Much like the Fast and Furious films or a fine wine, the Mission: Impossible movies only seem to be getting better as time goes on.
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” is the fifth film of the franchise, which is now 19(!) years old. Tom Cruise returns to possibly his most famous (and certainly his most bankable) role of secret agent Ethan Hunt, who this time around must prove that a secret organization known as the Syndicate is real. Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames all reprise their roles from the previous films while Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin join the cast. Christopher McQuarrie writes and directs.
At this point, you know what you’re getting with a Mission: Impossible film and “Rogue Nation” quite literally follows the checklist from the other films on how to be a summer tentpole action film (well, except “Ghost Protocol,” which was a Christmas tentpole). The film features gorgeous set pieces, well-choreographed action sequences and one of the biggest movie stars of all-time in Tommy Boy, and while the film still suffers from similar narrative flaws of its predecessors, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun time.
I think because we see him so often on screen we take it for granted, but Tom Cruise is in incredibly good shape. It’s not an industry secret that he does his own stunts, like getting hitched to the side of a plane and actually holding onto it as it takes off like he did for this film, but, like, he’s 53 and looks better than most 20-year-olds. Cruise again sells every action scene he is in, and it seems we will continue to see Ethan Hunt fighting terrorists until Cruise is in his 70’s.
Like “Ghost Protocol,” “Rogue Nation” features more scenes in beautiful locations, including Vienna and London. Director McQuarrie and cinematographer Robert Elswit make sure to showcase the cities, but never sacrifice the action for the sake of it like some other filmmakers do. One of the best sequences in the film is a motorcycle chase along a Moroccan highway, and the aforementioned Cruise-on-a-plane stunt, which has been the centerpiece of every commercial and poster for the film, is used as the film’s opening. I appreciated the filmmakers using that as the appetizer, as all too often film’s put their climatic stunts in the trailers, ruining the surprise or build-up to them.
That being said, the biggest positives of “Rogue Nation”, its action sequences, may also play into its biggest flaws. After the impressive plane opening, and then a highly entertaining and well shot action sequence in a Vienna opera house, the film’s stunts and action pieces lose a little bit of flare and energy as each one comes and goes. That’s not to say they’re not impressive or entertaining nonetheless, but the first few set the bar so high that it just wasn’t possible or reasonable to ask the second half of the film to compete.
With the exception of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the third installment, the Mission: Impossible films have never had a strong villain or overly-engaging plot, and here is no exception. Sean Harris comes across as chilling as the main bad guy, but his motivations are not fully explained and he is never as threatening as the movie wants us to think he is.
The first half of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” is fantastic, and while the second half loses steam and at times drags, it still has its bits of entertainment. The climax of the film was a little underwhelming, but seeing Tom Cruise at his Tom Cruise-iest is always welcome, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg provide some comedic relief, and the film looks beautiful. It isn’t quite on “Jurassic World’s” level of summer blockbuster entertainment, but “Rogue Nation” subscribes to the notion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and five films in, this franchise shows little signs of breaking.
Critics Rating: 7/10