Friday, September 25, 2015

Movie Review - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

-- Mission: Impossible Week --
Please note that all Mission: Impossible Week film reviews may contain spoilers related to both the film that is being reviewed and other films in the series.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, and Alec Baldwin
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

As we come to the end of our Mission: Impossible week, I've come to the determination that the Tom Cruise-led series is a solid entry into the American cinematic action pantheon.  Does that mean that the series is full of overly amazing movies?  No, but what is intriguing (and I'm spoiling my rating for this newest installment with this sentence) is that with the exception of the second film (which, as you'll recall I found absolutely abysmal), all of the films in the M:I series rank in the "B" range.  I'm not sure there are many other film franchises that have gone on for so long that manage to maintain that consistent quality throughout.

In Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team have uncovered a seedy agency known as The Syndicate that attempts to take down world leaders and governments by creating situations that look like accidents yet cause a great amount of havoc.  Just as IMF head William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) attempts to fund Hunt on a mission to take down the group, he is told by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) that due to the numerous close calls that IMF missions have come under as of late (meaning the numerous close calls of the last two films), the US government has decided to defund the organization.  Not only that, but the CIA is under strict orders to now take down Hunt who refuses to return to the US, hellbent on finding the head of The Syndicate on his own if necessary.

Perhaps most interesting about Rogue Nation is that it's the least action-driven film since the first installment in the M:I series.  That isn't to say that there aren't some BIG moments filled with action, it's just that the film finds itself a little more focused on "talking" and duplicitous manipulation than big budget action sequences.  It's actually a bit of a relief and it works well for the film in an attempt to be a little different than its predecessors.

Part of the reason for the talkiness is due to the villain of the piece -- Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), head of the Syndicate and a Steve Jobs-ish lookalike in his turtleneck and glasses.  Lane is evil, no doubt, but his ability to keep his emotions in check and his temper under control makes him even scarier when he's got a gun to your head because you'll never expect him to shoot...and he will.  Lane is matched by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an undercover British MI-6 agent who may or may not have disavowed her homeland for Lane.  Surprisingly, the film does a very good job at keeping the audience guessing as to whether Faust is good or evil and this creates a nice amount of tension throughout the film as Lane matches wits with Hunt.

Tom Cruise has been the one through-line in the Mission: Impossible series of films and he's certainly captivating as the big screen action star.  This film perhaps gives him the least amount to do -- not in terms of stunts, but in terms of an emotional arc.  Rather than focus on aspects of his personal life, Rogue Nation places its emphasis squarely on taking down The Syndicate and I must say that I missed seeing Hunt's character grow...because he doesn't do any of that here.  Additionally, while I liked Jeremy Renner's newly introduced character in the last film, he's rather squandered here spending most of the film essentially sitting in a control room.  Seeing as how he is receiving second billing in the film, I expected a bit more from his character and didn't really get it.

Still, Rogue Nation is a solid entry into the M:I franchise -- I'd rate it second of the five.  [Ghost Protocol takes the top spot, M:I III takes third place, the original M:I fourth place, and M:I II an incredibly distant fifth place.]  Overall, the franchise is a winner in my book.  Should they make more, I'd definitely be along for the ride.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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