Review – They’re Actually Possible Missions (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”)

This movie gives us something new. You get the first ever M:I movie written and directed by the same person, Christopher McQuarrie. Very unusual and very cool.

Starting off with an unbelievably dangerous airplane stunt that everyone’s been talking about, Ethan Hunt (Tom “I do my own stunts, dude!” Cruise), is captured by the Syndicate, a secretive rogue anti-IMF group funded by persons unknown. He escapes with the help of beautiful disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a Syndicate operative who may or may not be a double-agent. Hunt’s only lead is Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a guy who looks like an evil Steve Jobs. But Hunt will have to wait as his entire IMF team is kaput, thanks to gung-ho CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who’s on a witch hunt for Hunt.

Hunley calls in chief analyst William Brandt (Renner) to aid him in finding Hunt, and in doing so, Brandt calls in techno-sleuth Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). Once again, Hunt is disavowed and on the run looking for the bad guys on his own. Hunt suspects that Lane and the Syndicate are causing world-wide catastrophe’s to bring about world chaos, but who is behind it all? With the help of computer whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Hunt and Faust try to stop the assassination of the Chancellor of Austria at a Vienna opera, but oops! Well, you can’t win them all.
Getting new intel, they find that Lane is after a “Red Box”, a highly classified computer file stashed away in super-secure, lock-down fortress. Guess what they’re gonna do? Steal it with through overwhelming and impossible odds, of course! Which they do, but then it’s stolen again by Faust. The merry chase, with Brandt and Luther joining in the ruckus, is a jaw-dropping, high-speed pursuit on motorcycles with Ethan eventually losing his prey. Undaunted, Ethan and his pals figure out what’s on those secret files and plan a stunning coup within the British government, but Lane uses Faust to kidnap Benji to thwart Hunts plans.

The ending is just relentless and, without giving too much away, Hunt finally gets Lane boxed in where he wants him and saves the world… again! Good thing he chose to accept this mission, huh? And if you’re wondering if they’ll be a part six, yes, it’s already been confirmed by producer Cruise himself.

The beauty of this entry into the franchise is the fact that this time around, the story is so very 007-ish, more so than the others. Yes, you have the requisite IMF neato gadgetry, the on-location filming, and the sold acting, but it never deters from the story, especially in this case with all those amazing stunts. With films like The Fast and The Furious and their ilk, the stunts ARE the movie and the story be damned. Here, the stunts are merely the icing on the cake, but oh, what delicious icing it is!

Director McQuarrie, who gave us such great films like The Usual Suspects, and Cruise’s actioners Jack Reacher and Valkyrie, really knows how to set up a tense film like this and make it work. The writing is sharp and focused as is his direction. Of course, just as with all the previous M:I films, you have overlook the obvious plot holes and wild coincidences that pop-up throughout the movie. Hey, it wouldn’t BE a M:I film if it didn’t have those, right?

You would think for the sixth installment in the franchise it would show signs of slowing down, but not in this case. Cruise is just as spry at 53 as ever was and the rest of the cast look great. I hope they bring back Ferguson, who was every bit Cruises equal as they shared great on-screen chemistry together. I can’t wait to see part seven and I hope that McQuarrie is back on board!

**With the advent of number five in the very lucrative franchise, Mission Impossible is one of the best sequel-generating machines, along with James Bond, the Star Wars & Trek series, and the late Harry Potter franchise… although that horse ain’t quite dead yet. Anyway, let’s go back to 1996 and take a look at how it all began, even though it was based on very cool 1966-1973 TV series starring Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, and Martin Landau, among others. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read all about the past series. This message will self-destruct in 4…3…2…

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Directed by Brain DePalma and a host of different writers that wrote, wrote, and re-wrote the script until everyone was reasonably happy. Tom Cruise (a huge fan of the TV series) stars as Ethan Hunt, the point man of IMF (Impossible Mission Force) team agents.While in Prague, their mission is compromised and coordinator Jim
Phelps (Jon Voight) is shot, his wife Claire (Emmanuelle Beart) seems to dies in a car bomb, and the rest of the team is either killed or scattered. Hunt learns the job was a setup and there’s a mole within the IMF organization.

Hunt is then framed and hunted as a fugitive, but manages to recruit two disavowed IMF agents to help him out: computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno). They have to infiltrate CIA HQ  to steal a NOC list (list of agents), and flee to London to give it to a mysterious buyer called Max (Vanessa Redgrave). But while the exchange of the computer disc takes place on board a train, Ethan discovers, much to his horror and confusion, that his mentor and friend, Jim Phelps, was the mole and a double-agent!

The fast-paced and over-the-top crazy chase scene at the end with a helicopter chasing a train through a tunnel is just plain nuts. The bad guys are revealed, the good guys win, and Ethan’s name is cleared and made a full agent. He’s then told he’s gotta make another sequel. He smiles and says, “Bring it!”
This movie almost didn’t get made; what with all the script problems, DePalma’s budget going way beyond expected, and a plethora of problems meeting them in whatever city or country they shot. This the first time that Cruise volunteered to do his own stunts when the stuntmen refused to tackle a dangerous water stunt; something he’d continue to do from then on. Also, this also marks Ving Rhames first M:I role that would last him in all five movies.

