Mission: Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson had a childhood crush on Tom Cruise

25 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’: Film Review.

Thanks to a sharp script that springs a real surprise or two and a pace that never slackens, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation rates as the second-best of the numerous franchise titles of the summer, after Mad Max: Fury Road.Rogue Nation opens on Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tracking down The Syndicate, a group of evil agents (“the anti-IMF,” as Simon Pegg puts it) that no one seems to believe exists, led by the anti-Hunt (a surprisingly beard-and-emotion-free Sean Harris).You can shoot him, stab him, drown him, blow him up or pair him with Thandie Newton, but you can’t stop Ethan Hunt, because he’s played by Tom Cruise.In the previous Mission: Impossible films, Tom Cruise climbed mountains, braved explosions in Shanghai and scaled Dubai’s Burj Khalifa — all without a stunt double.

The theme that runs like a quick-burning fuse through “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is the tricky relationship between inevitability and chance — or luck, rather, as signaled by the brief appearance of a rabbit’s foot in one of Tom Cruise’s more brutal action sequences.And let’s just say that the fifth Mission: Impossible film, starring Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt alongside Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Jeremy Renner, does not disappoint. Armed with an absorbing mystery plot that does more than just connect the dots between action set-pieces (the most outlandish of which is dispensed with in a Bond-like opener), writer-director Christopher McQuarrie maintains the uptick in M:I quality established by the last two entries, and should land this entry within the series’ customary range of a half-billion bucks worldwide. From hanging onto an Airbus A400M plane at 5,000 feet as it takes off, to jumping off the rooftop of the Vienna State Opera house, Tom’s stunts – mostly done by the actor himself – will take your breath away. Working with Tom Cruise for the fifth time (if you include his uncredited rewrite on the last M:I feature, Ghost Protocol), McQuarrie benefits dramatically from extending the IMF team’s official ostracization to a point of total disenfranchisement from the American government; in an early scene, the CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) succeeds in getting the stealth group shut down, forcing Ethan Hunt’s new partners from the last film, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg), to go to work at CIA headquarters.

It’s a remarkable scene, as if he and director Christopher McQuarrie have taken heed of the words spoken to Cruise’s all-action spy Ethan Hunt when he’s told “this may very well be our last mission — make it count”. As Ilsa Faust, the Swedish actress – not to be mistaken for the British soul singer – proves to be a match for Tom’s character Ethan, and she is amazing. And this is the thanks Ethan gets just after having jumped on to the wing of a giant A400 transport plane, hanging precariously off its side during take-off in a stunt famous even before the film is released — and that it would appear Cruise performed for real.

Despite early reports of soft tracking, this late-summer Paramount release should meet with a solid embrace worldwide, and could demonstrate considerable B.O. resilience through the doldrums of August. Best known for playing Elizabeth Woodville in the BBC’s Golden Globe-nominated 10-part historical drama The White Queen, she has shaken off her corsets to show off fighting skills you’re more likely to associate with MMA stars Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano. For his efforts at thwarting the delivery of a stash of chemical weapons material, Ethan is strung up like a hog for butcher by requisitely swarthy members of The Syndicate. At the same time, the IMF is dissolved, leaving Hunt with few resources outside his own (admittedly impressive) arsenal of wits, safe house gadgetry, and obsessive sense of right and wrong. Likewise, this latest Mission is about a shadowy outfit, The Syndicate, looking to destroy Hunt and the IMF (that’s if Alec Baldwin’s CIA bigwig doesn’t get there first).

It’s worth recalling that the Brad Bird-directed “Ghost Protocol” overcame a slow start to become the series’ highest-grossing entry (nearly $700 million worldwide), suggesting there was still plenty of life in “Mission: Impossible” — and in Tom Cruise’s career, whatever personal embarrassments and professional setbacks he may have suffered along the way. The impressive results, which include his rock-hard abs, a shirtless torso and some strong biceps, can be seen within the first 30 minutes of Rogue Nation.

