Simon Pegg is in a ghillie suit in the middle of a field. OK, stop right there and take that in. In some ways, that image epitomizes the newest addition to the Mission Impossible franchise, Rogue Nation. It has the most embedded humor that is woven throughout the film of any of the Mission Impossible movies while maintaining its hallmark of the action, mystery and surprises. This ties in with Mission Impossible III for my favorite in the series (Philip Seymour Hoffman was just a fabulous bad guy).
What makes Rogue Nation so good? For starters, it contains the consistently solid full-on performance of Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg’s humor, and Rebecca Ferguson’s capable British counterpoint whose allegiance isn’t fully made clear until the latter part of the film. An example of this is the requisite chase scene. We all knew Rogue Nation would have one. We knew it would be fast. We knew it wouldn’t lead to any real resolutions. So how does it keep from being mundane? It has a beautifully choreographed and photographed motorcycle chase in a crowded, chaotic city and a tortuous mountain road. It also has a few humorous spots. So while chase scenes are old news, this one didn’t feel well-worn.
The movie fires on all cylinders. Director Christopher McQuarrie writes well and clearly has an understanding of how to work with Tom Cruise, as seen by Jack Reacher and his writing for Edge of Tomorrow. Not only is Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa not just another pretty face, but her relationship with Ethan Hunt isn’t just another instant fall-in-love and in-bed affair. There is actual caring for one another with mutual respect. Alec Baldwin, as head of the CIA, plays the role straight, but there is always a bit of a glint in his eye that suggests he is having some fun. Sean Harris plays a solid, if not completely inspiring bad guy. Jeremy Renner plays William Brandt with nonchalance to the point he almost seems bored, but it pays dividends when he needs to surprise down the line. I’m looking forward to seeing him as Macduff opposite Fassbender’s Macbeth. While their roles were relatively small, Simon McBurney and Tom Hollander brought life to their MI6 head and Prime Minister roles, respectively. So one thing that sets the film apart is that there are no wasted roles. Even Hermione Corfield, as the record shop girl, wields brief moments of screen time with her smile, look, or a single tear to imprint her character on your memory.
Like a Bond film, Mission Impossible films hold the promise of gorgeous locations and cinematography. Rogue Nation is no different; from Vienna to Casablanca and Cuba to London, it’s a feast for your eyes and ears. I love the visual juxtapositions, such as going from a high-tech center to dusty streets, a river walk to a high-tech interior and a cool water vault to a drainage pit. Along with all of the sites and sounds, Joe Kraemer did an admirable job with the soundtrack. I especially like how he played with the Mission Impossible theme, incorporating what’s familiar while making it new, much like the movie itself.