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Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Ahead of the finale of the wildly adventurous new entry into the Mission Impossible franchise, Alec Baldwin’s C.I.A. haughty head gives the British Prime Minister a fantastic and absurd speech that basically tells him how relentless and cunning Agent Ethan Hunt is.

And then sure enough, Hunt shows up in dramatic fashion. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s just what they want. If each task Hunt and company undertake is impossible, and each one more impossible than the last, then how else should one react than with shock and laughter.

Rogue Nation, the fifth in the film franchise, returns with Tom Cruise in the lead role as the indefatigable agent with no fear, and maybe a few loose screws. We start with the awe-inspiring and tense before heading to the ludicrous and pleasurable; we know Hunt (and Cruise, for that matter) will make it to the finale, but it’s some eye-opening fun that gets us there. Hanging on the side of the plane to start the film (that’s the side door, not the wing), and navigating an underwater chamber are exceptional set-pieces, enhanced by the idea that Cruise himself is there in it.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (his first time with the series, but fourth time writing for Cruise), this latest entry follows in tone more closely the fourth film, a mixture of comedy and spectacle. Any gravity comes in the form of actress Rebecca Ferguson, who breaks out big as a deep cover spy aligned with Hunt, proving both his physical and mental equal. The only woman in a boys club (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and a particularly wry Jeremy Renner all return as Hunt’s IMF colleagues), Ferguson plays Ilsa Faust, an agent that gets to rescue Hunt more often than the reserve, showing off her combat skills, with and without a knife.

Following Hunt’s reckless leap on a cargo plane to capture some dangerous package, the C.I.A. director (a perfectly-cast, cocky Baldwin), sits besides Renner’s Agent Brandt lobbying to shut down the reckless Impossible Mission Force. He succeeds, and while Brandt is in Washington, reluctantly working beside the director, Hunt goes lobe-trotting in search of a devious leader of the mysterious Syndicate.

That the evil organization is named the Syndicate, and that so many characters keep saying the name, is utterly silly; I get that ‘Spectre’ and ‘KAOS’ are taken, but the Syndicate sounds like something out of Austin Powers or The Simpsons.

Still, this rogue nation boasts a well-manicured and soft-spoken calculating leader in Sean Harris, and a behemoth of a number one henchman nicknamed ‘The Bone Doctor.’ Hunt develops a monomaniacal obsession with taking down the group (it may remind viewers uncomfortable of Cruise’s real life passions), which may be the least interesting part of the film. The plot is held together by the charm of its cast, especially Pegg who also plays the most sympathetic character, and the almost relentless action.

It becomes absurd action yes, but really where else is there to go? “It’s an impossible mission,” says Faust at one point, simultaneously serious and comic. Before you know it, Hunt is underwater as the audience holds its breath, waiting for things to go wrong before it all falls into place.

[star v=35]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.