believes is the director of the Syndicate. When Hunt is surprisingly rescued from a torture chamber by a mysterious double agent named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt’s mission is further complicated regarding her motives. Is she MI6 or is she working for the Syndicate? Questions abound as Hunt trots the globe searching for Lane, while also trying to prevent more catastrophes.
The Mission: Impossible franchise is as fascinating as they come. Each entry is a fresh take starting with director Brian De Palma in 1996 and inviting a new director for every subsequent film: John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and now Christopher McQuarrie. The result is a series of films that while connected through narrative have a truly unique look and tone that makes for a really interesting set of films. Of course, the critical unifying element is Cruise. Cruise is a juggernaut, and he does not take it easy the fifth time around. Rogue Nation opens with the much talked about scene featured on the poster above where Cruise hangs on to the exterior of an aircraft as it takes off. The reason that this scene can be talked about and be used to open the film is that there are at least four more tremendously entertaining action stunts left to come that rival this opening scene’s intensity. Too often films are ruined in the trailer; this is not one of them.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is an action film that harkens back to the golden age of adventure, invoking films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard or as I mentioned earlier, even Casablanca. However, the film it will be most compared to is the fantastic fourth Mission: Impossible film, Ghost Protocol. As great as Rogue Nation is, it does fall slightly short of the magnificence of its predecessor and here’s why. Ghost Protocol was a real ensemble film. The stunts were incredible, but more importantly, every character was deeply involved. Cruise, Pegg, and Ferguson are on full display in Rogue Nation, no doubt about it, but Renner and Rhames are given very little to do in this film. And did I mention Alec Baldwin is in this film? He is, but he’s there to wear a suit and say stuff like, “Where’s the proof of this so-called Syndicate?” or “I need Hunt captured by whatever means necessary.” Someone does need to say lines like these, but they feel wasted on Baldwin, who is slowly devolving into a caricature of his Saturday Night Live appearances. Let’s hope Mission: Impossible 6 or M:I 6, as it’s bound to be called, has more in store for these second tier characters because, “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Nonetheless, this film represents the best time at the theater so far this year. A-
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
[*] McQuarrie wrote and directed 2012’s Jack Reacher, wrote 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, and served as writer/director on 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.