Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" Review: This Latest Mission Probably Shouldn't Have Been Accepted

For nearly two decades now the television series turned blockbuster movie franchise Mission: Impossible frontlined by Tom Cruise for each outing has proven that sometimes it isn't the actor who saves the franchise and instead sometimes the franchise saves the actor. Tom Cruise is a talented and gifted actor who despite being part of the Hollywood elite still likes to take chances with his choice of film roles (last year's criminally ignored Edge of Tomorrow being the most recent example). But his personal life still haunts his professional one and it seems the one and only type of film Cruise can make anymore that people still want to see is a Mission:Impossible movie. But the question then becomes how long until we start get tired of going on these increasingly routine missions or when do the missions just simply become tired? Judging by this fifth entry titled Rogue Nation, this franchise is looking very sleepy. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital             
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime:  2 hr 12 min
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: July 31, 2015

Loves: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Likes: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible 3, Tom Cruise
Neutral:  Does he really need to be disavowed again?
Hates: Mission: Impossible 2
Ethan Reacher or Jack Hunt?: Rogue Nation was made by Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie.

Do we really need a synopsis for these movies at this point? If you have ever seen a Mission: Impossible movie then you know exactly what to expect. Tom Cruise executing one ridiculously implausible stunt after another whilst trying to stop some form of terrorist group, rogue agent or arms dealer from stealing, selling, building or otherwise using some sort of device with a silly name like Chimera or the Rabbit's Foot (this time called the "Red Box", and no it's not something you rent movies from). During this globe trotting adventure which takes us from one exotic locale to another Tom Cruise will enlist the help of his friends to help track down the bad guy while once again his own government agency hunts him down as a suspected terrorist during which time he becomes romantically involved with a woman who seems to only need his help when the plot requires it and quickly moves on when it doesn't. And what do you think the chances are that he accepts the mission again?

There isn't one thing a seasoned M:I fan can't anticipate well before hand while watching Rogue Nation. Every con is seen coming a mile away, every agent wearing a mask is easily identified well before we are supposed to know who it really is (here's a hint, any character with a large nose is likely to be Tom Cruise at some point in every M:I movie) and every double cross will be known long before the first cross is crossed. If you couldn't tell by all that let's sum it all up by stating that M:I Rogue Nation is not only one of the most predictable by-the-numbers action thrillers in recent memory but it is easily the most unimaginative mission this long running franchise has accepted. None of that is to say that the standard M:I formula doesn't work, but perhaps it's time to switch things up a little.

Everything that has made all the previous installments fun is still here starting with all the inventive action sequences that Tom Cruise gets thrown into over the course of the film. While none top that amazing Dubai scene in Ghost Protocol they all stand out in their own unique ways. This time around we get to see Ethan holding on to the outside of a cargo plane as it takes off, fight off a gigantic bad guy while hanging on to the scaffolding just above a live stage production in an attempt to stop 3 snipers from killing their target and in the film's biggest stunt sequence we get to see Ethan free dive into a sunken server room which leads into a twisty chase through the streets of Casablanca that eventually concludes after racing up the winding mountain roads on top a motorcycle all the while in hot pursuit of the mysterious red box.

Also giving the film a much needed injection of personality are the other members of Ethan's team which includes the walking punchline Benji (Simon Pegg), the stoic Luther (Ving Rhames) and the exceedingly useless Brandt (Jeremy Renner), all of whom prove to be invaluable to the overall enjoyment of the film in their own special ways. Oh, and Alec Baldwin is in there too but he is more or less disposable compared to everyone else. Also, in true James Bond fashion, there is the new girl on the block this time played by the talented Rebecca Ferguson who has the difficult task of making us understand why she even matters (aside from Ethan having the hots for her). And like a well oiled machine, whenever Ethan and his crew are on the job Rogue Nation is firing on all cylinders even if we have seen other (sometimes better) variations on this same theme in all the past films before it.

Where Rogue Nation comes up short though is this overall feeling of general indifference the film instills in us that inadvertently effects our enjoyment of all the above bullet points. Whether it is how the film follows a bit too closely to the tried and true M:I formula or the lack of an interesting villain (a common problem all the M:I films have save for M:I 3), Rogue Nation continuously fails to set up an identity for itself instead coming off as more of a clone of the franchise than a new installment. This is also due to how many of the key components that make up an M:I film are starting to show their age as well as starting to become a bit stale.

We see Ethan framed by the villain and thus is disavowed (a favorite term of the M:I franchise) and on the run leaving him and his group to act outside the law. While this made for an intriguing premise for the paranoia fueled Brian De Palma first film and was responsible for setting up all the mundane gags of malfunctioning equipment in Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol sequel, here it just feels trite and just a bit undercooked. By this time Ethan is a professional at being disavowed since nearly every mission he goes on requires him to go rogue at some point to get the job done. It just isn't all that interesting anymore and neither are all the strides Ethan must take to get back in the good graces with his superiors just to be disavowed again in the next film.

If this review is sounding a bit wishy washy and unable to come to a fitting conclusion about the film it is simply because Rogue Nation does absolutely nothing to set itself apart from everything that came before it but is still a solid bit of entertainment. The action scenes while competently shot and executed are ho hum, the cloak and dagger tactics employed by Ethan and his team are a bit too redundant and predictable and even the would be romance between Ethan and Ilsa leaves one cold instead of turned on. This entry into the franchise doesn't feel so much like a failure but more like a horse that has run too many races in too short a span of time without given a chance to rest. The whole M:I formula feels old at this point and in the spy game, if you're old then you are obsolete.

What about a recommendation? If you are a fan of all the previous M:I films then chances are you will get some mild enjoyment out of Rogue Nation as it hits nearly every beat one would expect from it which is also kind of the problem. Just make sure to not go in expecting it to re-invent the wheel or anything and you should come away moderately entertained mostly in thanks to the usual frenzied and energetic performance from Tom Cruise and the chemistry that has developed between him and the enjoyable ensemble over the past 5 movies. If you have never been interested or have had your interest wane in the franchise since the last one then perhaps you would be better off waiting for home video on this one, otherwise it is a solid choice for an afternoon matinee.


Although all the pieces are there and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, this fifth go around in the venerable M:I franchise is starting to show some fatigue. While Tom Cruise seems to show no signs of slowing down, the same can't be said for M:I. Here's hoping that either the next one finds a new angle to exploit or they find a way for it to end the series on hopefully a high note because it would be sad to see such a long running and highly acclaimed series of films just putter out at the end.

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