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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Paramount
Release Date: July 31, 2015


Movie Review - 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'

by Adam Pavlacka on July 31, 2015 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

The IMF has been disbanded, and its replacement is the Syndicate, highly trained operatives who want to create a new world order by escalating terrorist attacks. Ethan and his team form a rogue nation as the group faces its most impossible mission yet.

It's been nearly two decades since "Mission: Impossible" first hit theaters, and in that time, the franchise has become a powerhouse. Each of the films stands on its own as a solid action flick, with the descriptor of "best" depending on if you prefer story ("Mission: Impossible III") or over-the-top set pieces ("Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"). Although the fifth film is competent, it fails to top its predecessors, providing adequate action yet never really raising the stakes.

From a story point of view, "Rogue Nation" is very safe. It doesn't take any risks with the characters or put them in any sort of situations that we haven't seen them in before. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is once again disavowed, so he has to rely on his friends to help fight the bad guys, while also avoiding the CIA's forces, who are supposed to bring him in. Stop me if you've heard this one before. It's a formulaic plot that never really deviates from the basic pattern.

Alec Baldwin is wasted as CIA director Alan Hunley, a man who supposedly has it out for Hunt. Baldwin chews the scenery well enough when he's on-screen, but he never really does anything. The dialogue makes it seem like his vendetta against Hunt is personal, but Hunley doesn't seem driven for any real reason. He's just a convenient plot point.

Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames fare better as William Brandt and Luther Stickell but not by much. Brandt, who was introduced in "Ghost Protocol" as a successor to Hunt in the IMF, is relegated to back seat support work here. Rhames knocks it out of the park as Stickell, Hunt's longtime confidant, so it's a shame he only gets a handful of scenes.

It is Simon Pegg's character, Benji Dunn, who lends Hunt the most support, serving as both technical liaison and comic relief. Much like Rhames, Pegg is on point here, providing his trademark sense of dry humor as Benji rises to the occasion. The main difference between Rhames and Pegg is simply that the script gives Pegg a whole lot more screen time.

Gaming fans should keep an eye out for Benji's triple-screen, Xbox One Halo setup. It may be movie magic, but that's one thing that would be nice to have in real life.

Interestingly enough, "Rogue Nation" never really develops its main villain, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Instead, the focus is on Hunt's foil, the disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who continually teases him with questions of her true loyalties. Faust is portrayed as Hunt's equal in every regard, but she's also the only woman of note in the film. All others are minor characters who simply blend into the background.

The spycraft focuses more on gadgets than personal creativity or unusual situations that presented themselves in prior films. Instead of picking a lock, they just use an automatic lock pick or an automatic safe cracker. When one needs to hack into a security system, a booklet suddenly becomes a digital screen. Part of what makes the spycraft fun in the "Mission: Impossible" series has always been watching the team members rely on their wits, with the gadget taking second place. In "Rogue Nation," the team members seem to spend most of the film relying on their toys, rather than their wits and, as a result, some of the magic is lost.

Oddly, the most impressive action sequence — and the one that feels the most like the previous films — is the aircraft stunt seen in the trailers. It happens in the first five minutes of the movie, has Hunt, Stickell and Benji all working together and mixes physicality, improvisation and technology in order to execute the mission. It is the perfect example of all the elements that make a "Mission: Impossible" movie work, but it's also the high point.

There is another sequence that comes close, but that's only because Cruise reportedly filmed the entire underwater bit in a single take, holding his breath the entire time. It's not nearly as visually impressive as him running on the outside of the Burj Khalifa in "Ghost Protocol," but knowing it was done without the benefit of a breathing apparatus commands respect.

The film's climax is similarly understated, with no over-the-top chase, crazy parkour or fate of the free world hanging in the balance. Instead, it's a more personal affair, with Hunt and Faust taking revenge on those who wronged them. Expect some well-choreographed hand-to-hand fighting, but nothing that would be out of place in any action film.

Ultimately, it is that subdued nature that keeps "Rogue Nation" from hitting it out of the park. There is some solid action, but the scope is narrowly focused on Hunt and Faust, with Benji in a supporting role. "Rogue Nation: isn't an IMF team trying to save the world. It's a Tom Cruise film that's designed to show off Tom Cruise. At least it's better than "Mission: Impossible II."

Score: 7.5/10

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 11 minutes. It is showing in 2-D and IMAX.

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