Ooga-shaka, I’m hooked on a Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and it keeps getting better. Owen Hughes reviews James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Silly spy stuff; it’s one of my favourite things to watch. Alias, Blacklist, Bond and definitely Mission: Impossible. It’s one of those genres that, when it’s done well, is almost timeless. Just take a look at the old Mission: Impossible TV show; it’s daft, it’s completely implausible but it’s a shed load of fun to watch. It was also my first experience of thinking “oh god why are they making a film of this?”, it was 1996, I was 14 and I was mortified when they made Jim Phelps (the IMF team’s leader in the TV show) the bad guy. I felt every ounce of the betrayal Tom Cruise did on screen as that bastard Brian De Palma ruined my show! After that, I started to discover films like Hard Target and Face/Off, which led to a long-time adoration of director John Woo and thus the only reason I gave Mission: Impossible 2 the time of day and I loved it (yes, I’m very aware it’s the weakest of the franchise, a testament to how good the others are).
I gave the original another shot, with fresh eyes and a growing respect for films and De Palma; and really enjoyed it. Even today; OK, four days ago, the original still holds up as a brilliantly made espionage thriller. A thriller that spawned three sequels; a host of top-shelf actors and directors; and showed the world just how much Tom Cruise is willing to put in to make his films look as good as they possibly can. Today, almost 20 years since Ethan Hunt’s first outing with the IMF, I sat and watched the fourth sequel in one of the most bankable action franchises ever created.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, wastes no time in filling your screen with action. Within a couple of minutes, Hunt and his team are frantically trying to stop a shipment of chemical weapons from falling into the control of someone other than them! Turning to desperate measures to stop what turns out to be VX gas (Remember that? It’s the one that melts faces in The Rock) from being used by a suspiciously invisible terrorist group by throwing it out the back of a plane! Yeah, all that hanging off a plane shit? All in the first few minutes of Rogue Nation. If ever there was a way to start a film, it’s to put the thing advertised the most, that’s generated a metric tonne of interest because the film’s star is batshit crazy and is really hanging off of a plane as the bloody thing takes off, right at the start of the film! And it’s all go from there.
Heading for a debrief, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is captured by the shady “Syndicate”, a group of former intelligence agents who are working extremely hard to bring about the end of the world and are, as we all saw in the trailer, “an anti-IMF”, quite possibly the guys to bring Hunt and his group to their knees. About to be tortured, Ethan gets help escaping from Syndicate hench… Err… Woman? Iisa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and sets about getting hold of his colleagues to get him home and debriefed. But as Mr. Cruise is galavanting about in Europe, his friends are being punished for the sins of his past and have been brought to task for the reckless events of the last few M:I films. Closed down and stopped from operating, the guys have been redeployed in dark little corners of the CIA to be forgotten about while William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) has been forced to help Agency higher-up Alec Baldwin track down and capture the now rogue Ethan Hunt.
And this is all just the first 20 minutes of the film! It’s all go from there as Hunt treks across the world chasing this seemingly all-powerful group that always seems to be one step ahead of him causing untold chaos and getting away clean. Hunt must battle against increasingly hopeless odds as he fights to prove him and his team aren’t just still relevant, but aren’t the reckless Mavericks, no pun intended, their government is accusing them of being. You know? With a crap load of car chases, explosions and gunfights!
I’ll be honest, at this point I’m struggling to work out what to say about Mission: Impossible that you don’t know already. I mean, it’s the fourth sequel in an action/spy franchise. You’ll get thrills, spills and betrayal a plenty. You’ll get action, you’ll get suspense and you’ll get an awesome baddie for the good guys to chase down. But until the Academy get their shit together and introduce an Oscar for awesome stunt work, M:I isn’t winning any awards. Luckily, that’s not what we watch these films for, is it? Absolutely not. We came here for the dude hanging off the side of a plane, the breath stealing bike chases and enough hand-to-hand combat to fill a good sized UFC event.
All that great on-screen action wouldn’t be worth the paper your cinema ticket is printed on though, if the guys in front of the camera weren’t doing a good job and as always, Mission: Impossible brings out the best from everyone involved. Ethan gets to spend more time with Ving Rhames’ charismatic techno-wiz Luther Sticklle and Simon Pegg’s geeky field agent Benji Dunn as they chase Syndicate leader Soloman Lane (not a typo, honest) in an amazing turn from Sean Harris. I’ve been wanting to see Harris, one of my favourite homegrown talents that hardly anyone knows, get himself a role that he can sink his teeth into. Since his turn as Micheletto in The Borgias, I’ve been a huge fan and to see him get a bad guy roll like this and run with it was simply outstanding. In my opinion, the only casting misstep was with Rebecca Ferguson. I’m not taking anything away from her performance, not at all. In fact, I thought she was fantastic. Ferguson done a splendid job in her preparation and those endless hours of stunt and fight training definitely paid off. But every time she was on the screen, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the role should have gone to Gina Carano. I’m certain it would have pushed her 100% into the limelight, something that Haywire and Fast and Furious 6 inexplicably couldn’t do. She would have been perfect, in my humble opinion.
Here’s the thing; Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is another one of those films that you already know if you’re going to enjoy it. You liked the other four? You’ll like this one. You didn’t? Why are you bothering? Essentially, my job is to tell you that Tom Cruise is still Tom Cruise and hasn’t turned into Tropic Thunder‘s Les Grossman; Rhames is still amazing and Renner is still quite brilliant. The action is top notch and the direction superb.
To say that Mission: Impossible is a great movie to sit in front of and disengage your brain for a couple of hours, while pretty accurate, does the film, and indeed the entire franchise, a bit of a disservice. But if you’re looking for smartly written, well directed, adrenaline fuelled escapism, Rogue Nation is best in show and well worth your time.