Rogue Nation is the latest instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise where Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, is engaged in a game of goodies and baddies involving a crazy race against time.
There always has to be a deadline. Produced by JJ Abrams and Cruise, and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, it is a hectic roller-coaster-style action thriller. Formulaic, maybe, but exciting.
Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, MI: Ghost protocol) plays William Brandt, the beleaguered head of the IMF, which is being pressed to “bring in” Ethan Hunt so he can be dealt with for various transgressions. The IMF here, by the way, is not the equally sinister International Monetary Fund, but the secret organisation presiding over various spy missions.
What impresses here is the credibly presented lurking suspicion that Brandt may not be what he seems. He is fending off the belligerent CIA head, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who wants to shut down the IMF (I keep recalling him in Thomas the Tank Engine, so there’s a problem), but how loyal is he to Hunt?
So, not surprisingly, Hunt is on the run. He is simultaneously trying to evade the unsavoury outcome of returning to the fold while continuing to pursue an evil mastermind played by Sean Harris, whose wheezy voice and “take no prisoners” attitude works well, even if it is straight out of the manual for stock villains.
Simon Pegg as Benji (sounds like a toy bear’s name?) Dunn offers comic relief as Hunt’s sidekick, but you have to wonder if he is sick of such typecasting. Rebecca Ferguson, as Ilsa Faust, is a British agent who carries the “is she or isn’t she on our boy’s side?” and love interest roles with aplomb. There are assassins galore, including the ruggedly handsome Jens Hultén (Skyfall) as Bonebreaker, someone you don’t want to meet in a closed room.
Want action? Want suspense? There is plenty of the former and not so much of the latter as the plot tracks through mostly predictable scenarios.
We are not looking at whether Cruise will win so much as how. That is not to say the movie lacks its own charms. As a spy thriller in the action field, it plays directly to expectations and offers a blaze of heroic feats which will satisfy audiences. They are played out in the air, in water, in alleyways and cells, and in car and motorbike chases. You might even believe a secret agent can fly, or at least hang on to the side of a large Airbus freight plane as it ascends over the British countryside. Cruise emerges virtually unscathed from a variety of normally death-dealing episodes.
There are plenty of techno-gizmology and amazing abilities on show, or implied. Least credible is not the mask trick (no spoiler here; it’s in the promotional trailer) but rather the assertion of amazing mental faculties on which a critical late turn of the plot depends. At least there is a battle of wits here before it lapses into a hail of gunfire.
That said, the whole film is peppered with winks at its genre, thankfully. The early Bond movies were sometimes a little wry, too. As an aside, eager-eyed viewers will spot a silver Bond-style Aston Martin in the background in one key scene.
Product placement is full-on. Top-of-the-line BMW cars can be summoned from nowhere, apparently, even in the most fraught situations, and a thrilling chase scene involves a cluster of powerful S1000RR sports bikes from this manufacturer. Motorbike-nut Cruise could not have missed the implied Top Gun reference as he ripped around on one of those beauties.
It does not pay to look closely at what constitutes a “rogue nation” here. Suffice to say that in IMF movies, the baddies ultimately pay the price of their presumptions. More will doubtless surface to test Ethan Hunt and will regret it but audiences will enjoy going along for the ride for a couple of hours. See it for that rather than the acting.
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