Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
By Floyd Rock
Even though the Mission Impossible franchise has had steady installments over the years since the first film with sequels in 2000 and 2006 it was the fourth movie, the Brad Bird directed Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol in 2011, which truly revitalized the franchise. For the fifth film director Christopher McQuarrie is brought in to again team with the franchise’s star, Tom Cruise, for a Mission Impossible that picks up directly after the events of Ghost Protocol. Because of the collateral damage caused in the previous film and the lack of transparency observed of the IMF the director of the CIA Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) convenes in front of a Senate oversight committee to have the IMF shut down and its agents absorbed into the CIA. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) is given a desk job while William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is compelled to reveal the whereabouts of agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), which he refuses. Before he learns of the closing of the IMF Hunt is captured by a phantom organization known only as the Syndicate. While in the middle of a tortuous interrogation Hunt is assisted in escape by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) a Syndicate operative and possible undercover MI6 agent. With the IMF dissolved Hunt is out of resources and assistance. Hunley refuses to believe the Syndicate is real and Ethan must track the leader of the terrorist organization on his own while avoiding pursuit of the CIA. Along the way Hunt repeatedly encounters agent Faust and with each meeting the pendulum of her trustworthiness swings from side to side.
It’s disappointing that Paula Patton is absent from the latest Mission Impossible but Rebecca Ferguson’s casting is a great addition to the series and better yet seeing all the material she’s given in Rogue Nation. Ferguson not only excels in her role but also portrays the most interesting character in the movie. For most of the film Ilsa Faust’s loyalties are clouded and Rogue Nation uses her character as a double or possible triple agent to present its theme of espionage agent expendability. Though it’s difficult to see where her loyalties lie it’s even harder to see where her superiors in both the Syndicate and MI6 reciprocate their trust. The film also supports its theme with the Syndicate comprised of agents from various countries and covert organizations once thought to be deceased and CIA head Hunley’s distrust of Ethan Hunt and his extreme measures to bring him in from the field. Though the picture never explores this aspect of its plot nor the amoral activities of its secret agencies to the level of something like Martin Ritt’s adaptation of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold it’s still a smart, if slight, addition to the movie’s narrative. The rest of Rogue Nation’s story is constructed well. While its plot is as complicated as one would naturally expect of its genre it never becomes too hard to follow. It may lean a little heavily on exposition at times but the likes of Simon Pegg or Jeremy Renner will consistently provide some levity to carry it through.
The previous Mission Impossible left a splendid template for Rogue Nation to follow, with various inventive action set pieces integrated with plot turns to keep the narrative flowing steadily. Though it doesn’t reach the imaginative heights of Brad Bird’s installment it’s easy to see McQuarrie’s strength as a writer in Rogue Nation’s best sequence, the attempted assassination of the Austrian Chancellor while attending the opera in Vienna. Hunt employs Benji’s help identifying the leader of the Syndicate but matters are complicated by the presence of Faust and two other Syndicate agents intending to make sure their mission is successful. Logistically it’s flawlessly designed as it moves between Hunt and Benji attempting to both assess the situation, grasp the different parties involved, and fight off the Syndicate agents as the sequence further obscures Hunt’s perception of Faust and his trust in her. McQuarrie follows this sequence with a dangerous and elaborate underwater heist that eventually leads to one of the most kinetic motorcycle chases on screen in some time. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation may not be the best of its series or the best action movie so far this year but it’s certainly one of the better ones.
Tom Cruise’s persona outside of his movies may bring a lot of attention but it’s difficult to dismiss what he brings to a summer action picture like Rogue Nation. It’s hard to imagine Cruise is now in his fifties and yet participates in as many of his own stunts as possible including two rather dangerous ones in Rogue Nation. After the sequence in Morocco the movie begins to lose a little steam but it still has enough momentum to carry itself to its finale. They’ve exhausted so much energy and created such a tightly tangled narrative that it’s only natural that it needs to unravel eventually. Luckily Rogue Nation is able to do so with some remaining enjoyable action sequences and standoffs, while remaining playful with its cast, and delivering the same kind of humor and excitement as the previous film. If the franchise can stay this consistent moving forward and if Cruise can keep pace it’s difficult to tell when the series will meet its limitations but currently nothing appears impossible.