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Film Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

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★★

Preposterous cinema should always have a place at the multiplexes, and if that’s what you want to keep yourself entertained throughout the last few weeks of summer before we welcome in the autumn, you could do worse than this.

Rogue Nation is the fifth Mission Impossible adventure starring Tom Cruise as special agent Ethan Hunt. You get the feeling the writers would like us to see him as a sort-of latter-day Bond, though one who places more stock by gadgets than Daniel Craig’s current Fleming-inspired incarnation. If anything, it’s the ridiculousness of the older Bond films this movie yearns for. I’m not sure it entirely works, but I must confess there is a charm about Rogue Nation that doesn’t exactly grab you but rather finally wears you down until you finally accept that you’re going to have fun whether you like it or not.

This instalment has been heavily bankrolled by China, that area of ready and waiting cash Hollywood has been so desperate to tap into for decades, through China Movie Channel and Alibaba Pictures. The result sends us spinning into a garbled tour around all the places in Europe that Chinese viewers may wish to visit, along with a bizarrely brief cameo from actor Zhang Jinchu.   

A lot of the plot, which involves uncovering a secret network of assassins, won’t even test your credulity but rather leave you puzzling what drinks were being supplied during the brainstorming session in the offices of Paramount Pictures. The story jumps from set-piece to slaptstick joke to another set-piece with jolts more potent than an electric chair, though it has to be said, while those set pieces are going on, director Christopher Maguire does do them with an admirable sense of sophistication. There’s a particularly delicious moment involving Ethan and another agent, Ilsa, caught up in a deadly situation set to Puccini’s Nessun Dorma aria.

Ah yes, Ilsa, it’s important we get to her. She’s played by Scandinavian actor Rebecca Ferguson, who is perhaps most memorable for her turn in BBC One’s The White Queen where she played Northamptonshire-born Elizabeth Woodville with a full-on Swedish accent. Leaving that rather odd but guiltily enjoyable series aside, Ferguson has something striking about her that makes her onscreen presence never less than enjoyable, even if her accent is geographically confused.

But what’s so significant about her role is that she is the only woman in the entire film with a substantial speaking role. Keep a look out and you’ll find this regrettable fact is true. The closest the movie gets to another female character is a record-shop worker who gets murdered just after he’s introduced. Ferguson's character, while given a cheering amount of action and shown to be tough and resourceful, is still leerily regarded as she climbs out of pools in her bikini and takes off her top (try the trailer below - it's depressing). I wouldn’t go so far as to say this film is Jurrasic World-level sexist, but it’s to the film’s eternal shame that is peoples its world so rigidly and near-exclusively with men (in the security services, in positions of power, in governments). Based on this evidence, you’d think women made up barely 5% of the world’s population rather than roughly half it. In 2015, a major blockbuster like this should be doing so much better.

Loud, brash and over-the-top, Rogue Nation isn’t ashamed of what it is. Some viewers may find the occasional line difficult to swallow (‘he is the living manifestation of destiny’), along with the rehabilitation of Alec Baldwin, who seems to be still landing film roles when he’s not screaming homophobic abuse at journalists, whether in person or via Twitter. Still, if you are content to take all these problematic elements, put them in a box, set it aside and surrender your intelligence, you may get some enjoyment out of this. I know I certainly did.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is in cinemas now, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below.

 

 




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