04th August 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Running Time: 131 Minutes)

Following on from the previous instalment, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crack team of secret agents must find and locate the mysterious Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) – a man who appears to be at the head of a sinister terrorist organisation known only as The Syndicate. This shadowy cartel has the power to destabilise countries, assassinate anyone and start wars anywhere on the globe. With time running out, only the Mission Impossible Force have the ability to end their regime.

Tom Cruise is 53 years old. Whereas many men of his age are spending their days improving their golf swing or maybe exerting themselves with a half marathon now and then, Tom is hanging off the side of planes as they take off and diving off incredibly tall buildings. It’s safe to say that he is probably the greatest action star of the last thirty years. That’s not to say that he’s the most talented actor or even the most likeable leading man but what he lacks in natural charisma, he more than makes up for with resilience, commitment and determination to deliver a grade-A movie.

Like the previous Mission Impossible films, this one involves exotic locations (this time Morocco, Austria and England – which could be classed as exotic if you’re not actually living there), a femme fatale (this time in the form of Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson and a slightly over-complicated plot. There are a sprinkling of stunts and set-pieces thrown into the mix to keep you hooked including a splendid car/motorbike chase and an underwater sequence which may have you holding your breath plus, of course, that wonderful theme tune by Lalo Schifrin.

Unlike the previous instalments, there’s very little in the way of directorial presence on display here. In the first Mission Impossible film we have a Brian De Palma stylish spy caper full of subterfuge and subtlety then John Woo’s macho, action heavy sequel through to J.J. Abrams taking the series into darker territory and finally the more playful forth film directed by Brad Bird, with an emphasis on gadgets and humour. Each of the M.I. movies has felt original and fresh and this clever use of choosing directors known for their visual mastery has served the series well and stopped things from getting predictable.

Christopher McQuarrie has proved himself to be talented at writing intelligent scripts in such films as The Usual Suspects and, more recently, on The Edge of Tomorrow, but as a director he hasn’t yet injected a great deal of individualism into any of his previous releases. There’s an occasional interesting camera shot thrown in but for the most part there’s a feeling of direct-to-television about any of the non-action scenes on display here. The same applies to the score too which, with the exception of the main theme tune, adds nothing to drama onscreen.

This fifth outing appears to be chasing Hollywood’s blooming audience in China and by going for the broadest appeal possible, they may end up alienating fans of the series. The humour is sillier (though Simon Pegg is still one of the best reasons to watch these films), the plot is more or less forgettable and the lowered age rating means that there’s no visceral pay off to any of the adversarial encounters.

One of the worst sins a big blockbuster action movie can make, however, is to bore the audience. Unfortunately, due to a script badly in need of an edit or rewrite that’s exactly what happens here. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’re probably already aware of that jaw-dropping shot of Cruise dangling outside a plane as it ascends into the sky. This takes place in the first five minutes of the film after which it rarely reaches these kind of incredible action heights again. A splendid chase sequence takes place in the second act but then we’re left with plodding scenes of exposition for an unforgivable thirty minutes until a rather perfunctory foot chase leads us up to the end credits.

With Cruise already signing up for a sixth movie and a big opening weekend practically guaranteed, this is a franchise that is, financially at least, pretty safe. The stunts and spectacle are still the reason to watch and Cruise at his worst is still a lot better than many action stars on their best day. The cracks are beginning to show however and there’s a real danger that these films could stop being so special and exciting unless they take a few more risks, change direction or go back to basics.

Written by Smylexx