Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
Directed and written by Christopher MacQuarrie
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin
After managing to foil the theft of a dangerous toxic material, Ethan Hunt has confirmed the existence of a dangerous criminal spy agency called the Syndicate that intends to destabilize the world order with terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, however, the IMF is dismantled and Hunt and his fellow men must decide whether to continue to work on their own against a powerful enemy. To complicate matters even more, Ilsa Faust, a British agent who infiltrated the Syndicate, forms a relationship with Hunt that will have some unforeseeable implications…
It has been almost twenty years since cinema seized the IMF— the team that dealt with impossible and extreme missions, and was first launched on television a few decades earlier. With its compelling tune and memorable tag line, “this message will self-destruct in…”, it made genre aficionados of us all.
After five feature films one must admit that the continued success of such a particular and athletic version of the spy genre is due in great part to the charisma and energy of its continuous star, Tom Cruise. His are the stunts in the opening scene where he takes off clinging to the door of an airplane, and his are the scenes of motorbike races, as well as the many other usual action scenes that punctuate the film, from a literally breathtakingly dangerous mission, to the most common fistfights and shootings.
The plot is brilliant without being particularly original: we have seen the IMF risk more or less serious destruction more times than we have seen them deal with hardship from following “normal” protocol. Perhaps this is the inevitable destiny of every respected hero in a world where political institutions are becoming ever more darkly suspect (something similar even happened to Captain America…). However, this does not prevent one from enjoying a story that makes unlikely situations a perennial source of irony, which is also thanks to the excellent chemistry between the protagonist and supporting actors, particularly Simon Pegg playing the role of the faithful Benji Dunn, who places his friendship with Ethan above his loyalty to the nation.
The new female entry, Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the role of the British Ilsa Faust, certainly adds an edge to the film. Her concentration of action, intelligence and assorted citations are capable of taking on and fascinating Hunt in his thirst for adrenaline. As if her name and the Moroccan setting of the main sequence were not enough, the initial shots play on a striking resemblance to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, while her signature move to knock out her opponents is owed to James Bond’s girl, Xenia Onatopp, in Goldeneye.
It is not necessary for an action movie to explore moral dilemmas in order to succeed. However, it is inevitable even for blockbusters like these to grapple with issues of their time. Thus, MacQuarrie’s script (in this case, a pen drive, is supposed to contain the necessary data to unmask the Syndicate but obviously hides other surprises) is cleverly embroidered with the contemporary climate of distrust towards secret agencies and their omnipresent watch on people, on the lack of scruples among supposed allies, and on the amorality of realpolitik without ever— let’s admit— delving very deeply into these issues, so as to preserve the film’s essential light feel.
If the Impossible Mission Force is able to maintain this delicate equilibrium and if Tom Cruise is able to keep his muscles, the possibility for the reunion of the team (with or without the beautiful mystery woman of the moment— who in each episode, was left with only a goodbye) is certainly positive.
Viewer discretion is advised for scenes of tension and violence within the limits of the genre.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.