Year Released: 2015
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames
(PG-13, 132 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure
“What a fine persecution – to be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened.” Tom Stoppard
Just when America’s pundits and politicians urge us to give it all up and manage the decline, a half century old franchise reminds us of the risk-taking boldness that founded this country. That title, borrowed from the 60s television series, says it all. Bring it on. The worse the odds, the better we like them.
Sure, John le Carré’s classic The Spy who Came in from the Cold, written by someone who worked for Britain’s MI 5 and MI 6, has the distinct ring of authenticity, but it isn’t just a slap in the face to the glamorized intrigue of the spy world; it’s a punch in the gut, a leveling one that bends you over and leaves you groaning.
Similarly, le Carré’s wonderful Tinker Tailor Solder Spy is in in muted greys, swathed in rain, fog, and great amber waves of tobacco smoke, making the audience work to cut a way through to clarity. An unflinching portrait of moral compromise that slowly eats away at a man’s soul, whether he is on the right side or not.
Even the insouciant James Bond has caught this entropy. With Daniel Craig in the driver’s seat, the lighter than air James Bond who could save the world and our view of it with his own brand of impervious panache is nowhere to be found. He is darkened, diminished, and deconstructed in 2012’s Skyfall, and the upcoming Spectre perhaps promises more of the same. He will endure, but he will not prevail, it seems.
However, across the pond we are made of sterner stuff. Even William Faulkner fought back against pervading nihilism of his day. When he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, he said
I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.
I am sure by now that some of you think your computer is playing tricks on you. This cannot possibly be a review about a Tom Cruise film, much less a summer popcorn thriller like the Mission Impossible franchise. But yes, in its own way, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the embodiment of Faulkner’s belief in mankind.
Ethan Hawk (Tom Cruise) is the spy who refuses to come in from the cold. He embraces the cold, holds it tightly to his chest to remind him of the warm red blood pulsing within.
He believes not just in his cause, even when the Cia Director (Alec Baldwin) disbands IMF, but in himself as well. The Rogue Agency, the Syndicate, does exist, and he will hunt it down and defeat its leader, Solomom Lane (Sean Harris.)
An inherent risk taker, Hunt follows his gut, not the rules. That same gut tells his to trust the beautiful Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) even as he sees her with an assassin’s gun at the Vienna Opera. When she twice leaves him high and dry, he accepts that as part of her mission. She has, after all, saved his life on 2 occasions as well.
Adding to the ensemble cast is the returning Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) a high tech guru who would rather be part of the action but usually ends up rerouting security traps from small windowless rooms underground:
Join the IMF and see the world. On a screen. From a closet.
Ving Rhames is the avuncular Luther, that bearish reassuring presence that has been with us through all five films of the franchise. The guy who can hack anything has a harder mission this time. Find Ethan Hunt in hiding before those that want him killed do. And he does so following an old French tradition. “Cherchez la femme,” look for the woman. In this case she is the enigmatic IIlsa, who may or may not be working for the Syndicate.
Jeremy Renner puts down his Avenger crossbow long enough to be Ethan’s put upon handler, William Brandt, this time caught in the crosshairs himself, those of a senate subcommittee and a disenchanted CIA, where his only defense in a verbal non denial denial:
I can neither confirm nor deny any specific action without the Secretary’s approval.
But what will really hook you is the action, nonstop from the first perilous scene of Hunt hanging on for dear life as a jet takes flight while he waits for poor Benji to hack into its door opener override. It’s on air, land, and sea, continuing with an acrophobiac’s nightmare hunting multiple assassins above the Vienna opera, then on to a motorcycle chase through hairpin turns through the Moroccan mountains. And finally a leap into a great underwater vault without air tanks, with Cruise reportedly holding his breath for 6 minutes. And the 53 year old actually does his own stunts!!
Perhaps Tom Cruise’s endurance as an actor and as Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt tap into the same risk-taking, never-give-up persona that weathers everything from the Syndicate to Oprah Winfrey’s couch.
Go, Tom, go. We’re with you all the way.
One of the most polished set pieces in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation takes place at the grand Vienna State Opera House. The glorious Neo-Renaissance building is part of Ringstrasee, Vienna’s Ring Boulevard that circles the city. This year Ringstrasse celebrates its 150th anniversary complete with a cocktail competition.
The winner is “Sound of the Ring,” a golden drink designed by Kan Zuowho, who tells the story behind his creation:
I … wanted to create a golden drink that reflects the noble atmosphere of the Ring. The coffee sugar walls stand for the change that the area has lived through, from defensive installation to cozy meeting place. The calamansi balsamic vinegar represents the international nature of the city, because although it is exotic, it can still be found in well-stocked specialist retailers. In terms of flavor, the "Sound of the Ring" is a composition that could hardly be nobler: Chocolate and coffee combined with the exotic freshness of the calamansi and the noble bubbling of Viennese sparkling wine culture. - Enjoy this drink in an outdoor dining area or at a bar on the Ringstrasse and listen to the "Sound of the Ring".
Too bad Ethan Hunt cannot raise a glass with us, but he is too busy prowling the labyrinth of catwalks above the opera pursuing not one, but three would be assassins. Have a second drink for Ethan, won’t you?
Sound of the Ring Cocktail from Vienna Recipe
1.5 cl Broker’s Gin
1 cl calamansi balsamic vinegar
1 cl lemon juice
1.5 cl sugar syrup
2 dashes of chocolate bitters
7 cl Schlumberger Sparkling Brut
Shake the ingredients together - except for the Sparkling Brut - and then top up with Schlumberger.
Glass: Champagne glass
Decoration: Dip the rim of the glass in Galliano Ristretto and then in sugar.