At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation “2015”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation “2015”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action Thriller/Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, Zhang Jingchu, Tom Hollander, Jens Hultén, Alec Baldwin, Hermione Corfield, Robert Maaser, Wolfgang Steigmann, Alec Utgoff, Mateo Rufino, Fernando Abadie, Rupert Wickham/Runtime: 131 minutes

I think it’s safe to say dear reader that whilst the long-ago year of 2015 was noteworthy in many respects for the realm of cinema there is one area of interest that perhaps went tragically unnoticed by a lot of people. That area being that, when you really stop to think about it, 2015 really was a pretty dang good year for spy flicks. Indeed not only did we get two delightfully over the top odes to 60s spy movies in the forms of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Guy Ritchie’s cinematic adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but we also got a really good entry in the 007 franchise in the form of Spectre respectively. Out of all of those however, there is one that is perhaps the most intriguing and that would be the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today which takes the shape and form of Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. Perhaps it’s because it’s the 5th entry in a franchise that, unlike most franchises that Hollywood has seen fit to grant movie goers like you and me, has actually managed to buck the odds and improve with time. Perhaps it’s because the series’ lead actor Tom Cruise has managed to showcase a continuing devotion to at best making the films in said franchise as entertaining as possible and at worst show he’s an extraordinary madman who has no limits to the stunts he is willing to pull off. No matter what the reason it may be however, there is no denying though that the reason this slice of cinema proved to be the most intriguing spy flick of the long-ago year 2015 is because of the fact that it is genuinely a complete and utter blast from start to finish. Sure, there are things that might make the more cynically-minded or logic-rooted viewers amongst you raise an eyebrow due to their level of implausibility, but when the work done on both sides of the camera proves to be this phenomenal and franchise lead Tom Cruise continues to show he truly is one of the best actors of his (or any for that matter come to think) generation I think it’s safe to say that those issues can definitely be overlooked. Suffice it to say then dear reader that Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation is a genuinely engaging film from start to finish to say nothing of proof that some cinematic franchises, like certain brands of wine, simply continue to get better and better with time.

The plot is as follows: Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation gets its electrifying narrative underway in a picturesque field in the locale of Minsk. That is until we see what looks like a mound of grass sit upright. Actually, that isn’t a mound of grass at all dear reader; rather, it’s IMF agent Benji Dunn who is on assignment with our boy wonder Ethan Hunt and that picturesque field is in fact located across from an airfield where a plane carrying a shipment of deadly nerve gas is about to take off. Fortunately for all of civilization as we know it, we see that Ethan and Benji, with aid from pals Brandt and Luther, are able to get the nerve gas out of enemy hands through a rather….distinct method that I will just let you see for yourself. From there, we soon make our way to jolly ol’ London where we learn that the nerve gas shipment was just the latest scheme hatched by a group of rogue operatives that Ethan has been tracking for a while. A group incidentally that is known only as the Syndicate. Unfortunately, we soon learn that whilst Ethan has been tracking them, this nefarious organization has also been tracking him and sure enough it isn’t long before this rogue nation (see what I did there) makes him very much aware of that fact courtesy of luring him into a trap and subsequently capturing our favorite super spy. Making matters worse however is the fact that back in Washington, the Director of the CIA, one Alan Hunley, is successfully able to persuade a Senate committee to both dismantle the IMF and bring it under the CIA’s umbrella despite Brandt’s best efforts to the contrary. As a result, we see that Ethan, despite being able to escape his captivity with the aid of an enigmatic woman named Ilsa Faust, is quickly branded a CIA fugitive and forced to go on the run. Thus with the clock ticking before the Syndicate’s next dire scheme is set into motion and a hit squad from the CIA desperately trying to hunt him down and take him out, can Ethan, with the aid of his IMF team plus Ilsa, not only find the evidence he needs to prove the Syndicate’s existence as well as locate the Syndicate’s leader, one Solomon Lane, but also put a stop to them before that plan is executed or is this one mission for our intrepid hero that even he might not be able to accomplish? That I will leave for you to find out for yourself dear reader…..

