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“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” – newcomer Rebecca Ferguson overshadows Tom Cruise.

The fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible spy franchise provides few thrills. Despite a slew of action scenes, Rogue Nation is unremarkable. Bond-wannabe Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) are disbanded by the CIA just as Ethan starts to gather evidence of a worldwide terrorist network, called The Syndicate. Aided by his former team, Ethan goes on the run to find the proof he needs.

On what is now his “most impossible mission”, Ethan joins forces with the disavowed British agent and femme fatale, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Ilsa has managed to infiltrate The Syndicate, and the uncertainty of whether she’s really part of the organisation or not, is the highlight of the plot. The chase takes Ethan, his sidekick and lovable tech geek, Benji (Simon Pegg), and Ilsa from Austria, to Morrocco. There is a visually stunning scene at the Vienna Opera House, where Ethan tries to prevent The Syndicate from assassinating the Austrian Chancellor.

Newcomer Ferguson completely overshadows Cruise. Her character is an enigma: she saves Hunt’s life several times, and betrays him equally as much. According to an interview with The Daily Beast, Ilsa is based on Ingrid Bergman’s character of the same name in the classic film, Casablanca, which is also the location of much of Rogue Nation. Ferguson’s Ilsa is a mysterious figure – a formidable and powerful fighter, and yet, softer, more vulnerable at times.

Despite the showy stunts, Cruise is flat. Not even the knowledge that he performed the opening stunt himself (he clings desperately to the outside of a plane as it takes off) is a real kick. The film stays at cruise control, maintaining an even sequence of high speed chases, fist fights, jumping off buildings etc. etc. etc. It’s not awful; it just doesn’t feel like it ever really kicks into high gear. The other big spy film of 2015, the much anticipated new Bond film, Spectre, will likely eclipse Rogue Nation when the former is released in November.

Regardless of how Mission Impossible performs at the box office (or with critics), a sixth instalment has already been commissioned. If Ferguson stars again, it might be worthwhile. If not, well, blah…

Rating: 3 out of 5

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation opens in South African cinemas on 07 August 2015.

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