Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review

The whole plot of the latest Mission: Impossible film, subtitled Rogue Nation, and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay and is involved in one way or another in just about everything Tom Cruise stars in these days, hinges on the usual MacGuffin device. In this case it’s a cache of data that will give financial support to an international crime organization known as The Syndicate. They are essentially the anti-Impossible Mission force, comprised of agents from all over the world who disappeared, presumed dead, over the last several years. The thing is, the data can be accessed using fingerprint and voice ID of only one person – the Prime Minister of Britain! I mean, there’s security and then there’s just plain stupid and ineffective. What happens if the PM suddenly dies? What if he resigns? What if he’s revealed to be greater than Nixon levels of corrupt? Anyway, this is just a minor logical inconvenience o the way to a cleverly-crafted sequence that results in the kidnapping of the Prime Minister. And clever set pieces are the stock in trade of the Mission: Impossible series.

Logic be damned! We need to get Tom Cruise hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world or dangling from cables in a secure room at Langley to avoid touching the floor lest he set off the pressure alarm. Rogue Nation doesn’t even bother to hide its lack of coherence. When a character needs a defibrillator in an underground tunnel after having arrived there through via a deluge of rushing water from an enclosed chamber into which no metal could be brought, suddenly she has one. It’s convenient, but hardly reasonable.

In spite of these gripes, I couldn’t help enjoying just about every minute of Rogue Nation. It’s lighter and more freewheeling than any prior film in the series. The return of Simon Pegg as Benji, the team’s data and computer expert, helps a lot. And Ving Rhames is back after a one film absence, adding some necessary heft. Jeremy Renner is back as Brandt, too. And though some thought he would become the successor to Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, carrying the franchise forward, he remains in an administrative position, overseeing missions from afar, answering questions from the Senate, and dodging accusations leveled by CIA director Hunley (Alec Baldwin), a pencil pusher who doesn’t want to compete with another spy agency mainly because it’s not subject to oversight.

Rebecca Ferguson is on hand to fill the revolving door female role. Why can’t this series find a decent character or actress to return? Her Ilsa Faust is a cipher, a double agent apparently infiltrating The Syndicate, but on assignment from British Intelligence. Her director, played by Simon McBurney (who was sort of born to play this kind of role, right?) may also be playing two sides of something. But so go the over-complicated plots of these movies.

There’s a pretty decent bad guy, bordering on the style of villainy set by the James Bond films. Solomon Lane is the mastermind of The Syndicate, whose plan is basically the total disruption of…well, the world, I guess. There’s no settling for small potatoes in these comically over-the-top plots. Harris should be last remembered for his seedy turn as an engineer in Prometheus and though he’s cleaned up here, his speech is like something you’d expect from a snake and his eyes are dead to the world. He was dirty creepy when last I saw him, now he’s just uncomfortable and unnerving.

Like most of the Mission: Impossible films, I enjoyed it while it lasted, but find that over time the details fade into one another and into those of other films of its ilk. Who can keep the particulars of five movies from this series in addition to twenty-something James Bond films and countless other action spy thrillers straight? I’ll probably return to it in the near future for one more enjoyable go-round and just as quickly forget it again. It’s the definition of a popcorn blockbuster. It’s light, airy, and tastes good, but you’ll still be in need of a serious meal shortly thereafter. 

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