Cinematic Releases: Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

How is the newest Mission Impossible?

"I'm too old for this."
There’s a very short list of series that actually withstand the test of time, adapt to new demands, and bring new innovations for increasingly better results. Beginning in 1996 with an all-star cast and a brilliant visual stylist (Brian De Palma) in the director’s chair, it’s hard to hit the ground running faster, especially when you kill Emilio Estevez in the face. John Woo threw his doves into the mix with his action-filled and highly kinetic sequel. Then came J.J. Abrams’ feature film debut, bringing the focus back to character and finding a brilliant villain in the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Could it get better? Yes, it could. Enter Brad Bird, director of animated masterpieces like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. By the time the credits rolled on Ghost Protocol, all we could say were three words: Ho. Lee. Shat. Not only was this the best Mission: Impossible yet, it’s arguably one of the best action films of the last twenty years.

Could it get better again?

Rogue Nation hits the ground running and then takes off fast — literally. A lot of buzz has surrounded the stunt work Tom Cruise supplies for this latest outing as Ethan Hunt, and it’s for good reason. Whether he’s hanging on to the side of an aircraft as it takes off up to 1,000 feet or holding his breath for five minutes at a time, Cruise isn’t just a viable action hero and box office champion: He may be one of the best working stuntmen in movies today. The physical feats he pulls off at the age of 53 make me feel like a lazy wanker writing for a movie blog who needs to hit the gym. Maybe that’s because I am.

Surrounded by the usual rogue’s gallery of supporting characters who trigger those knowing smiles whenever they walk on screen, Cruise effortlessly commands our attention for the film’s duration. Simon Pegg has a lot more to do this time out, which is a welcome addition for this fifth installment. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames also return to supply some of the film’s best one-liners, as well as a double take during a high speed chase that’s worthy of the Marx Brothers. New to the lineup are Alec Baldwin, always dependable as the high-in-fiber version of his character from Glengarry Glen Ross; and Rebecca Ferguson, an enigmatic agent who embodies the spirit of the classic femme fatales of the '60s and the modern kick-ass women of today, all wrapped up in a beautiful redheaded package that clearly refuses to skip leg day. Seriously, she needs to get her ass bronzed.

"I need you to tell me
about the Star Trek
script you're writing."

Taking the helm this time is Christopher McQuarrie, Academy Award-winning writer for The Usual Suspects. Fresh off directing Cruise in the monstrously underrated Jack Reacher, McQuarrie brings the same sure touch as he did in that film, though it’s curiously bereft of his juicy signature dialogue. Fans of Ghost Protocol will notice a distinct difference in focus, tone, and style this time. McQuarrie is not looking to give us the rowdy good time and fun gadgets that Bird did. This is a Mission: Impossible that lives on the run and in the shadows, where the real villains are the ones who pick up phones instead of automatic weapons. His depiction of the sinister Syndicate and the gradual unveiling of its motives is equal parts political commentary and classic throwback.

So, did it get better? Not this time. Though full of meticulously staged action, crisp and beautifully shot with a noticeable lack of shaky-cam by the impeccably talented Robert Elswit, we do find ourselves missing what Abrams and Bird brought to the series: Character, heart, and humor. McQuarrie is more than capable of writing hysterically funny and catchy dialogue, and while there are a few memorable exchanges, it was fair to expect a lot more from the guy who created Keyser Soze. That’s not to say it’s bad: Rogue Nation is still a cut above the usual summer action entertainments, with enough cat-and-mouse games and double-triple crosses to spare for a sixth run. That Tom Cruise is one crazy son of a bitch, but it works for him.

P.S. What the hell happened to Michelle Monaghan?! She’s the most endearing character in the series and they’ve completely abandoned her! At least Ghost Protocol didn’t forget she existed. I call shenanigans.


- Blake O. Kleiner

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