Friday, 21 August 2015

Movie review: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, dir Christopher McQuarrie (2015)

This reliable, elderly franchise still has legs, if this movie is anything to go by (and apparently there are more to come, also with Tom Cruise in the lead role), although the backstory does get a little complicated, suggesting that the writers were struggling a bit to find the motivation that drives all the splodey bits. In this film the bad guys led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) are the "Syndicate", an elite corps of reprocessed secret operatives drawn from the full panoply of intelligence services globally, that was initially established by MI5's Atlee - humorously played in the movie by Simon McBurney - but which the prime minister had subsequently nixed. Unfortunately, Atlee let the beast run despite the explicit negative from the man at the top, and it all sort of got out of hand. Instead of being dedicated to "surgically" taking out the enemies of the Free World, the Syndicate ended up perpetrating acts of terrorism around the globe. Sort of like crossing the Navy SEALs with Mad magazine.

I hope you got all that, because you have to concentrate in the movie to pick it up. Spicing up the concoction is a mature woman who is just as deadly as Ethan Hunt, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who acts as Cruise's love interest. Looking equally at home in a cut-to-the-waist yellow silk evening gown or in an unmistakably British pea-souper, Faust is written in such a way as to enhance Cruise's - now looking a bit jowly despite the ripped abs - credibility as the loner Hunt. She emanates a grown woman's passion and loyalty and the effect is rather touching amid the free-diving stunts and the motorcycle chases. If the movie has any theme, it is that friendship is stronger than any other emotion. (Except perhaps greed.)

Cruise's IMF sidekicks include the believable Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), a Puckish nerdy Brit, and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a straight-up-and-down US spy operative with a smile like a rubber mask. Added to these two worthies is a pudgy and under-utilised Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. On the other side are a coterie of expendable thugs. Their leader, Lane, has a whiny, irritating voice that was possibly the main reason the actor was chosen for this role, though physically he is lithe and threatening.

A lot of the movie takes place in London but there are also stopovers in Vienna and Casblanca (Morocco). It's all a bit predictable but the way the backstory meshes with events in the real world makes the movie interesting on a purely sociological level, i.e. intellectually. A putative elite hit squad of the kind the US put together in the aftermath of 9/11 - though one here set up by the wily Brits - is an interesting notion that might be further explored. In the movie the aim of the bad guys is to get their hands on a multi-billion-dollar horde of cash stored in various bank accounts around the world. Money speaks. I guess nothing really changes in the end.

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