Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
--- 8.8/10 - Fantastic -
Here we are, Pre-‘Fallout’ (for me). Seemingly the last director roulette of the series. Christopher McQuarrie takes the director chair, hot off his debut film “Jack Reacher”. So how does he do? Does he change up the formula?
The answer should you choose to read it.. (I had to get one in)
It starts with a gigantic set piece. Tom Cruise holding on to a plane for dear life! The interaction with Benji and Luther is priceless as they try to navigate Cruise in. It's visually stunning and an impressive stunt but then the finale of it just falls flat to me. It doesn’t really show an end to the stunt, yeah it shows him zipping off but that just felt tacked on. The way it starts the film just feels off. I would’ve rather have that stunt play near the end and tied into the plot more. It feels like a throwaway..
But what the beginning does do well is set the language of the film to follow. Big stunts, Tom Cruise, and comedy, and those things are present.
McQuarrie has a very different visual style from the previous film. This film plays tighter and messier. That’s not always a negative. I love it when it works. It has a tone that tiptoes around Mi:3. It pushes darker themes and offers a more exhaustive look into Hunt psyche. Though it never goes full darkness. McQuarrie handles some things very well, like the set pieces. They look great and he shoots them well. The Vienna opera is one of the standouts. He shows shots setting up space and geography elegantly. He even implements moving pieces that add flavor and depth. That scene by far is my favorite of the film. It also reminds me of the parking deck fight from ‘GP’
The other big highlight is the Car-to-Motorcycle chase. Having Cruise (who does the stunt driving) and Pegg in the car sells the danger and chaos of that sequence. Then the subsequent chase on the bikes looks mind-blowing. Having Cruise ride at those speeds on that road, that close to scrapping his knee off is fantastic.
Now, let me talk about what I didn’t like about McQuarrie. I'll be blunt and start out with the biggest negative. His fight scenes look horrible. It’s mostly the way they are edited and showcased. It has that cheap Hollywood look to them. Every punch is cut before impact, to show close-ups and medium shots of the hit or reaction. This makes the sequences feel fake and reduces the impact of those fights. There’s a brilliant video essay about this terrible method of editing/directing by 'Every Frame a Painting'. Look for the 'Jackie Chan' video and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The other big negative is the CGI in this movie. The underwater scene didn’t have much tension or realism with so much added CGI elements. The beginning of the motorcycle chase also had this weird segment where they manipulated the scene by having extra CGI cars. These moments seemed so glaring and distracting to me. Especially when you have so much of the sequence traditionally shot.
The cast that returns does a great job, just like they did before. The big standout is, of course, Rebbeca Ferguson. She is drop dead gorgeous. Not only that, but she maneuvers through this film with the style & grace of what a female Bond would. She is simply magnetic. How the fuck is she not the biggest star in Hollywood right now.
Oh yeah, Alec Baldwin is cool too.
The music I found to be less enjoyable than the last films. It’s hard to compare the animated flourishes of Giachinno to Joe Kraemer's score.
The story adds a new layer to Hunt, finally bringing up how crazy and lucky his antics truly are. They play with this theme, but they never really dig into it. Right as the film starts to turn Hunt into a psychopath hellbent on success. It eases off and resolves the entire film. Which I guess is okay, but disappointing when it could’ve anchored the film down. The story is again about some bad guy that sells arms or whatever. The villain is bland again, and besides 'Mi: 3' they all have been so nothing new to report there. The thing that does stick out to me is how this film teeters towards the end and fizzles out.
So In ending,
Rogue Nation recruits Christopher McQuarrie to helm the 5th entry. He does a fantastic job managing the craziness that it takes to make a M: I film. The stunts are fantastic, Cruise again elevates his performance. The cast around him get back into their roles like a glove. Rebecca Ferguson joins the series, with all the grace, style, and beauty that only a woman could bring. The fight sequences are not the best and there is some CGI that pricks out within the big stunts. This film falls just shy of moving the M: I needle forward. It’s the first film of the series that buckles down and tries to elevate what came before. I love the depth they try to attach to Hunt, but they never push that theme hard enough for me.