Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

It’s very telling that I can remember almost nothing from the plot of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, yet I enjoyed every minute of it. From the film’s opening moments, where it sends Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt up into the sky hanging from the side of a cargo plane in one of the series’ trademark insane stunts, Rogue Nation is a gripping thrill ride, and things like plot, story, and character development be damned. Now on its fifth film, the Mission: Impossible series has evolved and changed over the past nineteen years through a rotating slate of directors, with Cruise’s guiding presence the only true constant, and it seems the series is finally hitting a consistent stride. In jettisoning everything extraneous to the adrenaline rush with which the films hope to jolt the audience, this franchise has become all about the action, and the evolution suits it. Mission: Impossible may only offer half of the James Bond equation for espionage thrillers, but it does so with humor, style, and exciting stunts that make it an excellent way to spend a weekend afternoon with a tub of popcorn by your side.

This latest film in the series begins with the end of the Impossible Missions Force, Ethan Hunt’s secret organization. Hunt is captured by a secret criminal organization known as the Syndicate, whom his superiors believe is a myth. Despite eventually escaping, he escapes to a world where the IMF has been disbanded by the director of the CIA and he is being hunted by the government he formerly served so that he can answer for much of the wide array of wreckage he’s caused as an agent. Months later, and still on the run, he’s narrowed down the Syndicate’s pattern, and is trying to predict their moves to reveal their motives. But he’ll need help, which means reuniting the old team, along with some new faces, and setting off on another globe-trotting, stunt-filled race against time to uncover the truth and stop the Syndicate in their tracks.

Honestly, the plot matters little in a Mission Impossible film. Other than the first, they’ve all revolved around acquiring (or preventing another group from acquiring) some device, technology, or information of some importance. J.J. Abrams even cleverly called attention to this with Mission Impossible III by never revealing what the “Rabbit’s Foot” that everyone was chasing really was. Instead, what we want to see are jaw-dropping stunts in gorgeous locations, with some humor and heart along the way for good measure. Rogue Nation doesn’t fail to disappoint, starting things off with an impressive sequence highlighted by Tom Cruise hanging off the side of a cargo plane in flight. Cruise’s commitment to the stuntwork involved in these films really helps set them apart from other similar action franchises, and it really allows the visuals of the series to stand out and burn themselves in your memory. The rest of the film keeps the adrenaline level high, with thrilling car chases, breathless underwater exploits, tense standoffs, and even a suspenseful scene set at the opera.

Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie had some big shoes to fill, taking over from big name talent like Abrams, Brian De Palma, John Woo, and Brad Bird, and he proves to be more than up to the challenge. Rogue Nation knows when to get out of its own way, keeping the viewer in the moment rather than filling the screen with distractions. Despite a running length almost matching the series’ longest, it never feels sluggish and no sequence overstays its welcome. It takes more skill to pull off a film of this sort than people are often willing to give credit for, particularly when a star the size of Tom Cruise is involved. As for Cruise, at 53 years old he has a body that would put this 31 year old to shame, and his boyish good looks, energy, and enthusiasm go a long way to making the film a success. He’s helped by a game supporting cast, including regulars Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames, with new additions Alec Baldwin as the director of the CIA and Rebecca Ferguson as an agent of questionable loyalties.

Rogue Nation isn’t perfect, however. It’s an extremely solid entry in the series with a great balance to it, but in individual aspects it pales in comparison to some of its predecessors. McQuarrie lacks the visual style of Brad Bird, for instance. The film’s villain, played by Sean Harris, is never particularly interesting, nor is the threat he poses specific enough to get truly interested in. It does have some special things going for it, particularly the fact that there’s no push for a romantic subplot between Ferguson’s character and Hunt (who is, after all, married). In the end, the film itself might be rather forgettable: a fun, exciting way to spend an afternoon which fades to mere images by the next day. And that’s ok, because that’s all we should demand from Mission Impossible. Unlike some other series, James Bond for instance, which need to innovate or else they stagnate and die, this franchise is perfectly fine to continue doing what it’s doing. As long as Cruise is willing, I doubt we’ll see the end of the IMF any time soon. It’s as much his show these days as it is anything else, and it can be refreshing to simply revel in the familiar every now and then. Cruise and Mission Impossible may not be bringing anything new to the table, but there’s no harm in doing something well.


12 thoughts on “Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

  1. Waaaaaalp, I grew up with the 60s TV series and loved Peter Graves, so I’ve never forgiven the film franchise for turning Jim Phelps into a Bad Guy, so there, PPPPPHHHHBBBBBBTTTT! Ick. Bleah, Phooey, #^$%@^! (that was my reaction to the first film… lots of conversing like a mariner and use of literary license).

    And Tom Cruise is just weird. (although an actor’s religious leanings shouldn’t affect the audience’s enjoyment of his work, should it?)… though I have to give him credit for doing those insane stunts.

    Did I just type insane or inane?

    I am so done with Tom Cruisecontrol. Done done done done done.

    Still, your (fantastic as ever) review points out that a film doesn’t have to have cerebral content to be entertaining.

    Still, think I’ll go watch Minions….

    …and some old 60s MI…

    Jeremy Renner, now that’s an appealing guy. YAAAAAAAAAAAS!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have had a glorious Mission Impossible week having watched this one last Saturday ( and then picking up a Bluray box set of the others for 10 quid (around $15) in a supermarket on Sunday. I have now rewatched all but the first one (I worked in a cinema the year that came out so saw it on the big screen dozens of times). Number 3 is definitely the best but they are all good. John Woo’s style of direction seems a little cheesy looking back at number 2 but it settles down for the climax. The building climb in number 4 is jaw dropping.

    I know lots of people can’t see past Cruise’s personal life but for me it is the other way around, I can’t see past his screen persona and I really like the guy.

    Question: If you faked your wife’s death and created her a new identity for her, is she still legally your wife?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that’s a fun week! I would agree that #3 is probably the best. It’s certainly the tightest, though I have a soft spot for the first one. John Woo definitely seems cheesy looking back on it, and it feels the most out of place among the quintilogy. I’m not a fan of Cruise’s personal life, but it doesn’t affect my ability to enjoy his movies. It’s not like that with everybody, but he’s such a big star that it’s hard to see anything but his screen persona.
      Good question. They’re probably not legally married, but based on the look they shared at the end of #4 I would guess that they’re still emotionally/spiritually married.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really great write up. I think you make a very good point about MI series only having to deliver the stunts etc and not on a cerebral level. I thought the villain was actually quite interesting, yes he lacked a certain something himself but I thought that was because he represented a mysterious organization which probably had more than one big chief!

    Would love for you to check out my review of it too!

    Liked by 1 person

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