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.
After Oblivion opened last year and was greeted with a general shrug, people started asking all sorts of questions. Had Tom Cruise’s box office clout finally faded, leaving him nothing more than an aging star doomed to appear in endless Mission Impossible sequels instead of more interesting fare? Did Oblivion‘s failure combined with that of After Earth signal the end of the days when a big name actor like Cruise or Will Smith could draw audiences to the theater by the strength of their name alone? Are original science fiction films dead altogether, leaving us nothing but sequels, remakes and reboots? Edge of Tomorrow (and its box office performance) doesn’t exactly answer any of those questions, despite being a fun and entertaining movie, but it perhaps postpones the day when both science fiction films and the concept of the box office star are declared dead.