“Ethan Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny.” Even the CIA director, a man none too fond of the agent with the many missions impossible under his belt, is forced to admit this in Rogue Nation.
But even living manifestations of destiny can do with a helping hand. How about a Swedish actress resembling Ingrid Bergman, bearing the name Ilsa, and emerging in a bikini from the pool of a sun-kissed mansion in Casablanca? Oh yes, Tom Cruise has everything going for him here — but for a story.
Rogue Nation kicks off with a bang, with the 53-year-old superstar once again doing his own stunts hanging precariously from a military plane carrying poison gas. It required eight takes for him to pull that off. The film thankfully never strays into chemical or nuclear territory again, but the evil here comes in the form of a vaguely defined ‘Syndicate’ raging against the “system” and then “trying to change it” through means that involve randomly selected attacks, ranging from assassinating the Malawi head of state to the World Bank secretary. When it upgrades, it is to targeting the chancellor of Austria.
Europe, specifically London, plays a big role in the scheme of things here, though the British are not likely to be too happy with what they do to their prime minister. And not that Hunt, after all we know about the man with the glasses, the masks and the upside-down hanging skills (all deployed here), needs to go from Point A to Point B in a Mission: Impossible. But when a film is trying so hard to give a context to its villain, it better not go around in circles — making it obvious someone didn’t have a clear idea where to call an end.
As the film starts, Hunt himself is looking for meaning as the CIA has managed to get his outfit IMF (Impossible Mission Force) disbanded for not being accountable to anyone. CIA Director Hunley (Baldwin) proceeds to make it his agency’s mission, and not in a comfortable way, to track down Hunt, whom IMF boss Brandt (Renner) has refused to “bring in”.
Out in the cold, Hunt is captured and badly tortured by the Syndicate’s men, led by the “bone doctor”, who totes impressive equipment in an officious suitcase, but never really gets to show his skills. Right on time, a mysterious Syndicate member, Ilsa (Ferguson), helps him escape, after carefully taking off her towering heels. The height joke, obviously directed at Cruise’s 5.57 ft, is played at least twice more in Rogue Nation, to admittedly good effect.
So obviously, we are confused to the true identity of Ilsa, which remains a mystery for the better part of the film. She even comes out and talks about the blurred lines defining “the right side”.
As Hunt is declared rogue, Benji (Pegg), Brandt and Luther (Ving Rhames) come to his rescue, bringing the old hands on the deck.
There is an impressive scene under water, requiring a manipulation with stored profiles and computers — that’s where Hunt plunges through a shaft head first — and some crazy driving through Morocco on motorbikes and cars. A Vienna opera shootout is almost too beautifully orchestrated, with curtains, thin screens, holes in walls and a beautiful, beautiful thigh.
However, McQuarrie, who has now been associated with Cruise in several films but is directing his first Mission: Impossible, keeps coming back to Syndicate head Lane (Harris) and his iffy motives.
It’s been 19 years since the first Mission: Impossible, and that scene of Cruise’s life hanging by a drop of sweat in it is still vivid in our memory. Or the first moment when a mask is pulled off and Cruise emerges from below it. Even the last film, Ghost Protocol, pulled off a near-impossible Burj Khalifa shot apart from giving us some heart-popping moments of suspense through certain tight negotiations.
You will miss that in Rogue Nation, though it ticks all the boxes, gives its woman a satisfyingly meaty presence, and has Cruise defying age again — apart from death of course.
So will there be a Mission: Impossible 6? Play it again, Hunt.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Star Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin