Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Premise: The fifth film in the Mission: Impossible series. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the rest of the IMF team work to expose an international terrorist group known as the Syndicate.
What Works: Like a lot of action movie franchises, the Mission: Impossible series exists to provide the audience with kinetic set pieces. Just as in the adventures of Indiana Jones and James Bond, the plots of these films are rather thin and exist as a framework to string together one action sequence after another. The set pieces of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation are quite good and a few are spectacular, namely the assassination attempt at the opera and a motorcycle chase through Morocco. Although computer generated imagery has become a given in today’s action moviemaking—and digital tools were probably used in creating some of these sequences—the action and stunts of Rogue Nation have a decidedly non-digital feel. A lot of this picture has a gritty and realistic texture and the action scenes are staged and shot without the obvious digital enhancements that tend to make movies look cartoonish as seen in the opening sequence of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Instead Rogue Nation keeps a realistic scale which makes the action much more exciting. As in each of the Mission: Impossible movies, a new female lead is added to the cast, played here by Rebecca Ferguson. Her character is given a bit more complexity than other female roles in this kind of film and she is as competent and dangerous as her male counterparts. Perhaps most notably, the filmmakers don’t shoehorn Ferguson’s character into a forced romantic subplot.
What Doesn’t: The Mission: Impossible series has been one of the better action franchises in the history of the genre and while Rogue Nation is generally entertaining and delivers what audiences expect, the movie is a step down from some of the other installments. The plot is straightforward and it lacks the mystery of the original film. Rogue Nation also misses the characterization and moral complexity of Mission: Impossible III and the humor of Ghost Protocol. The new film is dogged by the sense that we’ve seen this all before. A lot of familiar ground is retreaded in Rogue Nation. Once again an electronic document is up for grabs and must be kept out of the wrong hands. The bureaucracy around the IMF impedes Ethan Hunt and thinks he is the bad guy and like the other movies Hunt is disavowed and forced to work off the grid while evading the very people who were his allies. Even the impressive underwater sequence is basically a retread of the CIA heist from the first Mission: Impossible. The weakest element of the Mission: Impossible series has been and continues to be its villains. With the exception of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the third film, none of the villains of the Mission: Impossible movies have been engaging or memorable and the terrorist leader played by Sean Harris in Rogue Nation is extremely bland. Part of the problem is that he does not seem to have any motive or agenda. We know that he wants to change the world in some vague way and he is doing that though strategic deaths carried out though mass killings designed to look like accidents. But there’s no clear endgame and so the story lacks a competing interest between the protagonist and the antagonist. That leads to the other problem of Rogue Nation’s storytelling: there never appears to be anything at stake. The villain is a bad guy and critical data has to be kept out of his hands but there are no tangible consequences if Ethan Hunt and his team fail.
Bottom Line: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a competent action picture and it makes for a fun two hours. It isn’t as good as the best installments of the series and an awful lot from the earlier movies is repeated here. For the next adventure, Tom Cruise and company should challenge themselves to come up with a newer and fresher Mission: Impossible concept.
Episode: #554 (August 9, 2015)