A version of the following review is published in MAG – The Weekly, on 28th of August 2015.
Woes of (Wonderful) Cliche — and of the Adrenaline-Junkie, Super-Spy Hero
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
When, at the beginning of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) suddenly pops up, dashes towards, and then perilously grapples a flying cargo plane, one wonders, “has it really been nineteen years since Cruise did the original Mission: Impossible that flagged his status as an action star?!”
Cruise, now fifty four, may not look the best without a shirt (the actor also did a shirtless scene in Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation’s director, in his last movie Jack Reacher, with a girlishly-giggling Rosamund Pike), but, darn it, he is fit!
As the main cog of the Mission: Impossible (M:I) movies, Cruise had deliberately steered the franchise’s status far-and-away (no comparison to his movie with Ron Howard) from the campiness of the original sixties series. With Ghost Protocol’s end, which leads to the whole of Rogue Nation, he and writer/director McQuarrie have temporarily navigated back to basics.
I hope the stay is temporary (unfortunately, like the directors and the lead actresses, all of who only do one M:I film and then move on). As much as I like the fluffier tone here, the differences of each M:I film help sustain a sense of freshness within a number of series-stapled formulas.
The plot, as thin as the second or third part of this series, is a gracious placeholder. In the movie, the government shuts down the Impossible Mission Force, places it under the CIA for accountability – Alec Baldwin runs the show there – and introduces a nefarious counter organization, which Ethan sets-off against, half out-of-it like a junkie – a great jab at Cruise’s personal life – and of course again being branded as an outlawed agent. For the plot’s necessary needs, this cliché serves the flow of the film (and the franchise) well.
Cruise shares an almost equal amount of screen charisma with a wonderful Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, and the dangerously gorgeous Rebecca Ferguson, who plays a British super-agent (called, amusingly, Elsa Faust) with sketchy allegiances. Her inclusion gives Ethan exclusivity to a handful of wow-factor moments (too bad Mr. Renner doesn’t see any action here) – one of which, a frighteningly real, really long-take underwater, almost harks back to the NOC-list retrieval scene from the first M:I movie; the mood, however, is very much lighter.
Here, before Ethan jumps into the water, Benji (Pegg), quite seriously accepts the riskiness of the action on his behalf – “What’s impossible about that” Benji says about holding one’s breath in water for three minutes, finding, unlocking and tampering with a secure device, while evading a constantly rotating robot arm and the intense water flow. Just who designs their security system in such dangerous locations, I’d like to know – and Ethan’s aghast expression, though targeting Benji, could be asking the same question.
In a way, big action is M:I’s trademark – be it bike chases, or rebellion against gravity; for those who are always upset by prosaicisms, this is called working within boundaries – and in Rogue Nation’s case, excelling in it. McQuarrie’s fresh, if old-school, brand of humor fits comfortably within Ethan and co’s globetrotting frenzy, however crazy, and ludicrously awesome, it may look on-screen.
This is the published version: