The movie: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.” Premiere date: Friday, July 31, 2015. Director: Christopher McQuarrie. Your mission, should you accept it, is to tolerate not only a punctuation-heavy title, but also embrace two hours of anticipated action and thrills with a continuing minimal focus on character.
After being officially disavowed and forced to work off the grid in “Ghost Protocol” (2011), Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fellow Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agents now find themselves in a similarly precarious position. While “Rogue Nation” followed the basic premise consistent in previous “Mission: Impossible” films, the fifth installment successfully delivered–almost celebrated, really–the continuation of Cruise’s over-the-top action scenes.
Look no further than the highly promoted plane scene in which Cruise–and the film’s three producers–try to move the needle yet again, perhaps hoping it’d be enough to push an already adrenaline-fueled generation of moviegoers to the edge of their seats. While watching Cruise dangle off the side of an aircraft as it rocketed off a runway did indeed provoke my anxieties of commercial flying, the high-octane scene, despite the marketing attention it has received, is given only five minutes of screen time. Alongside a high-speed car/motorcycle chase and an underwater sequence, fans old and new are treated to a revived tension (the “vault scene” from the original film, for example) that has been noticeably absent from previous installments.
Still, for all its action and even some creative gadgets and weaponry, the lack of originality in the premise was disappointing. No amount of action or tension saved the climax, which fell flat in comparison to the rest of the film. The fault, I felt, was a lack of focus on the characters.
This time around, Ethan Hunt had his sanity toyed with. McQuarrie took a different approach to him that made me slightly more appreciative of the direction the protagonist could go. But for the most part, Hunt seems to have become some kind of fusion between the classy James Bond and the intense Tom Cruise.
Following Hunt are some returning characters as well as some new faces. Fellow agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and Will Brandt (Jeremy Renner) return with entertaining, humorous, and couple-like banter. Alec Baldwin joins the cast as the strict and self-righteous CIA director Alan Hunley, but the spotlight for the supporting characters was almost entirely stolen by badass sidekick Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
Though she matched Hunt in almost every way, Faust presumably joined a long list of replaceable, underdeveloped and unappreciated female leads in the Mission series. Faust was complex, and her motivations and goals were understandable. She and Hunt share a deeper connection, which strengthened their dynamic. As an added bonus, the connection wasn’t romantic! Interestingly, Faust made for a more compelling antagonist than the mysterious and al-Qaeda-like shadow organization called the Syndicate.
The main villain, Syndicate leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), was creepy but not a memorable evildoer. The Syndicate was made up of dozens of rogue IMF agents, but our heroes seem to believe that taking down Lane would shut the whole thing down. As Hunt and his crew clearly didn’t learn from history, eradicating an organization, especially one trained in your own tactics, is not that simple.
Like its predecessors, “Rogue Nation” punched, kicked, shot and exploded its way into theaters across the nation. The action took priority, which pleased fans expecting that nostalgic familiarity, but sacrificed a fifth opportunity for some originality.