Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

We suddenly seem to be on a run of actually getting out to see movies. OK, so we've usually got at least one child in tow, but with Robert now old enough, and interested enough, to go to the cinema, and Ewan reasonably keen on the idea too, it feels like we've turned a bit of a corner. No longer is a relatively rare, logisitically fraud special occasion, although I would perhaps like to see something with a more adult rating at the cinema more than once a year. Yes, I know I went to see Mad Max Fury Road twice, but shush, OK? So with a couple of days off for just me and Ewan last week we took the opportunity to catch up on our blockbuster watching, this time with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

I've got to admit that as I kid I was a huge fan of Mission Impossible, which was a frequent early morning channel filler in the 1980s. Sure, it was pretty much the same story every week, and pretty silly with it, but to my childhood memory it was slick, clever and fun, usually with some sort of implausible yet brilliant reveal at the end of the episode. It's transistion to the movies has been patchy; the idea of new directors every time, leaving each of the five installments, is actually a cool one, and whilst the quality has varied, the last one - Ghost Protocol - was actually rather good. Vaguely following up on it, Rogue Nation sets the IMF against The Syndicate, a sort of shadowy anti-IMF, bent on sowing chaos sort of just because, I guess? It's never wholly clear. 

At the centre of the film is Tom Cruise's Agent Hunt, again proving that for he's an easy celebrity to mock/hate/dislike (delete as appropriate), Cruise is a proper movie star, an engaging central presense to hang the franchise off. Here, Hunt is a force of nature, beaten down to get back up again, in his pursuit of the truth. The publicity around the film makes a big deal about him doing his own stunts, and in fairness this is another movie that shows off the return to practical effects that seems to be ticking along in the background, and how much "crunch" they have compared to CGI mayhem. With a smaller scale, and tighter focus, this becomes a more intimate story with tighter, more personal stakes, and is better for it. 

Hunt isn't the emotional centre of the movie, however. This falls to Rebecca Fergusons' turn as Ilsa Faust, who has the misfortune to be given a name that pretty much dooms you to be a potentially duplicitous spy. Rogue Nation spends some time trying to make you doubt her true loyalties, although never enough to make you lose sympathy with her, so its never wholly convincing. Ferguson is excellent as the burnt and wary agent, as if visiting from a darker, more character driven le Carre adaptation, except for the action chops and gadgets. In the end it was her fate I was most concerned about, especially given the franchises regrettable tendency to discard it's female leads movie to movie. 

As intimated earlier, the story really doesn't make a whole heap of sense, and the main villainous motivation is a mix of "petty" and "unclear". There was a couple of surprises - most notably a character I was sure was about to turn out to be a villain turned out not to be - but on the whole it's not going to tax you many surprises. It focuses instead on delivering setpiece after setpiece, substituing efficiency for flair, and remaining anchored by the performances of it's two leads. I rather enjoyed it, overall, although I fear it won't linger long in the memory.