Mission In Action
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
UK cinema release print.
My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to review this fine movie without using the phrases, “pulse pounding”, “high octane” or “rollercoaster ride” because they’re such clichés, even though these specific phrases are more than true descriptions of a film which delivers on all those counts.
So here we are again. Regular readers of this blog will possibly remember that it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw the movie incarnations of the Mission Impossible films. I reviewed them all, right here on this blog, and if it wasn’t for my dad finally talking me around to watching them with him (he loves them) then I wouldn’t be reviewing this one now. As it is, I would have been missing out on something pretty damn special in terms of this being a Hollywood blockbuster which more than exceeds any of my expectations of it and also, to boot, my first Mission Impossible movie seen at the cinema.
Now, it’s really not a film that I was expecting to be that good, in all honesty but, now I’ve looked the movie up on the IMDB, it comes as no real surprise to me because the director of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie, also directed one of my favourite films to star Tom Cruise in recent years, Jack Reacher (reviewed here) and was partially responsible for the screenplay of another, Edge Of Tomorrow (reviewed here). To say he does a good job on this one, seriously, is a big understatement. It’s rare I like big budget summer movies quite this much but this one is so well put together and it’s written in such a way that, right from the second sequence in the movie, you really want Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hawke character, and the rest of the Mission Impossible team for that matter, to sort out the bad guys by whatever means necessary.
The movie starts off with a very big scene which is the main set piece used in the promotional trailer and in some of the movie posters. If, like me, you thought the film was going to gradually lead up to the sequence where we see Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a plane, think again... this sequence is just the pre-credits tease, just whetting the appetite for the real main course. Fortunately, the movie doesn’t just go from action piece to action piece without much attention to the plot... although there are a few “chain sequences” of pulse pou-... errr.... I mean, of fast paced action which will have your heartbeat racing in an enthusiastic celebration of aggressive rhythm, there is also a lot of cool espionage type storyline, well fleshed out characters, loads of old faces in the form of Ethan’s associated played by Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames, plus a couple of new characters played by Alec Baldwin, as the film’s chief ‘good antagonist’, the villanous Sean Harris and a new female double, triple or possibly even quadruple agent named Ilsa, played stylishly by the amazing Rebecca Ferguson, who seems to be playing the role as if Ingrid Bergman was engaging in athletic fisticuffs before being handed a bunch of firearms to play with. Absolutely amazing.
The film, after the pre-credits sequence and a brilliant opening title design appropriate to the franchise, then gets absolutely brilliant with the traditional “your mission if you choose to accept it” scene... and this is where the movie took me totally by surprise which, regular readers of this column will know, is not an easy thing. It also sets up the leading villain, Sean Harris’ character Soloman Lane as the guy to hate and in this movie, he plays the head of a loosely built organisation know only as The Syndicate, who were apparently a major recurring enemy in the original Mission Impossible TV series.
After the initial set up which sees the Impossible Mission team disbanded and Ethan a fugitive from his own people, it’s up for him and his friends to outwit both Lane and the CIA to try and stop the syndicate, which involves numerous encounters with the beautiful and deadly Ilsa, a typical infiltration caper, a not so subtle or surprising scene where one of the gang gets to wear a mask (why do they put those in still... it’s always so obvious who is posing as who way before the reveal) and tons of action but, it has to be said, well choreographed, beautifully edited and not inappropriate action to the plot... I’m glad to say.
And there are some beautiful moments in the movie, to be sure. A sequence in an opera house where Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg are trying to figure out what’s going on before becoming embroiled in a movie moment not totally unlike the one in either of Hitchcock’s versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much is truly entertaining and nicely handled with some fantastic cinematography taking full advantage of the multiple vertical shapes in the interiors of the locations which are used to isolate and highlight characters within smaller compartments, chopped up from the full width of the frame. It’s really nicely put together and, since it’s such a fast moving and suspenseful sequence, something you really have to take your hat off to... if you happen to be wearing one. There’s a similar nice use of verticals used near the end of the film in a two hander sequence between Ilsa and a villanous henchman known as The Bone Doctor which, in all honesty, reminded me of scene in the cathedral/church in the 1963 James Bond movie From Russia With Love (reviewed here) and, happily, it’s no less satisfying.
There’s also a wonderfully long segment of film where we get the typical Mission Impossible infiltration caper... one which will, if you’re anything like me, have you holding your breath as much as the characters involved in this particular sequence, followed by a high oct-... err... petrol injected car chase and then, furthermore, followed by a spectacular motorcycle chase... all one after the other and punctuated by comical highlights and dialogue revelations in just the right mix that it all works and leaves you breathless when the sequence is done.
Added to this, we have the first Mission Impossible score by composer Joe Kraemer, who also scored the same director’s Jack Reacher. What can I say? Much as I loved all the scores for the franchise by Hollywood giants Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer and Michael Giacchino... Kramer’s score, for me, is by far the greatest of the Mission Impossible soundtracks so far and I’m really looking forward to that CD turning up in the post in a few weeks time. He really nails how to both use and then integrate Lalo Schifrin’s famous original TV theme for the show without using it as just a crutch for his own, truly awesome solutions to the scoring on this movie. Now, I have to say, when the film reached Morroco, the composer used a big melody which sounded extremely similar, to these old ears, to a sub theme used in Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Mummy. Now maybe it’s a musical cliché based on a specific quirk of the locale in which this part of the movie is set... I only mention the similarity, nothing more. However, Kramer really knows how to work it into the music and he uses it in a few moments in the movie, most astonishingly in a sequence where the big sweeping melody is suddenly used as the base line to support a different musical solution a little later in the story.... which really blew me away, I can tell you. Can’t wait to listen to it away from the context of its functional use.
And that’s about it, I think. The cast are all absolutely great with Simon Pegg’s character really getting a much more prominent role here and with the always excellent Jeremy Renner seeming, perhaps, a little underused but certainly doing some great supporting work here. Rhames is grand, Ferguson is sublime, Harris and Baldwin are both really on the money and... well I’ve always liked Cruise as an actor. Not necessarily the roles he sometimes chooses but he always does a great job in whatever film he’s in and, as with many other roles, he makes you believe he’s capable of what his character is supposed to be able to do here. Added into this we have some really nice writing, great comic moments and some action sequences that make this a real rolllerco-... err... the movie equivalent of one of those big rides on tracks you see at theme parks... so that’s all good. If you’re a fan of the franchise then you will surely love this latest installment and, if not, it’s a great jumping on point to start off from, although knowing who the regular good guy characters are in this will take away a little of the intrigue of the earlier films if you watch them out of order. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is real good time at the movies, though, and I really would be happy for them to do another one at some point soon. This review will self destruct in five seconds.
Mission Impossible at NUTS4R2
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to click on one of the titles below to take you to my review.
Mission Impossible 2
Mission Impossible 3
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation