One of the big questions regarding Tom Cruise (excluding queries about his personal life) has to be: how long can he continue to up the ante on performing his own stunts as he gets older? The 51-year old returns to lead the franchise that he essentially owns, this time displaying his “balls of steel” in the first 5 minutes by actually hanging from a real cargo plane during take-off. At this rate, Cruise may not hang up his gloves until Mission: Impossible 10 is released in 2035, amidst a firestorm of press about how the 71-year old star was actually blasted into real space, wearing only a Hawaiian shirt, aviator glasses, and his trademark smile.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation sees the reunion of Ethan Hunt and his merry band of IMF pals as Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames all reprise their roles. Unfortunately these happy days are short-lived as the Force is disbanded and placed under the command of the CIA (represented by Alec Baldwin, a man who suits the “spymaster” persona with a gruff ease), but not before Hunt goes on run to investigate a shadowy organisation known as the “Syndicate”. Sean Harris is our fitting villain, the disillusioned traitor with shades of Moriarty, and Rebecca Ferguson excels as double-agent Ilsa Faust, a strong female character that doesn’t require a generic romantic subplot (thankfully).
It’s all standard stuff in a Mission: Impossible plot sense: Hunt must tread carefully through a world of double-crosses to track down the baddies, whilst also avoiding the sort-of goodies. Well-paced throughout and indulgently cheeky, the joy of Rogue Nation comes from how fast and loose it plays with its plot points. The self-aware sense of fun that has always been a part of the M:I franchise is in full-swing here and this movie positively revels in how far it can push its elements over-the-top. Cruise delivers a sly eyebrow raise and a slight smile, almost straight to camera at points, before a globetrotting transition to the next beautiful location. Rogue Nation is the sort of film that would make an excellent addition to the Bond series, if Daniel Craig’s movies had followed the boisterous trajectory established by Brosnan’s 007 rather than taking their dark and gritty turn; full of books that turn into computers, rifles hidden in instruments, and chrome-plated spy bunkers with unnecessary touch-screens absolutely everywhere.
Compared with previous franchise directors, Christopher McQuarrie certainly brings less personal flair to the production. Rogue Nation is strongly constructed all-round but lacks a sense of personality, perhaps unsurprising considering that this is only McQuarrie’s third directorial effort. It must be said that McQuarrie handles sound and music exceptionally well in this movie, as he did with 2012’s Jack Reacher. From the famous theme to a repeating piece referencing Nessum Dorma, McQuarrie avoids using music to dictate the feeling of a scene, a welcome change from certain hand-holding blockbusters where an obvious score bluntly yells “this is the sad bit, listen to these strings, this is the sad bit happening now, please be sad”. Sparing musical accompaniment mixed with excellent sound design (the whooshing air as motorcycles roar through traffic is a particular highlight) help round out Rogue Nation into the full-package action blockbuster, a flashy treat for the eyes and ears.
Hitting its beats with enough mystery to keep you guessing over 130 minutes, Rogue Nation is a more-than-worthy addition to the Ethan Hunt chronicles, and likely to become many fans’ favourite. If the franchise can maintain its current form then the future is looking bright and we might get to see an elderly Tom ride to orbit on the nose of a rocket after all. After all, you simply can’t bruise the Cruise.
★ ★ ★ ★
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.