There’s a lot of mythology about him, a lot of speculation about the kind of myth that surrounds him that people are very keen to believe.” “When you actually meet the man himself, he’s different,” he continued. “He’s far more human. Mission: Impossible isn’t exactly known for taut storytelling, but the problem here is that there’s very little emotional investment offered for the audience. After a few lackluster recent vehicles (“Jack Reacher,” “Oblivion”) and one terrific, underappreciated thriller (“Edge of Tomorrow”), it’s clearer than ever that Ethan Hunt is not just one of Cruise’s signature roles, but also a commercial oasis to which he can reliably return in between riskier attempts to extend his personal brand. The wild card in the deck is an impressively composed and able young woman named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who seems to be allied with The Syndicate, except when she doesn’t.

Of course, the throughline is just an excuse to tie together a series of action sequences, which for the most part shine brightly — chief among them is Cruise hanging off the side of a plane, which has been played up during the marketing campaign as this movie’s holy-shit-Tom-Cruise-actually-did-that moment. The real intrigue, however, comes with Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, a British agent deep undercover in The Syndicate who helps Ethan but seemingly can’t be trusted. Even if it’s not difficult to guess whose side she’ll ultimately wind up on, Ilsa’s ability to keep shrewd minds guessing about her allegiances is a high-wire act she sustains to very near the end, helped in no small measure by Ferguson, whose grown-up poise recalls that of some 1940s movie stars.

Unlike the time Cruise actually climbed the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, though, this scene doesn’t quite elicit the same visceral feelings as the tower climb. From exhilarating car chases in fancy BMWs and speeding along in motorbikes, the viewer is thrown into the action from the film’s opening sequence and there’s no let up.

McQuarrie doesn’t change the prescription for what makes this franchise so successful, nor does he have the most practiced hand among the series’ directors at milking the big action sequences for all they’re worth. Following previous Mission alumni — including Kristin Scott Thomas, Thandie Newton, Maggie Q and Léa Seydoux — she’s the most dynamic female presence ever to grace the series.

The sequence is at once a tasty appetizer and a total red herring, and “Rogue Nation” swiftly gets down to business by putting Ethan and his fellow operatives out of commission. Having portrayed a psychopathic killer stalking the London Underground in Creep, serial killer Ian Brady and a murderous shooter in Channel 4 drama Southcliffe, for which he won a Bafta, he’s clearly no stranger to playing baddies. But he’s deepened the dramatic involvement by so thoroughly casting Ethan Hunt to the wolves that he’s a man without a country or a reliable partner — which is why he’s forced to believe that Ilsa will stand with him at the end of the day despite much circumstantial evidence to the contrary. The other sequences are impressive, a mixed bag of the great (one prolonged scene at an opera house shines as the film’s best) and the maybe all too familiar (a pretty by-the-numbers car chase).

Still, those guys are doing relatively well compared with Ethan himself, who barely makes it through the opening credits before he’s accosted in London, tied up and repeatedly pummeled by a chrome-domed torture specialist called the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten). He cleverly lures out Benji to help try to thwart a Manchurian Candidate-like political assassination that is spectacularly synched up to a performance of Turandot at the Vienna Opera House. With the CIA believing that Ethan might have been behind this outrage, Brandt slips out of Langley and enlists Ilsa to help track Ethan down before the spooks do. It wasn’t until the fourth installment in the film franchise was released in 2011 that he got serious about his fitness. “Ever since Ghost Protocol, actually, I’ve kept in shape.

The action scenes are plentiful, with a colourful globetrotting story that bounces from Minsk to Vienna to Casablanca to London, though arguably there isn’t anything quite as heart-stopping as the computer-disc heist from the Brian De Palma-directed first film back in 1996. The curtain comes crashing violently down on that episode, but the movie’s second major action sequence is a marvel of precise execution and quietly fraught suspense, forcing Ethan to swim his way into a highly pressurized underwater cavern in order to lay hands on a weapon that could make or break the Syndicate. Rogue Nation carries the scorch marks of Bird’s work and Brian de Palma’s original, but its key influences are the campy spy cinema of Roger Moore-era James Bond and Sydney Newman’s 1960s TV series, The Avengers. Here, McQuarrie, who directed Cruise in Jack Reacher, is proficient and punchy — though at times it feels like the wow factor was all stacked on that opening Cruise-on-the-plane sequence.

