‘Rogue Nation’ a fantastic blend of action chaos and spy nonsense
I’m told Tom Cruise did his own stunts in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.” But I’m more impressed with the massive scopes of several of those sequences — yes, that includes that airplane sequence — than I am with Cruise’s reprisal of his 007-like super-agent. That being said, I’m glad Ethan Hunt is back.
By this point, with “Rogue Nation” being the fifth installment in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise (the first released in 1996), it doesn’t take much to see Cruise as CIA agent Hunt; to a lot of viewers, the two are really one in the same these days. Cruise embodies that role: rakish, charming, seemingly eminently capable in just about any situation, logic be damned. So for Cruise to yet again fill those parkouring shoes isn’t much of a stretch.
What is, though, is the film itself. The fifth entry, directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie, takes on qualities similar to 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III” and 2011’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”: a little dark, a little moody and a lot of enjoyable nonsense being thrown on the screen. It’s a well-done film that isn’t afraid to mine previous source material while adding its own little touches along the way.
The basic premise of “Rogue Nation” remains the same as the previous four films: Hunt inevitably finds himself in life-threatening danger, and he has to use to endless wit (and CIA-funded gadgets) to save the day (and sometimes the nation/world). The twist this time plays on Hunt being in danger but without the government standing behind him. Alan Hunley (a fantastic Alec Baldwin) is heading the CIA now, and he deems the IMF, the organization employing Hunt and famous for its “should you choose to accept” tagline, unnecessary. It doesn’t matter what facts he has or what empirical evidences he’s presented with; he’s going to shut down the agency to put those super agents in their place. What could go wrong, right?
Well, plenty. As in countless other variations of the same problem, just because a cop isn’t around doesn’t mean a crime isn’t being committed. The bad guys in “Rogue Nation” work for The Syndicate, an underground and massively secret (to the point some think it doesn’t actually exist) organization that has far-reaching goals that run counter to the good guys’. It’s your typical “end the world as we know it” scenario.
But even though Hunt can’t count on the CIA provide backup, he still has plenty of help. Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames return to offer their … unique contributions, with Pegg’s Benji Dunn character being particularly enjoyable. (Pegg once again provides much-needed comic relief in a story that would much rather betray you than see you smile.) A new addition, Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), complicates matters. You see, the smoldering agent might be double-crossing Hunt and his team. She may even be double-double-crossing someone else. It doesn’t help that Hunt and Faust can’t stop giving each other lusty looks, because they have nothing better to do.
Oh wait, they do! One of those things includes two fantastic action sequences in “Rogue Nation.” The first involves an intricate, highly choreographed rendezvous at the Vienna State Opera that involves stage mechanics, multiple vantages points and assassins. Yes, multiple assassins. It’s phenomenal insanity clocked in the stately aura of the powerhouse opera performing below.
The second thrilling scene may involve breaking into a secure location that’s supposedly impregnable. Secret identities, millions of gallons of rushing water and a state-of-the-art security system are all that block Hunt from being able to save the day from the film’s rather lackluster villain, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). A simple task for our hero, you no doubt think.
Which is kind of the running theme in all “Mission: Impossible” films. The plots get a bit crazy, and it’s hard to keep track of all the nonsense happening. But you always know Hunt is going to pull through. Some may find that boring, but there’s something to be said about knowing more or less how everything will play out in the end.
In the end, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is one of those rare instances of when a sequence is better than the original, though it’s not the first time that has happened in this franchise. The film is chaotic and hard to follow, and plot twists drop like rain in a hurricane. But Cruise’s Hunt is still worth rooting for, if for no other reason than you want the underdog to win. (And for him to save the world from possibly between destroyed.)
Four “Syndicate this!” stars out of five.