As I walked into the theater with a quiet reservation, still unshaken by the multitude of critical praise and audience adulation, I nonetheless found my pulse quickening the moment the lights went down to a quick fluttering of horns followed by the unmistakable Mission: Impossible theme. Despite months of largely ignoring Rogue Nation rumors and buzz (as much as any film writer can manage) and suppressing any feelings of true excitement, a simple few lines of music — capably played by an orchestra led by composer/conductor Joe Kraemer — delivered me immediately to my youth. I was struck by a sense of childlike awe and adventure that I was certain had been replaced by an immense cynicism brought on by a seemingly decade-long decline in the quality of action films.
Youthful exuberance aside, Christopher McQuarrie’s version of the now-prolific franchise takes full advantage of the ridiculousness established by his predecessors by engaging in a game of “impossible-ness” one-upmanship and nods to the past. Tom Cruise, now a seasoned 53-year-old operative, is more daring and spry than ever. Whether clinging to the side of an airplane in flight or holding his breath for north of three minutes, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is an unstoppable force.
Much like the four previous installments, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation finds Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) pitted against monumental odds and a shadowy group of international terrorists. “The Syndicate” proves to be too elusive and too worthy an adversary for the group of specialized counter-terrorists, who are already under microscopic government scrutiny. Disbanded and absorbed into the CIA, the IMF ceases operations and is charged with extracting all assets from their current posts. Refusing to go quietly, Hunt goes rogue in search of the unknown head of The Syndicate, becoming a wanted man, and further alienating himself from the rest of his IMF cohorts. Introducing Rebecca Ferguson as British badass covert operative Ilsa Faust — who could give Daniel Craig’s James Bond a run for his money — Rogue Nation embraces the bold attitudes of the past to deliver a fun, heart-pounding ride.
While certainly not reinventing the espionage thriller, McQuarrie’s script introduces plenty of fresh intrigue and variation to maintain a level of audience interest slightly below that of driving on the highway during a blinding torrential downpour. He is constantly taunting Hunt with dead-end clues and hampering his progress with a legion of frustrating obstacles — even while going about the most mundane tasks, we are forced to acknowledge that Hunt is part of the Impossible Mission Force and not the “Theoretically Possible Operation Brigade” (that one’s a freebie, parody film producers). Like the fibrous Cruise, McQuarrie’s camera is in constant motion. A frenetic blend of freewheeling camera movement and unsettlingly choppy editing, the film appeals directly to the senses, bypassing the critical thinking portion of its audience’s brains and feeding itself into the nervous system. When combined with the tense, operatic score, Rogue Nation becomes a loud, flop sweat-inducing wallop of a film.
No Mission: Impossible review would be complete without mentioning the insanity of the stunts, and the fact that an ultra-wealthy old man chose to, once again, do all of his own. Taking a page out of Keaton’s book, mixed with a little Jackie Chan insanity, Cruise’s stunts, despite their highly-choreographed nature, are still monumentally impressive. Between showing off the new moves his personal trainer has been teaching him in the gym (he looks like he could do pull-ups all day), and his penchant for riding stupidly fast on motorcycles (sans helmet), Cruise has bested even himself in this latest installment. Matched by the acrobatic ferocity of Ferguson’s Faust, Cruise’s antics transform Rogue Nation into an explosive Cirque du Soleil performance on the grandest of scales.
A boisterous, extravagant action opera (Kraemer even injects some Nessun Dorma into his compositions), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is exactly what it should be — tons of fun. The animal magnetism between Ferguson and Cruise moves to the forefront of an already captivating film, proving that female love interests/side-kicks can (and should) kick as much ass than their male counterparts.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of sunny San Diego, California. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.