by David Robinson, Movie Reviewer
Available on DVD, “Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation,” was heavily hyped since last winter: it delivers on the promise. It’s clearer, funnier, and more carefully made than its immediate predecessor. In addition, the technical virtuosity on display makes for a fuller cinematic experience. Big Movies may not be your thing, but this fifth one adds nicely to the 19-year tradition that star/producer Tom Cruise and a varying cast have established.
As always, familiarity with the concept of the IM Force helps, though you have to be something of a geezer — like the present writer — to recall the immensely popular TV show of the ‘60s. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie plays wittily with a number of the old standbys we have come to expect: the self-destructing message from the State Department (or some minion of “The Secretary,” anyway), the MIF’s operation below the official radar in order to save the world from sinister bad guys, and of course, the masks.
These latter are the subject not only of critical plot twists but get fun poked at them, especially through the character of Benji Dunn, a splendid addition to the series in his second appearance, played by British comedian Simon Pegg. Pegg joins Cruise on one of the inevitable chase scenes and, by his terrified responses to the star’s stunt driving, elevates it beyond cliche. The filmmakers combine laughs and thrills deftly here and elsewhere, and Cruise turns out to be a pretty good comedian, especially in his use of slight facial movements to convey his responses to other characters.
One of them, Ilsa Faust, may be either an ally or a nemesis, depending on which scene we’re watching. (Considering that part of the movie takes place in Casablanca, movie buffs should consider her name emblematic.) Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson makes her debut in the series — which needs a strong female presence amongst the guys — convincingly. Here’s hoping she returns in #6. Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, who turned up in #4 (“Ghost Protocol”) gets a great deal less to do here, as does the estimable Ving Rhames. And Sean Harris, as chief baddie Solomon Lane, just wasn’t a wise choice. The head of the shadowy Syndicate, a bunch of disaffected secret agents from around the world, Lane comes off as more nebbish than Threat to World Order, never a good thing in a villain.
The technical stunts almost equal those of Cruise as he hangs onto airplanes, dashes through traffic, and wheels along winding roads on a motorcycle. Cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editor Eddie Hamilton make the over two hours’ running time move along quickly and coherently. Credit, too, must go to director/screenwriter McQuarrie for providing little recaps or explanations to clarify just what’s going on — an advance over the last several “IM” offerings.
Finally, Ian Arber’s musical score significantly departs from the usual bombast we have to suffer through in films of this ilk. His weaving together of Lalo Schifrin’s theme music for the TV series with motifs from the opera “Turandot” — a performance of which figures importantly in the plot — nicely, at times almost subliminally, reinforces the visual actions and interactions on the screen.
Rated “PG-13” for sequences of action and violence and partial nudity, “Rogue Nation” defies the film axiom that long-running series eventually run out of gas. At 53, Cruise demonstrates that there’s a potentially bright future — at least near term — for the IMF franchise, which is threatened with extinction but saved (mirabile dictu) by none other than the U.S. Senate, perhaps its most dramatic action in this decade.
‘Mission Impossible –