Tom Cruise attemps once again ups the ante after the fourth Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol turned out to be both a critical and financial surprise hit in 2011. While the action takes up a large chunk of the movie the plot starts to thicken as the story progresses. After the 2 hours and 10 minutes the movie audience is left visibly exhausted by the experience of this fifth entry in the action franchise which ranks among the best of the franchise.
A new experience
With the world premiere of this massive blockbuster in Vienna there was a different vibe in the screening room. Instead of the conventional early morning screening, the invitation read 8 p.m. which we attributed to an error in the eMail (sorry, Universal). This was because the screening was an international screening. And despite the endless professional experience of Flip the Truck it was something quite special. Food and drinks intended to lure the critics in were handed out before we were found ourselves between critics from all around the globe.
But frankly, the movie didn’t need to cater this much towards the audience since it was immediately hooked:
The intro intself is a modern reinterpretation of the TV-Show intro this franchise is based on and the first hour was a relentless onslaught of action scenes. The story was slowly seeping into the movie, gathering like stormy clouds ready to unleash the thunder (this allegory might have been affected by the fact that Vienna was experiening some of the hottest days in memory).
The setup for Rogue Nation is quite simple: The CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants to disassemble the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). At the same time Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is discovering the shadow organization known as Syndicate and since all ex-IMF-agents are now under the command of Hunley he decides to find its mysterious leader (Sean Harris) on his own. Well, not quite on his own! Hunt is once again aided by tech-genius Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) who wants to be part of the real action after having spent the previous two movies behind a computer screen.
Mr. Cruise, please proceed to the gate!
The Mission: Impossible franchise has become quite infamous for its extreme stunts and Rogue Nation makes good on this promise with its first action scene: here Hunt is hanging on the outside of the plane and the movie keeps this relentless pace. When Hunt is debriefed he gets captured and his colleague William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) has to stand by and watch – a thing that Renner will continue to do for the rest of the movie.
Hunt manages to escape and has a newfound mission which leads to a search around the globe. Hunt gets to Vienna (featuring scenes at the state opera which have been hyped up for the last year by Austrian newspapers), where an assassination is about to take place. While it takes Hunt and the movie some time to find out the motivation of Syndicate, the story then rapidly grows more complex. Still, the screenplay avoids over the top twists while the story is built layer by layer so that in the end Rogue Nation delivers as a solid albeit unsurprising thriller.
There are a few fake-suspense scenes which still work due to the solid screenplay by the director Christopher McQuarrie who also seems to have fun with the franchise history (a sequence in London is clearly staged to evoke the moments in Prague from the first Mission: Impossible).
No doomsday rockets
Ghost Protocol grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide and is also a critical darling. And while I enjoyed the movie as a solid action film there was a bit too much CGI for my taste (exploding Kreml and a rocket heading to San Francisco come to mind ). This is where Rogue Nation excels. The stakes are comparatively low, focusing on a network of individual terrorist attacks which cause destabilization. This concept might be a bit more subtle than an impending World War Three but this doesn’t mean that the audience is not on the edge of their seat.
Once again the thrill comes from a large portion of the movie being done without the use of special effects with Cruise doing a large chunk of the stunts by himself. Only one setpiece goes against this practical mantra which takes place in a giant water tank with a camera zooming from ego perspective to wide shots.
The American Skyfall?
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation shows some strong parallels to Skyfall. Both movies feature an Agent who is working on his own, trying to find a shadow organization, both movies reflect on the legacy of the franchise and there are also some parallels which would require spoiling both movies. And while Rogue Nation pales in direct comparison Skyfall this doesn’t diminish the fun movie experience.
O Jeremy, Where Art Thou
Jeremy Renner and Franchises seem to form a very sad relationship. Once considered to be the successor to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), he was also a candidate to replace Ethan Hunt in Ghost Protocol and in The Avengers he had to act as if his character actually mattered. In Rogue Nation he is mostly there as a comic relief character who has fewer action sequences than Simon Pegg. Therefore, Renner is relegated to standing next to Alec Baldwin or talking on the phone before he is allowed a short sprint. His absence in the movie wouldn’t have been missed, which is a pity considering Renner’s acting talent.
Film: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation might very well be the best entry in the franchise (although subjectively nothing will match my childhood memory of watching the first movie over and over again). It never devolves into a CGI-fest and finds strength in simplicity. The action leaves the audience on the edge of their seat and might be a bit exhausting.
Bottom line: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a crowd pleasing blockbuster boasting enough action and an inoffensive story to enjoy.
PS: Nur Wien, nur Wien, du nur allein
With Vienna featuring this prominently in a large blockbuster it is a fun time to reflect on the way Austria’s capital is represented in the movie. It is especially amusing that the entire state opera becomes a safety zone where every attendant is scanned using a metal detector (not even the orchestra is safe!). All this is done because the Austrian chancellor is attending the opera which seems a bit overkill considering that one might accidentally bump into the chancellor on a stroll through Vienna…
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