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“Today is the day the IMF’s luck runs out,” says someone in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Sounds like a case for the Financial Times. But only those estranged from Planet Tinseltown will think it’s Christine Lagarde in crisis rather than Ethan Hunt, alias Tom Cruise. In the blockbuster summer’s first major raid on our wits and wallets — sequel codename “MI5” (and the British connotation proves apt) — the Impossible Missions Force puts its lives on the line to combat The Syndicate, a group of global agents/spies gone terrorist.
The Syndicate’s present profile: world-domination nutjobs putting out a contract on, among others, the Austrian chancellor and British prime minister. Team Cruise starts its operation, accordingly, by storming the Vienna Opera House during a VIP performance of Turandot. “None shall sleep,” sings the tenor and he is on the nose. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (who scripted The Usual Suspects) has caught Brian De Palma Disease: a form of cinematic ADHD in which nothing stands still, madness is licensed, and action/suspense showdowns are screwed to the screaming or giggling point.
After Vienna we get a car and motorcycle chase through downtown Casablanca; high-wire escape ballets between skyscrapers; and fog, murder and red telephone boxes in a London so headlong-retro we expect Jack the Ripper to appear. Add dialogue so Duchamp-surreal it sounds like an Exquisite Corpse game of wordplay. “Sir, Ethan Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny.” (What does that mean? Should we, need we care?)
It’s all fantastic nonsense. If you stepped back, you might see the film and its story plausibility collapse like a palace of cards. McQuarrie’s trick is to stop you stepping back. In this surround-sensation world you might step into a gun, a bomb, an oubliette or a parallel dimension. For the confessional record I spent the first half hour wearing 3D glasses (available on a foyer stand) since I thought the film was in 3D as well as Imax. It isn’t. But I didn’t notice until I glanced round belatedly at un-spectacled colleagues. That’s how immersive MIRN is. You believe it’s all round you and all over you even when, technically, it isn’t.