Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation review: ‘great fun and Cruise and Pegg make a …

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Middle-aged marvel: At 53, Tom Cruise is still hurtling about on motorbikes and dodging bullets. BRIAN VINER, who’s the same age, doffs his cap.

Interspersed with spectacular action sequences and exotic locations are a beautiful if deadly female agent, a semi-comprehensible plot and soaring riffs on Lalo Schifrin’s theme music — its only connection at this point with the TV series that was its original inspiration. “Rogue Nation” opens as Ethan Hunt (Cruise) must destroy a military cargo plane in Belarus by jumping on a wing and holding tight. In this fifth incarnation as Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt, he confounds a bunch of Chechen separatists by clinging on to the outside of their plane during take-off, before boarding it to steal their canisters of nerve gas.“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” like the other films in this franchise starring Tom Cruise, weaves a handful of complex action set pieces into its narrative. As movie star stuntwork goes, it’s almost ho-hum. “Rogue” instantly jumps to a London vinyl record shop where Cruise meets a comely clerk in a scene with distinct echoes of Humphrey Bogart’s bookstore quickie with Dorothy Malone in “The Big Sleep.” Romance is not in the cards here, only a diabolical death as Hunt is gassed and captured by the nefarious Syndicate kingpin Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

Meanwhile back in D.C., the Impossible Mission Force, represented by Jeremy Renner’s Brandt, is being grilled by CIA chief Alan Hunley (a portentously jowly Alec Baldwin), who mocks the IMF for its pursuit of the phantom Syndicate. Whatever you decide about that, let’s be clear about this: When it comes to Tom Cruise and his durability as an action hero, luck has little to do with it. The same survey included the following as inexorable signs that mid-life has kicked in: buying travel sweets for long car journeys, enjoying the Antiques Road Show and joining the National Trust.

The guy’s an action star extraordinaire, and it’s not luck or chance but work and smarts and yes, some swashbuckling derring-do that get him there. Again co-writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (whose “The Usual Suspects” screenplay won him an Oscar) echoes a classic Hollywood thriller: The Albert Hall sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” in which an assassin’s kill shot will be disguised as cymbals clash. From there the now reassembled IMF team — including Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell — goes to Casablanca for a fantastically intricate, literally breathtaking, underwater sequence set in a turbine with a deadly countdown. Let’s give kudos to a few other folks, too, starting with director-writer Christopher McQuarrie, who, like each director in the franchise, puts his own stamp on the proceedings.

So as a man of precisely the same age, let me raise three cheers for Cruise, an inspiration to us all and looking as good as ever, even with his shirt off, almost 20 years after the first big-screen spin-off of the long-running TV series. While no match for its brilliant predecessor, the 2011 “Ghost Protocol,” and marred by the occasional dead-air speech about the Syndicate as a global threat, “Rogue Nation” gets its job done with style. Welcome newcomers include Alec Baldwin, as a pompous CIA boss with deliciously dry delivery, and Rebecca Ferguson, making the most and then some of the obligatory female role. The last time we saw him, in 2011’s highly enjoyable Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Hunt foiled the fiendish plans of a deranged nuclear scientist.

This time, his foe is a rogue former British Intelligence agent, Solomon Lane (a splendidly sinister Sean Harris), who in turn has recruited another British agent, Ilsa Faust (wonderfully played by a Swedish actress with a decidedly non-Swedish name, Rebecca Ferguson). In fact, it begins with the scene you’re most likely to have heard about, because it involves Cruise’s own stunt work, in which the actor actually places himself on the wing of an airborne jet, and then – why not? – lets his legs slip, hanging on by only his hands as the landscape beneath gets tinier and tinier. Part of the arrangement of allowing us to shoot in and around their opera house was to actually use the Vienna orchestra and to record in their preferred venue.

Meanwhile, the director of the CIA (a hammy Alec Baldwin) wants the IMF wound up, on the not unreasonable basis that everywhere Hunt goes, there is mayhem. So Hunt becomes a fugitive from his own countrymen, although that only partly explains his impressive accumulation of air miles, as he scoots between London, Vienna, Paris, Washington DC, Casablanca and Minsk. These days, no action spy film worthy of its name fails to criss-cross the globe more frenziedly than a turbo-charged Michael Palin, as if we won’t believe in it unless it clocks up at least half a dozen locations. The plot, which threatens the life of the British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander), is as preposterous as we have come to expect from the Mission Impossible franchise.

There was probably more spectacular action in the last film, but this one is just as fun, and could feasibly make a star of 31-year-old Ferguson, who steals scenes while everyone else is trying to steal nerve gas and memory sticks. The two meet again in Vienna, and eventually in Morocco, where Hunt and his friends take on a mission that involves, for one thing, Hunt holding his breath underwater for an impossibly long time while fighting an impossibly strong water current and many other things. Last week, the trailer for the new Bond film Spectre was released with the same promotional ballyhoo that used to attend the launch of entire movies, so here’s a timely reminder that 007 is not necessarily the world’s most debonair and resourceful secret agent. However, the film’s best one-liner verges on the philosophical. ‘There are no allies in statecraft, Ilsa, only common interests,’ purrs her scheming boss (Simon McBurney).

Early on, when Hunt was hanging off that plane, my 12-year-old companion – who has grown up in the age of computer-generated wizardry – confidently whispered: “Ha, that’s totally a green screen.” And I was happy to be able to whisper back:

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