Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rogue Nation: The IMF Returns

Rogue Nation, the latest chapter in the Mission: Impossible franchise is another well-produced entry in the series. I wasn’t a fan of the initial two entries, which felt more like Tom Cruise centered action movies. And in the first film, 1996’s Mission: Impossible, they did a serious disservice to a beloved character from the TV show. But since J.J. Abrams took over the reins in 2006 when he wrote & directed Mission: Impossible III, he’s steered the films back toward the team-oriented feel of the original TV series. Abrams has continued on as a producer on the series, letting Brad Bird (The Incredibles) take a turn in the center seat for 2011’s Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. This time out, Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects, takes over the director’s chair. McQuarrie also wrote the screenplay & co-authored the original story.

As Rogue Nation begins, it’s a bad time for the IMF. The director of the CIA (played by Alec Baldwin) pushes the government to disband the team, citing the fact that, while they’re successful, they answer to no one & have left too much chaos in their wake. Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is in the field, tracking down a group of former intelligence agents from various countries that have banded together to form a secret organization. This group, known as The Syndicate, is bent on spreading death & destruction throughout the world for their own nefarious purposes. Hunt is labeled a rogue agent, and must elude the CIA, while also stopping the villains from carrying out their plans. He crosses paths with Ilsa Faust, a disgraced British operative (Rebecca Ferguson), who may or may not be in league with the bad guys.

It’s up to Hunt and his former team-mates to stop this so called “anti-IMF.” But can William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, returning from the previous film), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), help Ethan while eluding their new bosses in the CIA?  Just who is Ilsa, the lovely but deadly agent who seems to be playing both sides against the middle? What is The Syndicate’s ultimate plan? Is Brandt actually planning to turn Ethan over to the CIA? I won’t say any more about the twisty, deftly handled plot. Enjoy it on its own terms when you see the film. Director McQuarrie keeps things moving at a brisk, breathless pace. There are the usual amazing stunts, action sequences and chase scenes, including a cleverly executed sequence set at the Vienna Opera, where Ethan tries to foil an assassination.

The cast is excellent as usual, with Pegg getting some good comic moments during the story, and Renner and Rhames offering fine support. McQuarrie & his crew have done a wonderful job with the film, crafting an enjoyable action movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience. This is a series that has stayed consistently strong as it goes on, unlike some franchises, which are suffering from fatigue by the later entries. (I’m looking at you, Die Hard) It helps that the producers seem to have taken a page from the James Bond series, bringing in top directors & writers to work on each film. It’s a well-made popcorn flick that should please fans of the previous movies and older fans who recall the original show. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is now in theaters. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

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