*. Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation. Also known as “the one where Tom Cruise holds on to the side of a plane that’s taking off.” Here we go!
*. In my notes on Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol I mentioned how the series had hit its stride and was now smoothly going through the motions of an established formula. That’s the case again here, as Ethan Hunt once again gets captured, escapes, goes jumping from great heights, piles up frequent flier points jetting around exotic locales, and runs like mad. I don’t remember him having to climb any cliffs, walls, or tall buildings, though the business with the plane is something kind of similar.
*. The plot is nearly identical to earlier instalments. Hunt has to steal something that the bad guy then steals from him and that Hunt has to get back. I think that covers everything. The bad guy here goes by the name of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and he heads up an organization called the Syndicate, which is an “anti-IMF” (which stands for Impossible Mission Force, not International Monetary Fund). The Syndicate is made up of ex-spies who now want to kill all spies. So basically it’s SMERSH reborn. As in all the earlier instalments I was never entirely sure what their mission was, but who cares? They want the dingus so Hunt has to get the dingus for them and then get it back or keep it away from them somehow.
*. Part of fitting into the groove is the sense that we really are in serial country now, which means a lot of this film felt like a set-up for the next movie, Fallout. So much so that I was sure there was going to be a mid-credit or post-credit teaser as with the Marvel movies. There isn’t, but you still could be sure you hadn’t seen the last of Solomon Lane.
*. Pretty much everything I said about Ghost Protocol goes for this one. It looks really good. There are a bunch of impressive set-piece scenes. You get more Simon Pegg as Benjy than we really need. Hunt has a female counterpart in the shapely form of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The camera has a bit of a booty fixation on her. There are big chunks of material that aren’t very important that I could have lived without. The blockbuster sequences come at the beginning and the middle, which leaves the end feeling a bit anticlimactic. The first two movies were more traditional in saving those scenes for the end.
*. My only problem with Rogue Nation is that by this time I’d been down this road so many times (with Hunt, and Bond, and Bourne) that I was well out ahead of the plot and I started to get a little bored even while admiring how slickly it was all put together. The assassination at the opera has been done before, and working in three assassins only spiced things up a little bit. The face mask business this time out seemed obvious to me. The car chases, as always, are totally gratuitous. But I guess they have enough fresh material to keep things interesting, if you find car chases interesting (crushing the bikers up against the walls of an alley, the car doing a whole end-over-end tumbling roll down an arcade).
*. The need to one-up the challenge level or degree of difficulty on the impossible missions is starting to strain credulity. The only place they can get the computer file they need is on a server in Morocco, that Hunt has to enter an underwater cooling system to access the security codes for? Come on. That just felt like a leap too far.
*. Bottom line: Well done, but now just more of the same. Mission Impossible II is felt by many to be the weakest film in the series, but to be honest I was starting to miss John Woo a little by the end of this one. Not the pigeons, just something a little more invested with a personal sense of style. But of course that’s not how the money’s made. Audiences wanted more of the same and that’s exactly what they were going to get.