Some Missions Are Not A Choice
Continuing from the events in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, IMF agent Ethan Hunt [Cruise] receives his next mission: to secure three plutonium cores before they hit the black market. Pairing with his colleagues Benji [Pegg] and Luther [Rhames], Hunt’s mission goes badly and while his director trusts him, the CIA does not. Subsequently, Hunt’s team is assigned the kill-happy Agent Walker [Cavill] to ensure the plutonium is recovered at any cost. When the price of the black market deal turns out to be freeing a prisoner Hunt helped capture, the arrival of former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust [Ferguson] and evidence that one of the anarchists is a rogue agent, things become significantly less straightforward.
As this incredibly unusual collection of semi-discordant films progress, I can see the genuine benefits and pros to this franchise; especially in an age where CGI dominates the screen. Seeing real life stunt work, there is an element of peril and suspense which is sort of lost and neglected by most big budget releases. With each passing instalment, the franchise evolves and presents a different style of action espionage to suit different audiences, this can produce a hit-and-miss body of work but it also ensures the films themselves avoid too many tick-box tropes and reinvention through recasting – James Bond, I’m looking at you. A major shift that was introduced in Ghost Protocol was the continuation of story. There had been certain components that had been brought over (specifically Ving Rhames as Luther) but the fourth film brought back a handful of characters and started a storyline which would effectively unfold with each passing release. Now we have a welcome sense of legacy and investment with the characters, rather than just a new team of expendables every single time; a good example of this is the new character of the elusive White Widow, who is the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave’s character from the first film.
Staying with the cast for a second, we need to talk about Tom Cruise. This series is Cruise’s playground and while it is a completely indulgent excuse to show-off, it plays to his strengths and it is genuinely hard to fault him in this role. He gets to emote, appear clever and charming, perform his own ridiculous stunts, look confused, scream, be funny and run. It’s everything he wants and in a strange way, it’s everything we seem to want too. It’s a role that has shifted with his priorities and subsequently, could never really be portrayed by anyone else. The returning cast all perform admirably within the confines of their type and Henry Cavill really stands out with a great performance largely because the script utilises his best skills as an imposing, menacing villain.
The dialogue edges closer and closer to eye-rollingly dumb, littered with trailer lines that we frequently see forced into films but I feel this is a bit of a blockbuster occupational hazard and pleasingly does not happen too often.
With Rogue Nation, I didn’t take issue with McQuarrie’s ability so much as I didn’t care for the lacklustre script. Thankfully this feature feels closer to Ghost Protocol – I would argue the best Mission: Impossible film – and gives us the twists and set-pieces that we both enjoy and have come to expect. Furthermore it displays thrilling direction, editing and sound design, which feel like call-backs of the 90s, as we have become more reliant on post-production fixes and fewer in-cam techniques. The bombastic routines are also helped along by an urgent score that cleverly works with the iconic series motif but for all its positives, Lorne Balfe can’t escape his Zimmer trappings and it never truly feels completely unique or innovative.
While the film thinks it contains clever plot twists, all it eventually does is produce a series of bluffs and fake-outs, highlighting a scenario before jumping out of the shadows shouting, “Only kidding!” I appreciate this is a literal staple of the franchise and a trope that few other series can get away with but after a while the magic-trick wears thin and a great deal of investment and suspension of disbelief is lost. There’s an old adage that no one is questioning if someone like James Bond will get out of a trap, it’s how he gets himself out of it. This conceit is the same here and I am more than willing to participate in the charade but when you are expected to question everything, you believe nothing and either confusion sets in or immersion is lost. Admittedly, the Mission: Impossible series (outside of the first instalment) does a decent job of avoiding the former but the latter is something that happens time and time again.
In truth, this is an instalment that will thrill and greatly please fans of the franchise and once again makes Tom Cruise look especially good. The more he works on these films he will either end up killing himself or continue to sup from the fountain of youth long enough for people to say, “How is he 80!? He just punched a lion in the face before outrunning it!” But interestingly, there is such a wealth of production work and cinematic thrills that those who aren’t fans may enjoy it too; and that is an extremely impressive feat.
27th July 2018
The Scene To Look Out For:
When you start analysing the formula of scripts and film, you quickly understand the patterns; you would think that would extend to audiences but it rarely conscionably does. Subsequently, if a shot hangs for a couple of seconds longer than necessary it’s either a foreshadowing element or product placement. When these shots go nowhere, they are incredibly frustrated loose ends but even if they are addressed, they can give away too much. Case in point, during a bathroom fight in a club, we have a very clear shot of the target’s phone being smashed. A few scenes later, long before anyone’s identities and loyalties are openly called into question, Walker hands over a mint phone claiming it belonged to the target and has evidence incriminating Hunt. Right away I saw how the rest of the film would unfold, the magic was lost and the mystery ruined. I mean, there are carefully placed clues and there are obvious signposts; this, painfully, was the latter.
I’ve always felt there is something wonderfully menacing about Sean Harris and as an unhinged, nothing-to-lose psychopath who feels he is a higher force than the terrorist title he has been labelled with is genuinely fun and disturbing to watch.
“That’s not anarchy, that’s revenge”
In A Few Words:
“Genuinely entertaining high-octane action thriller ”