Review: ‘Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation final poster

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation | Christopher McQuarrie | July 31, 2015

If there’s one thing that can be relied upon in the nearly 20-year Mission Impossible franchise, it’s that Tom Cruise is more than willing to do his own stunts – as insane as it sounds. And the risks he takes pay off once again.

This time around, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation finds top IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) disavowed (maybe for the 2nd time) and on the run from the CIA after learning of the existence of a shadowy organization known as The Syndicate comprised of believed-dead international agents working to take out foreign diplomats and dignitaries. 6 months later, the IMF has been totally disbanded by a Congressional oversight committee and absorbed into the CIA at the behest of CIA chief Hunley (Alec Baldwin); Hunt is still evading CIA strike/raid teams; and Benji (Simon Pegg) lies his way through weekly polygraph tests and covertly plays Halo on his 3-screen desk setup instead of working. He somehow “wins” 2 tickets to the Vienna Opera’s production of Turandot and decides to go anyway, only to be roped into Ethan’s continued attempts to catch members of the Syndicate in the open – with help from Ethan’s pal Luther (Ving Rhames), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and duplicitous British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). From there, the remnants of the IMF work to uncover who’s behind the Syndicate and stop them.

McQuarrie takes the franchise back to its espionage roots, dialing back the extreme action from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol but upping the length of the key stunts and chase sequence. There’s the requisite globe-hopping (Belarus, Austria, England, and Morocco), the occasional spy gadget/tech, and the big chase/stunt sequences. Sure, Tom Cruise hangs off a departing A400 (with cables edited out) to open the film, fights in the catwalks of the Vienna Opera House while a production plays to a packed house below (thanks to some movie magic), and dives into a water-cooled torus before joining a chase caravan through the tight streets and winding mountain roads of Morocco – and he looks the part while doing so. None of the stunts may be as memorable or key as his Burj Khalifa climb in Ghost Protocol – perhaps because no IMAX cameras were used during production – but McQuarrie makes the main chase sequence, which progresses from two cars and several motorcycles in tight alleyways to a motorcycle chase through climbing traffic, more visceral with POV shots and angles.

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation - Tom Cruise on an A400

Apart from the action element, Rogue Nation may be the funniest and tightest Mission Impossible film – even if it’s the second-longest of the five films. The humor is littered throughout the film in the form of wry one-liners or exchanges – mostly Benji or Benji and Ethan, but even Brandt and Luther have their moments. And the film clocks in at a little over 2 hours, but all the action is tied together nicely (the opera sequence alone is at least 15 minutes of the film). There are, though, some moments where it slows down a little too much for exposition purposes. Musically, Joe Kraemer’s score echoes Giacchino’s horn-heavy scores from Mission Impossible III and Ghost Protocol while still paying tribute to the classic cue and driving forward with a bit of bombast (see below).

The stakes may not be as high as they were in Mission Impossible III or Ghost Protocol (nukes and nuclear war are as high a threat as you can get in modern espionage films, from what it seems) and Solomon Lane’s (Sean Harris) villainy calls to mind an anarchist nihilist Steve Jobs, but there’s no real bite or impetus. Yes, it’s a callback to the cat-mouse spy movies, but without a serious threat of world domination or destruction or something of the sort, it fizzles rather than blows up in a glorious fashion. As for Rebecca Ferguson, the only key woman in the film (apart from an office analyst or two), she’s as lethal (if not more) than Black Widow and somewhat developed as a character, but she’s still played as eye candy or a potential love interest in the franchise’s rotating female cast (not quite like Paula Patton in Ghost Protocol or Michelle Monaghan and Maggie Q in Mission Impossible III) – despite the reveal at the end of Ghost Protocol.

You may find yourself shaking your head at the insanity of the stunts or the sheer simplicity and overblown nature of the plot (and perhaps one unnecessary chase) with two reveals, but I guarantee that Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation is one of this summer’s better franchise blockbusters that will keep you in your seat from the first theme cue to the end credits.

Rating: 8.0/10