Sunday, November 8, 2015

A year of spy flicks reviewed: M:I 5

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
This is one strange series. It does not really have an identifiable signature beyond the tropes from the TV series and Tom Cruise climbing on things. There is no cool central character along the lines of Bond or Indy, and no really interesting villains (although Philip Seymour Hoffman comes close). It is also really inconsistent in terms of quality. I like 1 and 4, hate 2, and I'm kinda meh on 3.

While I can't really call myself a die hard fan, I have never missed one in the theatre, mainly because each movie is so different from its predecessors -- this is thanks to Tom Cruise's desire to ensure that every film has a different director with an identifiable directorial stamp. This latest entry comes from Christopher McQuarrie, the veteran screenwriter whose previous directorial effort, Jack Reacher, I had enjoyed. That movie had a very un-showy, economical and hardboiled style to it which reminded me of old-school action flicks from the 70s -- it felt like Don Siegel or Walter Hill could have made it. So when I heard McQuarrie was coming on to do M:I 5, I was really excited.

This movie is awesome. It is like the best parts of all the previous movies put together and elevated to another level. More than any of the previous entries, this feels like a proper story, rather than a series of set pieces strung together. This one also manages to get more exciting as the movie proceeds -- even Ghost Protocol, which is one of my favourites of the series, slackens after the mid-film Dubai sequence.

In Rogue Nation, each set piece is in contention as the film's stand-out. The Opera sequence is gloriously Hitchcockian; the underwater sequence is incredibly tense and the motorcycle chase is far more visceral than any vehicle chase I've seen in years. There is something so refreshing about watching action sequences that are based on people, their skills and how they are able to utilise their environments to gain the upper hand. Along with Mad Max: Fury Road, this was the only summer movie that felt like a proper action flick, and not a superhero film or a video game.

Performances all round were great, especially by Rebecca Ferguson as an enigmatic secret agent and, in an expanded role, Simon Pegg as loveable tech head Benji. There is a good section of the film where Cruise and Pegg are the only major characters onscreen and their dynamic is a joy: the car chase sequence alone -- in which a barely conscious Cruise has to navigate a car backwards with a terrified Pegg in the passenger seat -- feels like a great teaser for an epic buddy movie.

Overall, this is one of the best entries in the series, and one of the best action flicks of the summer. On this evidence, M:I 6 cannot come soon enough.

Current ranking

1. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
2. Spy 
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service

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