It’s a remarkably taut bit of business (shot on the large-format Alexa 65 6k digital camera), literally breathless in its intensity, yet executed with the sort of deftness and economy may remind you of Ethan’s early reference to the great jazz drummer Shadow Wilson and his famously “light touch.” Even when the characters are diving into giant water turbines or ripping up the streets of Morocco on motorcycles, that intricate, improvisatory lightness is a quality that McQuarrie’s film has in spades. The second, which is more up Ethan’s (and Cruise’s) usual alley, has him chasing Ilsa — and being chased by the resurgent Syndicate goons — through Casablanca and into the desert on very fast motorcycles driven at very extreme angles. The light-hearted tone is mostly due to an expanded role for Pegg, who again proves himself proficient at looking astonished and/or peeved at the cool stuff Tom Cruise is doing. It doesn’t help that the script by McQuarrie and Iron Man 3’s Drew Pearce has some unintentionally mirthful moments — not least Baldwin’s character ranting that Hunt is the “living manifestation of destiny”.

In the end, however, it comes down to the old spy game — English-style, involving lies, deception, disguises, subterfuge and (dis)loyalty at very high levels. It was like great stews and these lovely little dates filled with peanut butter and sprinkled with coconut for snacks, and these little balls of truffle that were great. To be sure, McQuarrie isn’t as flamboyant a stylist as his predecessors Brian De Palma and John Woo, and although it shares with “Ghost Protocol” the same superb cinematographer (Robert Elswit), the new film has an altogether darker, more workmanlike palette, with little of the previous film’s eye-tickling compositional flair. (And whereas “Ghost Protocol” boasted 27 staggering minutes of footage shot on Imax cameras, the image stays strictly widescreen in “Rogue Nation,” gaining relatively little from the giant-screen format in which it was screened for review.) But whatever the filmmaking may lack in visual or visceral impact, McQuarrie (whose past collaborations with Cruise include directing “Jack Reacher” and scripting “Edge of Tomorrow”) more than compensates on the written front; his screenplay (based on a story conceived with Drew Pearce) achieves an admirable complexity without sacrificing coherence in the process. Little by little, the Syndicate’s leader, the blandly lizard-like Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, effectively employing a thin, reedy voice), is forced out into the open if he’s to get what he wants, clearing the way for the ultimate showdown that Ethan has long desired.

Good rather than grand in what is a busy year for espionage films, this latest Mission: Impossible never quite does enough to stand out from the crowd. On the face of it, “Rogue Nation” is another patchwork of Hitchcockian tropes and James Bondian cliches, as familiar as the recurring strains of Lalo Schifrin’s classic musical theme: Carefully encrypted messages are transmitted, bank-account numbers are copied and deleted, and high-tech explosives are armed and disarmed.

It was kind of exciting to push it and see if I could be the guy I always wanted to be.” Debunking rumors that Cruise mandated the entire cast follow his diet, the actor explained, “He was like, ‘Here: If you want to do this thing that I do, do it, too.’ It was all him. Behind the Syndicate lurks a calculating uber-villain (played with understated menace by the protean Sean Harris) deluded enough to confuse mass annihilation with salvation, and even after he’s defeated, the film acknowledges, there will be many others like him waiting in the wings. The protagonists’ dilemmas are quite extreme, the surprises come in all sizes and the ultra-smooth professionalism displayed in all departments early on encourages the sense that you’re in good hands, a feeling that ends up being justified. Everyone is wearing a mask, and not just of the latex variety: As Ethan and Ilsa’s pointed conversations remind us, these agents are professional con artists who must decide anew each day whether they owe their highest allegiance to their cause, their employers, their friends in the field, or the civilians who are always at risk of becoming collateral damage.

