- Rogue Nation is the fifth and most thrilling installment of MI franchise
- 53-year old Cruise repeatedly defies gravity as superspy Ethan Hunt
- Set pieces are lifted by the added physicality of Rebecca Ferguson
- Smooth globetrotting plot is driven by a memorable \'rogue\' villain
I'm scared for Tom Cruise and his stuntman Wade Eastwood. Together, they're 95 years old. Some of the stuff they do in the latest installment of the Mission Impossible series is nothing short of ridiculous.
It's not only about them; director Christopher McQuarrie, who directed the 53-year old actor previously in Jack Reacher (an old-school Ethan Hunt of sorts), has reiterated what many have long suspected: the outstanding cinematic action pieces of the last decade have been conceived by older, more experienced minds. In the words of James Bond, youth is no guarantee of innovation.
The Skyfall of the Mission Impossible franchise
Rogue Nation is a very cool, almost effortless product in a franchise that began as an American Bond-styled spy series. Ironically, and deliciously enough, both these franchises have now collided, by way of the new mood they've chosen.
Hunt is no lone crusader - he has a considerably efficient team around him - without which he'd be just another womanizing, alcoholic, daddy-issues-riddled agent. We're at a point in the spy and superhero movie landscape, where plots are getting less technical and far more personal.
Much like the transitional MI6 in Skyfall, Rogue Nation pinpoints a phase where this unlikely organization is being disbanded by higher authorities. The word 'wanton' - no doubt a product of the previous four films and its audacious set pieces - is repeatedly used to describe their reckless missions. And like Bond, Hunt goes rogue to prove the existence of a rogue organization.
I like how spies disappear at will, and probably swim their way into new countries without passport issues. It strengthens the credibility of fantasy spaces these almost-superheroes occupy, and highlights the importance of foreplay as its base.
If the villains didn't titillate endlessly, and if our heroes acted instinctively, films would end within seconds. Hunt though, is teasing personified, in more ways than one.
He gets obsessed with a cat-and-mouse game across the globe with an invisible villain - a shadowy head of the 'Syndicate' (Sean Harris), an anti-IMF comprising of overambitious (read, delusional) ex-agents from various countries. This simple spy-versus-spy template allows us to connect, before being pulled into the annoying cleverness and distorting swiftness of everybody involved.
Thankfully, despite the ambitious choreography and tense action, the filmmakers don't go 3D on us. In this era of instant commercial gratification, plain old vanilla 2D IMAX feels like a new and refreshing format all over again.
An enjoyable barrage of global well-crafted set pieces
There's the usual dose of undercover, double-crossing and impersonation. The filmmakers pull it off, or at least make it look intelligent enough - an art on its own. One way or the other, it always does come down to masks, truth serum and red pen drives.
The specifics are irrelevant. The sequence of set pieces isn't: Air, land, water, bikes and spooky hide-and-seek. All you need to do is track the geography - from Belarus (airplane) to Vienna (Opera) to Morocco (underwater, bike chase) to a very Sherlock-y old-school London (climax).
When I was at the Vienna State Opera two years ago, little did I know it would soon host Tom Cruise in a masterfully crafted edge-of-the-seat assassination sequences; crests and troughs of the three-act Turandot are weaved into the suspense of sinister backstage action.
The Morocco madness - essentially revolving around some tech jargon, an underwater secure server and data cards - is lung-bustingly edgy, followed by a MotoGP-style high-speed chase across the mountains.
The way McQuarrie mixes his sounds here is exemplary; for all the engines and deafening snarls, there's a melody - a raw rhythm - to it all.
Rebecca Ferguson captivates as Hunt's mysterious equal
The film rides on the imagination, bravura and broad shoulders of these men, and an extremely fatale femme named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Her identity remains the fulcrum of the plot; Ferguson is compelling, charming and very competent as this mysterious action hero.
Sean Harris, who plays the all-consuming mega-villain, invokes his inner John Cramer (of the 'Saw' series) with a distinct, whispery manner. His eventual fate is the only letdown in terms of scale, a cop out under the guise of a foggy detective cobblestone-and-footsteps climax. I guess you can't have it all.
I never really warmed up to the MI series till its fourth installment, which incidentally had Anil Kapoor as one of its many suspicious accents. Rogue Nation is the most interesting of the lot. It's smart - too smart and cocky at times - but how often can you say that about a non-Bond spy franchise?