Paramount, out now
Ethan Hunt is convinced that there is an anti-IMF in play – the Syndicate – but with the IMF shut down, can he prevent global catastrophe?
Well, of course the answer is yes, but as with every one of the MI films, the fun is seeing how he does it, and quite how many death-defying situations Tom Cruise can put himself in. For once, the trailer doesn’t give everything away about the movie, and even the clips that have been released take on a completely different significance once you see them in context (particularly the brilliantly staged chase through Casablanca and its environs).
Christopher McQuarrie writes and directs, and brings elements of the greyer side of the spy game back to the franchise for the first time since Brian de Palma’s opening salvo nearly 20 years ago (a movie that gets a direct reference in one of the early scenes). You really are not sure which side characters are on – or indeed, whether there really are “sides” as such.
McQuarrie uses the “regular” IMF team very well: Cruise’s Hunt is called on some of his more arrogant traits, Jeremy Renner’s Brandt gets plenty of wry lines and his status within the team is critical, Ving Rhames’ Luther is as phlegmatic as ever, and Simon Pegg’s Benji is no longer there primarily as a comic relief character (one of my few criticisms of Ghost Protocol, the previous film, was the overemphasis on this). Cruise and Pegg share a lot of scenes across the movie, and their rapport is one of its strengths.
The guest stars are likewise well drawn: Rebecca Ferguson is simply amazing (and kudos to both her and her stunt double Lucy Cork for the action sequences), while Sean Harris’ bad guy sets out his stall very early in the film, and continues to be a malevolent presence throughout. Alec Baldwin is the latest in the long line of CIA bosses who doesn’t seem able to deal with the IMF, while his British counterpart, played by Simon McBurney, is more of a realist than any of those around him.
There’s a grand sense of scale in this – from Havana to Vienna to Morocco to London (and elsewhere) – and the cinematography highlights the differences in locations. Joe Kraemer’s soundtrack is one of my favourites of the series: he uses Lalo Schifrin’s theme and incidental music from the original show throughout, but adds in his own motifs, notably a nicely-upside down counterpoint to Schifrin’s theme for Ethan. A performance of Turandot is central to the middle act of the film, and Kraemer incorporates elements from Nessun Dorma into later scenes, especially between Cruise and Ferguson, adding extra texture to the moment (particularly at the end where Nessun Dorma and the Ethan theme play against each other).
Perhaps inevitably, with the current crop of serious and not-so-serious spy films, there are moments where you feel as if McQuarrie and Cruise are paying homage to (or, if you want to be cynical, borrowing heavily from) other movies – certain elements are recognisable from Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and The Man From UNCLE – but they are all given a distinctive twist.
Let’s be honest: if you go to a Mission: Impossible movie, you’re not expecting the sort of philosophical discussions that underpinned something like Toby Whithouse’s recent 70s spy series, The Game. You want exciting stunts, Tom Cruise saving the day, and masks being pulled off at exactly the right moment… And Rogue Nation provides all of that with gusto.
Verdict: Setting the bar high for the new batch of spy films, Rogue Nation is probably the best outing for the IMF since Brian de Palma’s original. 9/10