The Mission Impossible films are an odd series of films. The first one came out in 1996 and is a markedly different film then the ones that they release today. The series has evolved both with the times and with Tom Cruise as he ages. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the latest film in the series and it’s also one of the strongest entries; much like the Fast and Furious films, this series might be getting better as it ages, which is a tricky thing to do.
The story is pretty straightforward; Ethan Hunt and his organization are disbanded and he goes on the run in order to combat a secret organization called the Syndicate, that is the dark twin of his own IMF; a group of ruthless, talented spies who want to gain power and control over the world via assassination, weapons and money. The twist of where this shadow group came from is one of the better parts of the film but is ultimately underdeveloped and doesn’t’ quite pack the punch that I think the filmmakers were expecting. The Syndicate’s leader, Solomon Lane is a formidable villain who has good stage presence but is ultimately underdeveloped and somewhat forgettable, as are all the bad guys of this film. I would have liked to see them stick around or get more screen time so that they feel more permanent and thus more of a threat to Hunt and his team.
The various action scenes are really well done and quite good. The opening scene with Hunt on the outside of a plain that has been in all the trailers is wildly entertaining and is a better cold open then James Bond has done in quite sometimes. There is a motorcycle chase in the desert that looks amazing and a great underwater scene inside a high security building that captures the fear and struggle of being underwater. An early scene that takes place in during an opera in Europe is stylish and fun and features some of Simon Pegg’s best moments in the film. The final confrontation in and around London is good, but feels a little underwhelming in that it’s not a giant action sequence. That being said, I kind of liked it because it actually felt like spies running around being tricky and sneaky instead of borderline superhero’s punching each other with little concern for the effects of their actions. However, I found the end of the movie to be an odd one; Hunt and his team take out the secret cabal of government funded agents who do whatever they wanted only to replace them with…. themselves? That is a very odd place for the film to leave things.
Watching Tom Cruise running around in this movie I realized two things. First, he does actually appear to be aging; he doesn’t look quite so youthful without a shirt on as he once did. Secondly, he is a special effect in and of himself. His physical presence and the way he roots his acting in his physical body really stands out on the screen. He lights up the screen in a way that really speaks to how much of a Movie Star he is and how rare that quality is. Regardless of his or her acting chops, I can’t think of anybody who lights up the screen the way he does. It’s a quality that very few people have and I don’t think I can do it justice by describing it. The rest of the cast is quite good; Jeremy Renner is a lot of fun in his high level meetings with government official even though he doesn’t really have that much to do. But the true highlight of the cast is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, a British spy that the team picks up during the course of the movie. She holds her own against everybody on screen, has some of the only real character development in the whole movie and she has some of the best action scenes that either her or her stunt doubles really nail. The women in these movies have been completely replaceable (wasn’t Ethan married at some point?), I can barely remember any of them after the first movie, but Ferguson really stands out and I hope that if there is another movie, and there will be, they bring her back because she is great. Ving Rhames and Alec Baldwin are nice in what screen time they manage to get, but ultimately their parts are two small for them to stand out.
Like many action movies, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is slightly forgettable; it doesn’t really do anything new or groundbreaking either in the genre or this series of movies in particular. However, it is quite a well-made product that is built around all that is special and entertaining about Tom Cruise. Regardless of your opinions of the movie, it’s hard to deny that special quality he brings to movies and that goes a long ways towards making this movie a lot of fun to watch. That and Ferguson, she really is great.