The Fast & Furious franchise, which at this point is just pretty much a good vs. evil thriller with cars, has turned into the new high point for ridiculous stunts (some practical, some CG) and yet still manages to tug on our heartstrings every time Vin Diesel says the word “family.” There’s no reason we can’t be blown away by big explosions and strong emotional choices, and Cruise is more than capable at delivering such a nuanced performance. Still, “Rogue Nation” exudes a knowing sophistication and a winking sense of fun that make it the most philosophically brooding film in the series, acknowledging the soul-crushing futility of so much intelligence work, especially for those who have been smeared and disavowed by their own agency. “I can’t see another way,” Ethan despairs as the story approaches its fatal endgame — one that, he realizes, is utterly unavoidable and perhaps even preordained. The window between Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation was four years, as quick a turnaround as there’s ever been between franchise entries, so at this rate it’s entirely plausible that the actor could have at least one more Mission in him before Ethan retires to a desk job. And so the characters’ sense of defeat becomes a metaphor for the essentially formulaic nature of the action-thriller, calling into question the viability of a genre of which we’ve already seen countless iterations and will certainly see countless more.

While the most recent “Die Hard” and “Terminator” movies have playfully acknowledged that their once-strapping male stars are well past their physical prime, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is having none of it. Whatever combination of stunt work and digital trickery was involved (very little, if reports are to be believed), Cruise remains as deft a physical performer as ever, and projects nary a shred of self-consciousness or vanity; he is, no less than Ethan Hunt himself, an incorrigible daredevil and a consummate professional.

News caught up with Cruise at the film’s world premiere in Vienna Thursday and asked how he stays in such great shape at age 53. “For different films, whether it’s an action movie or not, making a movie is very demanding. Baldwin’s blustering, antagonistic CIA man lends the proceedings a welcome punch, while Pegg, previously seen in “Ghost Protocol” as a comic-relief figure with a full arsenal of malfunctioning gadgets, comes fully into his own here as an indispensable and uniquely courageous member of Ethan’s team.

Renner and Rhames are rather sidelined by comparison, though they get considerably more screen time than Zhang Jinchu, whose prominently billed, blink-and-you-miss-it performance as a CIA underling feels like a sop to the film’s Asia-based investors, China Movie Channel and Alibaba Pictures Group. There’s many, many things I enjoy doing.” Working with Cruise is a dream come true for many actors—and not just because he comes with perks like a personal chef! There’s the odd clumsy swing at satire (Renner’s character is fond of a Rumsfeld-esque “I can neither confirm nor deny” under questioning), but, unlike Bond or Bourne, this series exists outside of time. Camera (Deluxe color, Arri Alexa digital, Panavision widescreen, Imax), Robert Elswit; editor, Eddie Hamilton; music, Joe Kraemer; production designer, James Bissell; supervising art director, Paul Inglis; art directors, Andrew Bennett, Stephen Carter, Amanda Dazely, Matt Gray, Ben Munro, Helen Xenopoulos; set decorator, John Bush; costume designer, Joanna Johnston; sound (Dolby Atmos), Chris Munro; supervising sound editor, James Mather; re-recording mixers, Mike Prestwood Smith, Gilbert Lake; special effects coordinator, Dominic Tuohy; visual effects producer, Maricel Pagulayan; visual effects supervisor, Ken Hahn; visual effects, Double Negative; stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood; associate producers, Thomas Hayslip, Helen Medrano, Pagulayan; assistant directors, Toby Hefferman, Tommy Gormley; second unit director, Gregg Smrz; second unit camera, Jonathan Taylor; underwater camera, Peter Romano; casting, Mindy Marin, Lucinda Syson. The camel was called Barbie, and they called and said, ‘You have 24 hours to fly to London, meet Tom, and fly back and get onto Barbie’s back again.’ So it was more a matter of, you know, just standing up and running and doing it.

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