Cruising At Altitude: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Reviewed

Tom Duggins gets stuck in to the latest in the seemingly-never-ending action franchise

So, we all know that Tom Cruise’s hairline looks majestic in high wind. We know this. But what you might not have clocked is that underwater, well by golly, it looks even better. Yes, Ethan Hunt, world-beating superspy and fully paid antagonist of possibility, is back in action once again to absolutely blow your cortex within the agreed-upon limitations of a 12A certificated film. We’re talking Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation! Sound moderately exciting? Erm, well…yeah…it is, for the most part.

The film picks up where the previous instalment left off. As you likely remember, the Kremlin got bombed, and a nuclear holocaust was frantically sidestepped in the traditional manner. So far so negligible consequences: I mean, what does a Kremlin even really do anyway? But sadly, those miserable pen-pushers over at the C.I.A. just can’t be cool about it. So in steps Alec Baldwin to play Alan Hunley, a red tape enthusiast who believes the Impossible Mission Force is a hopeless anachronism from an era ‘before transparency’ and whose ‘unorthodox methods’ he happens to personally despise. Simply put, the C.I.A. want the IMF to be permanently shelved, which is already bad news for Ethan and his team, but, even worse, a sophisticated terror organisation called The Syndicate have compromised the IMF’s operations and, by all accounts, are planning on doing some gnarly shit to the geo-political status quo. The C.I.A.’s response? Well, them dimwits think Ethan Hunt is secretly behind The Syndicate as well (“both arsonist and firefighter”): Paranoia stations! Ethan’s damned-if-he-do and damned-if-he-do-without-seeking-permission-but-pretends-that-he-didn’t. I’ll let you decide which broad style of ass-busting action he opts for, also whether charismatic hunch-following is proven to be inherently better than law or orthodox method.

Of course, Ethan can’t do it alone, and his supporting cast of IMF comrades help bring extra spice to the table and flavour-up what would be an otherwise pretty humourless turn from Cruise. (He ain’t no young buck no more; gone are the days when he would dance around pool tables with glee, howling along to Warren Zevon). Simon Pegg returns to the franchise playing Benji, the nerdy hacker guy and comic foil to Ethan. He cracks a few gags along the way, and maybe makes you feel better about yourself for not having the gym-chiselled torso of a Tom Cruise, but really Benji mostly inspires the sort of polite laughter that doesn’t quite make it all the way out of your throat. The wit on display is mostly first-order sarcasm, and there’s something quite unsettling about middle-aged men speaking like teenagers. (He is passably funny in this film though, unlike his part in Ghost Protocol which largely confirmed my suspicions that the poor interpersonal skills typically associated with geekdom are not necessarily something to be celebrated). Rebecca Ferguson is rather good as the female lead: she plays a superspy of uncertain allegiance and talks in a mid-Anglo-German accent so that you’re never quite sure if she’s evil or just really uptight. Also, her character’s name is Ilsa Faust, so y’know, there’s a chance she might be amenable to the odd, shall we say…deal?

Ferguson’s character is also left to handle the film’s most annoying action film clichés, and (surprise) they all hinge around the politics of gender. First off, there’s a scene in which Ferguson appears bikini-clad before our eyes whilst some men stand around gawping at her. Ring in the change, dudes. Then there’s the tiresome idea that girls wiv guns is sexy, especially when said girl is wielding a semi-auto in a thigh-split ball gown that perfectly shows off her killer legs. It’s a tool of death: for fuck’s sake. Third on the list – in hand to hand combat, a woman’s thighs seem to be her deadliest muscle. (I’m no expert on the physical dynamics of martial arts, but I have my suspicions about that one). Then there’s the sweet old fashioned bit where lead male and lead female discover themselves in an unintentionally intimate moment of physical contact and, rather than saying or thinking “don’t touch me stranger”, seem to find it all super hot for a few seconds and indulge themselves in a bit of momentary eye-sex. Swell.

Special mention goes to Sean Harris for doing a stellar job in playing Ethan’s nemesis Solomon Lane. Lane speaks in a constipated whisper throughout, and wears the sort of angular specs that speak of unadulterated evil. (He’s not evil though, apparently, he’s just an extreme moral relativist – so maybe a bit like Ethan Hunt in his brand of charismatic leadership that gets things done whatever the cost – only he’s quite obviously evil, duh, because he’s a psychopath and not a really cool narcissist). At times, Lane is quite menacing, at others he looks like a Chemistry teacher trying to supervise the worst bloody group of Year 10s you could ever hope to imagine. It’s enjoyably different. Also he has a henchman called The Bone Doctor who has a saucy wink, which is good fun.

Fundamentally, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is an action film you can take a ten year-old to go see. It contains mild peril but no strong language, impressive stunt driving but nothing too sexy. It certainly doesn’t have any action sequences to rival Ghost Protocol’s Burj Khalifa set-piece for sheer eye-popping spectacle, but then its script isn’t as leaden and prone to jaw-slackening clangers like “As far as Russia is concerned: we just bombed the Kremlin”. In fact, the script is remarkably fast paced. There’s a lot of stuff thrown around about the paranoia of statecraft and the grand narratives of history, which you think may be going somewhere, but is really just verbal set dressing for guys jumping through stunt glass at every available opportunity. Adjust expectation levels to in-or-around medium and you’ll probably enjoy yourself. Just make sure you’ve gotten good and comfy by the time Alec Baldwin turns to someone and says, stony-faced, in a voice straight out of a party political broadcast: “Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny”.

Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation is in cinemas now

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today