Posted on Friday, July 31st, 2015 by Angie Han
Any franchise could be forgiven for growing a bit stale after twenty years and five installments, but against all odds the Mission: Impossible series is still going strong. While the new entry directed by Chris McQuarrie may not be an all-time high, it’s another solid entry that equals its predecessors in the stunt department, and features the most engaging new character since Simon Pegg and Philip Seymour Hoffman in III. Read our full Mission Impossible Rogue Nation review after the jump.
As is often the case with these films, the plot of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hardly matters. Mostly, it’s just a convoluted excuse to ferry the characters and the audience from one breathtaking action set piece to another. But the basic premise is this: The IMF has been dissolved by new CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who (quite reasonably, though Ethan and company don’t see it that way) points out that chaos tends to follow the organization, and that even their best results look an awful lot like luck. But Ethan remains a rogue agent out in the field, chasing after a shadowy organization known as the Syndicate.
His efforts rope in a few familiar faces: agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who now report to Hunley; and retired agent Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). They also bring him in contact with two mysterious new figures: Syndicate head Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and his right-hand woman Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). From there, the characters jump from Paris to Vienna to Morocco to London in pursuit of each other and a certain crucial piece of information.
Given how much of the Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation marketing has focused on that plane stunt — you know, the one in which McQuarrie and his crew literally strapped one of America’s biggest movie stars to the outside of a moving plane — it’s a surprise to realize it’s the very first scene of the movie. What’s more, it’s not even close to its best action sequence. It’s something like the fourth or fifth. That’s not a knock on the scene, which is plenty fun, but rather a testament to those other scenes.
Particular highlights include an underwater sequence and an opera house scene. Cruise reportedly learned to hold his breath for six minutes at a time for the former, and it shows. McQuarrie does an effective job of building up the tension, keeping the takes just long enough to be uncomfortable. Even though there’s no real chance of Ethan Hunt drowning halfway through the movie, it’s hard to keep from gasping for air while watching him.
Meanwhile, the opera house scene makes such spectacular use of its setting, it raises the question of why more action movies aren’t set in opera houses. The space is simultaneously expansive and claustrophobic. Ethan and his opponents tiptoe across catwalks, duck in and out of shadows, and rise and fall with the equipment. The lavish backdrop and swelling music — did I mention all of this is going down during a live performance of Turandot? — only add to the drama.
And that’s not the half of it. If accelerating airplanes, claustrophobic water tanks, and backstage hijinks aren’t your speed, there’s also a car chase, a motorcycle chase, a foot chase, a knife fight, several shootings, multiple fist fights, and, of course, a mask gag.
On the next page: Ethan’s old friends return, and the franchise introduces one of its best characters ever.