Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
Story: Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pierce
Tom Cruise: Ethan Hunt
Jeremy Renner: William Brandt
Simon Pegg: Benji Dunn
Rebecca Ferguson: Ilsa Faust
Ving Rhames: Luther Stickell
Sean Harris: Solomon Lane
Alec Baldwin: Alan Hunley
Jens Hulten: Janik Vinter
The plot: A shadowy organization known as “The Syndicate” may or may not exist. Comprised of secret agents from many nations that have disappeared or been thought to be dead, it is in the start up phase, waiting only to get its hands on sufficient operating funds. Ethan Hunt has been chasing the elusive organization for a year, but Alan Hunley, head of the CIA, believes it doesn’t exist and Ethan Hunt has gone rogue.
Hunley convinces a congressional oversight committee to disband the IMF and roll all of it’s personnel into the CIA, which is where Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) now work. This leaves Hunt out in the cold with not only the Syndicate, which does exist, trying to manipulate and kill him, but the CIA as well, though Brandt does his best to manipulate the CIA to prevent that.
The Syndicate captures Hunt and is about to torture him, but Ilsa Faust, who may or may not be a loyal Syndicate operative, helps him escape from the evil Janik Vinter (Jens Hulten) and the head of the Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
From there, viewers need only sit back and enjoy the trademarks of the Mission Impossible series: wild car chases, equally wild motorcycle chases, double crosses, triple crosses, doubts, apparent betrayal, good guys in jeopardy, loyalty, amazing technological gadgets, equally amazing stunts, friendship, you name it. The series, and this movie, incorporate so many action sequences–my favorite is three separate assassins trying to kill a politician and each other during an opera performance while Hunt tries to prevent the killing of the politician while deciding which of the assassins needs to be killed–that not long ago would have been nearly impossible. Such things, with the assistance of computer graphics, make stunts that would have been previously impossible or prohibitively expensive the status quo. Audiences easily come to expect such cinematic skill and accomplishment and take them for granted. The opening scene alone, which takes only about ten minutes, would have been the single, climactic action scene of many movies of the past.
The plot keeps the audience guessing much of the time. Who is Iisa Faust, and is she an enemy or ally? Does Brandt betray Hunt? Is Hunt obsessed with his quest for The Syndicate and thus unable to think clearly, or will he, as always, brilliantly come through in the end? What will become of the IMF?
Central to the story is the conflict, the mental struggle between the evil Solomon Lane and Hunt. Lane, from the beginning, seems to be manipulating Hunt, forcing him, inevitably, using the lever of his loyalty to his friends, to do his evil bidding. The best, and entirely unforeseen twist is how Hunt ironically bests Lane. It’s unclear if Hunt has been manipulating him from the start, but he does it brilliantly at the end. I won’t spoil the surprise for those that want to see the film in the theater.
Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt with an almost ironic, smirking detachment. The role is his; it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else playing it. As always, we have to see Cruise with his shirt off–the early near-torture scene–and as always, he engages in feats of physical derring-do that would do a circus acrobat proud. Apart from Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson–Iisa–is the real star. She’s a real physical presence, and credibly handles aggressive fight and action sequences, including finally dispatching the evil Vinter in a knife fight, with tactics borrowed from Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, which is a good idea; Johansson does it with style.
Jeremy Renner doesn’t get to use many physical chops–he’s no Aaron Cross here–nor does Simon Pegg or Ving Rhames, but their parts in the movie continue the logical progression of their characters. And eventually, Alan Hunley comes to appreciate Hunt for the irreplaceable asset he is. Baldwin’s role demands little in the way of impressive acting, but he plays the part in a workmanlike manner.
The dialogue is often terse, but the movie is liberally salted with truly funny sight gags, many working through the interplay of the characters. There is little or no character development here, but that’s not the purpose of this movie.
Mission: Impossible, Rogue Nation is an exciting action thriller with characters the audience cares about. Compared to the other installments of the series, it is most like Ghost Protocol in flow and action, and some, I’m sure, will be tempted to think it no better than the rest of the series, but again, the standards for this genre are now so high, and this movie meets them so effortlessly, it’s easy to take the accomplishment for granted.
There are no insights for the ages here. No one should attend expecting to gain profound insights into the human condition. Production values are uniformly high, location shots are convincing, sets and costumes flawless, and there are no obvious continuity errors, as in Ghost Protocol, where a female baddie is kicked out a 100+ story window of luxury hotel, yet shortly thereafter, no one at ground level seems to be so much as aware of the large stain on the pavement.
It’s not a must-see movie, and I watched it, only a week into general release, with a half-filled theater, but it is an entertaining and intelligent action thriller, and Rebecca Ferguson is a delight to watch. She’s not a wispy supermodel type playing an athletic woman, but an athletic woman playing a skilled, deadly and athletic woman. She’s a great role model for girls; you really don’t have to have a 28” waist and enormous, gravity-defying breasts to be attractive and exciting. Even if you don’t choose to see the movie in the theater, it is absolutely worth having on DVD, and viewing more than once.
Oh yes: the IMF has been dis-disavowed, and no, Hunt doesn’t get the girl. He’s married, remember?