The original TV cast hated this movie and condemned it, but it made a fortune at the box office, not to mention a fan favorite with critics and audiences alike. Although, upon closer inspection and watching, there are plot holes galore and weird inconsistencies in the storyline (you can check out YouTube for those). This movie struck a cord with many who were hungry for a thriller with that familiar theme song. And they got it

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Chinese action director John Woo took over the reins and had Cruise precariously hanging off a cliff in the opening sequence. This was an indication of where the film was going from here. In a departure from the last film, screenwriter Robert Towne gave us a boring “virus that can wipe out the world” scenario storyline, with Ethan and his team trying to stop it from happening. Snooze.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has to stop rogue IMF agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), from selling or using a deadly virus called Chimera. But first, a little hankie-pankie in Seville, Spain with a cat-burglar named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton). These two get (ahem) close and Ethan allows an outsider to join his IMF team so she can get close to Sean, being that she’s his ex-girlfriend.

Ethan recruits his old computer expert, Luther (Rhames again) and pilot Billy Baird (John Polson) to gain intel on Biocyte laboratories where the Chimera is, along with Ambrose’s headquarters. The team learns that the Chimera virus has a 20-hour dormant period before it causes death through mass destruction of the victim’s red blood cells. But, there IS a cure! This stuff called Bellerophon, also in Ambrose’s hands, and is being held for major $$$ to the highest bidder.

Ethan is able to destroy all but one sample of the virus before Ambrose interrupts him, and a firefight ensues. Nyah, in an act to retrieve the last sample, injects herself with it, thus preventing Ambrose from simply killing her. As Ambrose takes Nyah and Ethan escapes from the laboratory in the ensuing gun battle. Ethan starts a 20-hour countdown before the virus takes over Nyah’s body and tries to get the antidote to her as well as capture the bad guy!

The whirlwind of stunts galore and trying to locate Nyah intermix for the outrageous, loud, and preposterous ending. This was considered by all to be the weakest link in the series because of it’s dumb overused plot and absurd use of stunts/fights. A deadly virus? Really? That’s your plot devise? That, plus a strained romance between Ethan and Nyah that had zero chemistry and never went anywhere. Look for the single appearance of Anthony Hopkins as Mission Commander Swanbeck, who’s never seem again in any future movies. It was only by sheer fate that a part three was even made. But boy, am I glad it was!

Mission: Impossible III

A six year hiatus did much to improve on the series, like a fine wine. Re-thinking the structure and script came super-director J.J. Abrams; the man with the plan. With a witty and strong script by him, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, this part three revitalized the franchise and gave it a nice shot in the arm. Thanks, guys!

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is retired from field work and just recruits agents. His loves his idyllic life, his fiance, Julie (Michelle Monaghan), and no life-threatening wacky stunts to start off his day (his fiance thinks he works for city). BUT! After an agent he recruited is kidnapped and his attempted rescue fails, Ethan is obsessed by bringing in the elusive Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour-Hoffman), the black marketeer that was behind it.

In a daring switcheroo kidnapping plot inside the Vatican, Ethan’s IMF team, Luther (Rhames again), Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), and Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) manage to successfully yank Davian away and put him in custody. However, there’s a mole inside IMF (what, again??) and Davian is soon a free man again. Naturally, he’s pissed and vows revenge against Ethan by kidnapping Julie in exchange for (wait for it… ) a pandemic virus cylinder called the Rabbit’s Foot! Yup, it’s a virus plot again, too!

Anyway, Ethan arranges his team, along with newbie Benji (Simon Pegg), to get the Rabbit’s Foot from a Shanghai building fortress. Escaping via parachute, Ethan and the precious cylinder are whisked away to China, where the race is on to save Julie from certain death. The problem is, Ethan has to go it alone while having an exploding Tylenol surgically implanted in his head should he try any funny business. Ouch!

This did it. With a fresh unpretentious director, a fresh unmuddied script, and some great locals and actors, this face-lift gave the franchise the necessary boost it needed to stay alive. It killed at the box office and practically screamed another sequel.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Dropping the “IV” or “4” in the title and just adding a tag phrase, this next one by mega director Brad Bird couldn’t lose. A winning script by Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum, this IMF start off with a bang… a BIG bang! The Kremlin goes BOOM!

During a mission at a Russian secret lair deep inside the Kremlin, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and Benji (Pegg again) are set-up by someone unknown and barely escape with their lives as a powerful bomb goes off. Moscow blames the U.S. and threatens nuclear war retaliation. Since Hunt is blamed for the explosion, he has to clear his name… again… and goes underground with Benji, IMF chief analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton). All of this happening, plus news that his wife, Julia (Monaghan),  has been killed. This has NOT been a good day for Hunt.

Brandt finds out that the bombing was a cover-up by Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a crazed nuclear scientist who wants to start WW3. He bombed the Kremlin in order to acquire a Russian nuclear launch code device, however he needs the activation codes. The exchange (codes for diamonds) with the bad guys is set at the tallest hotel on the planet: the Burk Khalifa in Dubai, so the team plan on impersonating Hendricks there with IMF trickery.

But things go south, as these things usually do, and Ethan ends up scaling the outside of the hotel. . . about 130 stories up! The exchange does not go well, and the chase in on through a massive sandstorm. Ethan loses Hendricks, but finds out that the computer up-link of the launch codes will take place at a radio station in Mumbai, so it’s off they go to stop this madman from carrying out his nefarious deeds.

In the end, Hunt succeeds (naturally) through an unbelievable chase finale in an automated carport that is mind-blowing. Later, he reconnects with Luther (Rhames in a cameo) who tells him his wife, Julia, is not dead (whew!) and is waiting for him. This scored another major hit for the franchise, thanks to Brad Bird’s masterful direction and the polished script. It also sealed the fates for both Rhames and Pegg, both two fan-favorites of the franchise and booked to be in the next installment.