Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation Review

The ballad of Ethan Hunt didn't really kick in until the third Mission: Impossible film, but boy howdy, once it did, the entire franchise suddenly took on an irresistible allure that made not watching these movies the real impossible mission (thanks folks, I'll be here all week!). After that third entry came its successor, Ghost Protocol, easily the best film in the saga in my book. I was sure nothing could top that Brad Bird directed feature, and while Rogue Nation doesn't quite top that 2011 effort, it comes pretty damn close, which is an impressive feat in and of itself!

When Ethan Hunt sets himself on a task, he's an unstoppable force of nature, and not even the dissolving of the IMF organization (the agency he works for) can stop him from taking on The Syndicate, a collection of evildoers that could cause havoc across the globe. Along with Benji (Simon Pegg) and the unpredictable Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), not to mention some help from Luther (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), they gotta go after The Syndicate and take em down, even against some "impossible" odds.

Even five films into this franchise, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie comes up with an endless supply of twists and turns in Rogue Nation that kept me relentlessly guessing as to what will come next. Impressively, the outcomes of these twists and turns never feel contrived, but feel like satisfying conclusions to the inquiries the film previously raised. Anyone with even a passing experience with storytelling twists knows how difficult it can be to come up with last minute reveals that don't underwhelm, but good heavens does McQuarrie know how to accomplish such exciting storytelling moments.

Similar to its prosperity in executing twists in the plot, the script knows how to keep characters interesting even whilst loads of action is occurring. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Ilsa, played with gusto by Rebecca Ferguson. Her true allegiances are always murky in the story, but keeping her motivations in the shadows never comes at the cost of making her a captivating character. Plus, she pauses a moment to take off her heels before engaging in an action sequence. Take that Jurassic World!

It occurred to me in an early scene where a shirtless Ethan Hunt is being interrogated violently that part of the reason why this character, as well as Tom Cruise, has endured for so long as a blockbuster lead is due to his everyman appearance. Hunt doesn't come with Chris Hemsworth sized muscles and Cruises real life 5 foot 7 stature is never obscured when he's fighting against a villain who towers over him. But that's part of why he's so interesting; he's a normal guy going up against enormous obstacles in order to make the world a better place. There's an unshakable underdog spirit to Cruise in action sequences that makes any given action sequence riveting.

Speaking of action, man has McQuarrie (who also directs Rogue Nation) improved in directing sequences chock full of action since his previous directorial effort, Jack Reacher. Whereas that film sagged in depicting hand-to-hand combat, McQuarrie creates non-stop engrossing spectacle both small and large in scale in the two hour runtime of Rogue Nation. Whether its a motorcycle chase or an underwater race against time, there's an elegant craftsmanship to every punch, every second of top-caliber tension. Even after the final frame leaves the IMAX screen, it's hard to shake the sense of exhilaration that Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation weaves so effortlessly.

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