August 7, 2015
Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (a.k.a. MI5) is fun while it lasts, features a couple of breath-stopping stunts, but 24 hours since I saw it, it is also already fading from my mind.
When the best bits of a film are announced in a three-minute trailer, and the film itself adds little else to its content, you know there’s a problem.
When a film fails to expand on the thrills and plot elements of previous instalments in a high-adrenaline series, you know there’s a problem.
So yeah, it’s fun ‘n’ forgettable but for one department: the name’s Ferguson, Rebecca Ferguson.
The MI series is a boys’ club. I mean, there’s always one ultra-glam feisty woman around, but she is always replaced in the next film by another such woman joining a boy gang headlined by the sprightly, gutsy maverick US spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF). MI5 is different from the rest in some senses yet emphasises its intrinsic nature in the end.
You see, director Christopher McQuarrie has given the largest portion of the stunts to (enemy?) agent Ilsa Faust, played by the lovely, agile, Ingrid Bergman lookalike Rebecca. She gets to bring down her boss’ flunkey by ascending his gigantic body in a split second and to lead a show-stopping motorcycle marathon which ends in a spectacularly anti-climactic fashion.
You get the picture? Ilsa/Rebecca is amazing, does more stunts in MI5 than any of the men and doesn’t get involved in a silly romance with Ethan. Her return in MI6 though is a question mark, while we are pretty much assured that Ethan’s four male supporters will be back – perhaps to reassure MI’s fans and lead star who may find her dominance here disconcerting, and certainly because most Hollywood action franchises shed female characters more routinely than trees shed autumn leaves (I mean, for heaven’s sake, MI5 doesn’t even bother to mention Ethan’s wife).
Well, my glass is half full here. It’s sad to see the insecurity surrounding Rebecca, but it’s fantastic to see the director pointedly setting her up to outshine her male co-stars.
The ‘story’: Ethan is convinced of the existence of a Syndicate, a shadow organisation of spies formerly employed by the world’s premier intelligence agencies. That’s the “rogue nation” of the title. Since the CIA does not buy his theory, our hero must go rogue himself to save the world.
Along the way we are served some standard MI tropes such as self-destructing recorded messages, loaded sunglasses, unbelievably believable masks and trans-continental journeys, none of them tired from over-use. There is the usual audacity too, with potential targets including the world’s most important political leaders. There is also a marvellously paced underwater stunt.
The dialogue writing is a mixed bag, with a rather neat and relevant “There are no allies in statecraft, only common interests” (uttered by the British intelligence chief) thankfully making up for the laughable “Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny” (by his US counterpart).
At the end of it all though, nothing in the story or action made me sit up and say: this is not something I have ever seen or imagined before in MIs or elsewhere. There is certainly nothing here to equal Ethan scaling Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, as he did in the last MI film, Ghost Protocol.
For the record, Tom is cute and incredibly lithe at 53, though it is clear he has been given less running about to do this time. Rebecca is tasked with most of the sweat-inducing work, which of course means Ethan Hunt’s signature sprint is barely seen here. Still, it’s nice as always to see this charismatic star so involved in a role that defies believability. Age sits well on his face and body. If one overhead shot of a weirdly chalk-like bare torso does him no justice, there is another to compensate for it: when he heaves himself off a pole while handcuffed to it.
Of the rest, returning stars Jeremy Renner as senior IMF agent William Brandt and Ving Rhames as IMF ex Luther Stickell are both convincing. Simon Pegg as Ethan’s buddy and colleague Benji Dunn is even more so with the add-on of being charming. Sean Harris is interesting as the villain. Alec Baldwin as the slightly dense CIA director Alan Hunley is, well, Alec Baldwin.
The only sore thumb of the lot is the usually dependable Tom Hollander who was so good as the obnoxious Mr Collins in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, but looks slightly incongruous as the British PM here. Still, the scene involving him is one of the reasons why I continue to watch this series: because it does not take itself too seriously and is willing to poke fun at its own silliness.
That’s MI Rogue Nation for you – suspenseful, amusing and thrilling in parts, yet insubstantial and unmemorable but for Rebecca. The series is now resting on its laurels. Buck up, MI people.
Rating (out of five): **1/4
CBFC Rating (India):
MPAA Rating (US):
PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity)
Release date in US:
July 31, 2015
Photograph courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission:_Impossible_–_Rogue_Nation