Friday, 7 August 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (Review)

The facet of the Mission Impossible franchise that keeps me fascinated with each installment is its crystal clear contract with audiences. When you sit down in front of any Mission Impossible film, you know almost precisely what kind of experience you are about to have. Which is not to say that you know what you are going to see, or that the direction of the plot will be predictable. On the contrary, Mission Impossible's suspenseful, set-piece-focused, constantly twisting formula is as riveting as it is consistent. It feels like a TV series on the big screen, with all the production values of the latter but what keeps bringing you back is the characters and themes that feel like a show. (Of course, this makes sense, because the film franchise spawned from a TV series.)

When you open a film with Tom Cruise literally hanging on to a plane as it takes off, maintaining interest for another two hours sounds like a tall order. Luckily, Christopher McQuarrie - the latest in the exciting lineup of Mission Impossible directors - is canny enough to know he doesn't have to go bigger. The set pieces that follow are engaging in their intensity, their complexity and their breathlessness, and thankfully never try to do something "larger" than the opening sequence - which would surely have made this blockbuster crumble.

Overall, Rogue Nation feels like a smaller film than MI:4 Ghost Protocol. But this shrinking of scale is well managed, and MI:5 feels just as thrilling in its stakes. In place of scaling skyscrapers (for example), Rogue Nation has stronger emotional threads, mostly thanks to the subplot led by Rebecca Ferguson (the first Mission Impossible heroin I thought really worked), and a couple of charged interactions between Cruise and Simon Pegg. It's all very Bond-y, as well, obviously because of the London setting but also because Sean Harris' rather classical spy villain, Solomon Lane, is a great and mysterious opponent for Ethan Hunt.

Mission Impossible works because it is, figuratively and otherwise, grounded. Grounded perhaps not in reality but in a reality. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt may perform the impossible, but it's always a challenge for him. He's no fearless superhero, which would make the whole thing rather bland.

Michael Giacchino, who scored the last two installments of the series brilliantly, is not present for Rogue Nation. But whatever tears I may have been crying over his departure are long forgotten under the flood of joyful tears when I heard Joe Kraemer's effort. It's an extremely classy soundtrack, which plays with opera, always drives a rhythm, and knows the power it has in the Mission Impossible theme - without overusing it. It's definitely going to be in my top scores of 2015. Kraemer, you have my attention. And good luck topping this spy action in Spectre, Thomas Newman!

Rogue Nation is another fantastic installment in one the best action franchises around.

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