Now right off, it should be noted that the work done behind the camera on this installment is genuinely the stuff movie magic is made of. This starts with the fact that even though this franchise had, up until this installment, given gainful and productive employment to a distinct director with each entry, this one marked a turning point for the franchise due to having the director of choice also be the sole scribe on it as well. Perhaps this is why, even with a runtime of 131 minutes (including credits) to its name, this installment felt like the most cohesive in terms of vision that audiences had gotten from the franchise when this first came out in 2015. No, Christopher McQuarrie is nowhere near as over the top with his style as the first two film’s helmers were and he may have the same fantastic cinematographer as 2011’s Ghost Protocol, but this film definitely feels a lot darker and a lot more basic in terms of color than any of the other entries did. Making up for that though would be the fact that McQuarrie gives us a wonderfully nuanced story that thankfully also isn’t hard to comprehend at the same time. Yes, when looking at this film on merely a surface level, we see that this film is another cinematic quilt of tributes to not just Alfred Hitchcock and fellow legend in the cinematic spy community 007, right down to the shifty female spy equally capable of aiding and abetting our heroes in equal measure as well as a taut action beat in an opera house lovingly reminiscent of the climax to The Man Who Knew Too Much, but also to moments from the original source material right down to the iconic theme music. As a result, we see that coded messages are exchanged, top-secret bank accounts are vital to the plot, bombs are defused and detonated, the film’s antagonist definitely gives off a Blofeld vibe, and there are definitely a few double/triple crosses to be found. Yet when looking past that, one sees that there is a very intricate and intriguing concept at the heart of this film. That being one of who truly does a spy owe their honor and loyalty to? Is it their fellow agents, the people they are supposed to protect, or even themselves? No, I don’t ever see a day where an entry in this franchise will ever be viewed in the same lens as a spy story from the iconic John le Carre. Even with that in mind though, there is no denying that this slice of cinema manages to possess both a worldliness as well as a winning sense of fun that, when combined, managed to result in this entry being one of the most thought-provoking in the franchise. Speaking of that sense of fun though….I think it should also be said that this sense of fun incidentally can also be attributed to the incredible action beats that this slice of cinema is equipped with. Not just to the aforementioned scene at the opera house, but also to (among others) a motorcycle chase in Morocco that will leave you on the edge of your seat and the one at the film’s opening which, without going into spoilers, definitely takes this film in a rather sky-high direction. Out of all of them though, the one that will most assuredly leave its mark is the one where we see Ethan having to swim and hold his breath for three minutes in a huge water turbine for reasons and without being able to utilize any sort of oxygen tank whatsoever. Indeed it might be a thrilling and quite potent action bit, but it’s also handled with the same degree of skill as all the others and is sure to leave you holding your own breath in anticipation.

Of course, the other big element that helps this slice of cinema triumph in its mission of being the best movie that it can hope to be would have to be the work done by the talented cast of players in front of the camera. This starts (to no surprise) once more with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt and he is terrific. Not just in terms of his usual charisma or in his daredevil approach to doing as many of his own stunts as he possibly can before he regenerates into a new body a’la Doctor Who, but also in how this film actually gives him a vulnerability that we hadn’t really seen in the prior installments. As a result, this film is able to lean a bit more into Cruise being genuinely human and getting his butt handed to him a bit more, but also low-key funny as well through such moments as a worried smile when someone claims an upcoming task he has to do is easier than it is or in clumsily sliding over a car following events that shan’t be spoiled here. Along with Cruise though, I also really dig the work done here by the returning Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn. Indeed whereas in Ghost Protocol Benji was more of a scaredy cat comic relief-type character, this film actually permits Pegg to evolve the character to the point that Benji in this film has managed to become a more assertive and skilled agent to say nothing of loyal to his friend Ethan whilst still retaining his trademark sense of humor under the right circumstances. Now I will say that although Renner and Rhames do great work in their reprisals of Brandt and Luther respectively their roles are also a wee bit on the limited side. The same could also be said for Alec Baldwin who, as the gruff and full of bluster Alan Hunley, is perfect casting for a role that most assuredly deserved more than the 20-30 minutes minimum of screentime that it ultimately winds up getting. Out of everyone though, there are a pair of performances that are most assuredly worthy of mention. The first of these is from Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa and she is amazing. Not just in the moments where she proves more than capable of kicking bad guy butt as well as (if not slightly better than at times as) Ethan, but also in the moments where she plays this character with a delightful aura of ambiguity that consistently makes you wonder whose side is she really on. Indeed this is definitely a career-making performance from an actress who, in the time since, really has become a bonafide star in every sense of the word. As for the second, that would be from Sean Harris in the role of antagonist Solomon Lane. Indeed take Bond’s arch nemesis Blofeld, ditch the cat and scar in the eye, make him infinitely creepier, and you have a solid foundation for where to start with this guy and props to Harris for doing such a slimy good job at bringing him so vividly to life.  Suffice it to say that when you also factor in not-bad support efforts from Jens Hulten, Simon McBurney, Tom Hollander, and Hermoine Corfield amongst others, it’s clear that there might be some issues with this particular cinematic mission, but the work done by the cast of players in front of the camera most assuredly is not one of them.

All in all is Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation a perfect cinematic mission by any stretch of the imagination? Honestly I wouldn’t say that. At the same time though, does that make this a slice of cinema that you should just walk away from and never give a second thought to? Truthfully, I wouldn’t say that either dear reader. Indeed it might have some miniscule issues here and there, but the truth is that I really do dig the heck out of this movie dear reader. I mean the work done behind the camera is nothing short of phenomenal, the action beats are genuinely riveting in the best way, the story being told is actually compelling if not even slightly thought provoking to an extent, and the work done in front of the camera by the immensely talented cast of players, led by the once again in top form and then some Tom Cruise, is actually well-done and every single one of them do a fantastic job no matter how big or small each of their respective roles turns out to be. Best of all though is the fact that even when things do get a bit on the dire some side, there is no denying that this slice of cinema is just a genuinely fun time to be had pure and simple. Suffice it to say then at the end of the day that Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation is more than just another fantastic entry in a franchise that, unlike most, has actually been getting better with each new installment rather than worse. Rather, it is also a bonafide blast from start to finish to say nothing of one cinematic mission that, if given the chance to do so, you should definitely accept. Trust me when I say that you will definitely not regret it. On a scale of 1-5 I give Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation a solid 4 out of 5.