MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION’s Laughs and Thrills Can’t Mask a Nonexistent Story

by Frank Calvillo

If the 60s James Bond had Derek Flint, then today’s James Bond has Ethan Hunt. I don’t mean that as an insult, implying that Ethan Hunt is an inferior spy to Mr. Bond, but rather as a compliment since the Flint films always had a rambunctiousness to them which the Bond films still have yet to master.

That sense of fun is still there in the otherwise scattered Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in the film franchise which remains as popular as ever.

This time around, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is pitted against a seemingly unstoppable enemy: an incredibly powerful international syndicate causing acts of terror around the globe. At the same time, the IMF is thrown into jeopardy when newly-appointed CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) calls for the end of the organization, leaving Hunt, Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther (Ving Rhames) at a crossroads. However with the growing strength of syndicate and the appearance of a mysterious agent with questionable loyalty named Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), the IMF embark on what may be their final, and most impossible mission to date.

If the plot sounds a little patchy, that’s because it is. The story of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation tends to jump all over the place and isn’t that interesting to follow, quite frankly. You get the feeling that certain plot movements were constructed as a means to perform another stunt or switch locales. It also doesn’t help matters that the CIA storyline with Hunley trying to track Hunt down by badgering members of the IMF do nothing other than slow the syndicate plot down, while a last minute effort to merge the two stories is too conveniently rushed.

Its a shame since the writer/director this time around is Christopher McQuarrie. The thrill of the Mission: Impossible series for me has always been watching some notable director, such as John Woo and J.J. Abrams, take the reins of every subsequent sequel, and make it his own.

For me, the best remains Brian DePalma’s turn at the first one back in 1996. The idea of the master behind Scarface and Carrie bringing such an iconic TV series to the big screen with his own unique touch was a drool-worthy prospect which proved more than fruitful. It had been a while, but McQuarrie’s announcement as director this time around, made me almost just as excited. After all, how could the writer who gave the world The Usual Suspects and the brilliant, yet underrated Edge of Tomorrow produce anything but an espionage masterpiece? Maybe it was playing double duty on his biggest project to date that brought forth nerves, but Mission: Impossible — Rouge Nation is too sloppily strung together to be as good as it could’ve been.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t got some great, almost genius touches. The action sequences (including the well-publicized plane stunt and an impressive underwater infiltration) are top notch with the opera scene in particular being a huge standout. A somewhat lengthy sequence, the time spent at the opera is done with such carefully measured suspense and flair, at times echoing actions found in actual operas. Its a true reminder of what makes the series so great and might be one of my favorite movie sequences of the year.

There’s also some pretty solid work from the cast. Cruise can play Hunt in his sleep, though thankfully he’s not quite there yet. But its Pegg who shines as a result of being given much more to do than playing the sidekick role and does some admirable stretching in the process. Meanwhile, Ferguson wonderfully handles the tricky ambiguity of her character playing it with a Bacall-like coolness that never wavers, and though the movie really doesn’t need his character, its good fun to see Baldwin on screen in a straight role such as this.

I mentioned earlier that Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation was fun, if hopelessly scattered. And I meant it. I was surprised at the large number of comedic touches throughout the film, which worked hand in hand with the heart pounding, yet never overwhelming action. I had to admire how they made my belly laugh and my eyes widen almost simultaneously. Its the time of the year when people crave escaping to the multiplex in search of both those sensations, which thankfully the film can provide without any problem. If only it could provide more than that.

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