Another Mission: Impossible film, another meaningless subtitle.
As the season of the super-spy commences – Man from UNCLE promises slick self-referential silliness, SPECTRE seems likely to continue the trend of Bond as dark, ambitious psychological thriller – Tom Cruise returns to the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt, by now probably the most disavowed person in cinema history.
On the hunt for the Syndicate, a “rogue nation” – I think they mean “organization” – running its own black ops, Hunt is also on the run from the CIA, embodied in the form of humorless director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin, the original Jack Ryan himself).
From its well-publicized opening set piece, which brings new meaning to the term “cruising altitude”, we follow Hunt around the globe, from Paris to Morocco to London, on land – via car and motorbike – and underwater: the film’s most thrilling sequence is similar to the now famous wire one from the first Mission: Impossible only this time the server is submerged and the audience isn’t the only one holding their breath.
Cruise is his usual lean, mean, reliably charming self. Simon Pegg – in the closest the series has ever had to a duel lead – remains endearingly gawky as techie-turned-field-agent Benjie. Jeremy Renner AKA Hollywood’s secondary leading man – well, tertiary here – is mostly side-lined but gets a good line in bureaucratic denial. Ving Rhames is, well, Ving Rhames.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation does break the mold somewhat in the addition of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, star of BBC drama The White Queen), a mysterious female operative who’s Ethan’s equal on every level, and Solomon Lane, leader of the Syndicate (played by Sean Harris as a strangely chilling cross between an evil Yurtle the Turtle and one of the nihilists from The Big Lebowski).
Thanks to Glenn Mortimer for pointing out that — SPOILER! — the film’s final act is pretty much the season one finale of Sherlock with Cruise as Sherlock, Benjie as Watson, and Lane as Moriarty.
Chris McQuarrie’s direction is stylish but not over-stylized — unlike, say, John Woo’s second installment, though there’s a nice Hitchcockian flourish involving an assassination at the opera and some sheet music. Also, Tom Cruise fights a big guy who, actually, given the height difference, is probably about 5’8″.
Like with Brad Bird and Ghost Protocol McQuarrie seems a natural fit for what’s become the epitome of the non-superhero blockbuster franchise. Whatever nice things I may have said about the most recent installment, Fast & Furious wishes it was this slick.