Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the kind of film that was meant for summers. I have seen several more ambitious and thought provoking movies this summer but Rogue Nation is the type of film that was built in the name of pure entertainment. It doesn’t have an original story and at the end of the day I would only call it pretty good, but this movie is nothing if it doesn’t have some breathtaking action scenes, a strong cast and a good sense of humor.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is the leader of IMF, a secret organization that does the dirty jobs that need to get done behind the back of the public. They have become controversial and they are shut down while Ethan is tracking down a secret organization called The Syndicate that fights for the opposite of what IMF wants. With the help of his friends Luther (Ving Rhames), William (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg) as well as the help of a mysterious lady named Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) who is either working with them or for The Syndicate, Ethan must hunt (hah) down Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the twisted, brilliant soldier who has become the head of the terrorist group.
As I mentioned before, the story for this is pretty weak. Firstly, The Syndicate is a clear copy of the underground criminal organization Spectre from the Bond franchise. It’s only that much more ridiculous when you consider how that area is going to be brought to life later this year in the unsurprisingly named Bond film Spectre. Secondly, not nearly as much effort was put into building The Syndicate here in comparison to how they present Spectre in Bond. Spectre was an idea that was built up throughout the early Bond films and you actually got the sense that one person would be there to replace another if they were to fall down in those movies. It’s this maddening and unstoppable secret only spoken of in the darkest of shadows. Here, the only real big member of the Syndicate you get to see is Solomon and we never get to see any of the other big names that work for this thing. You don’t get the sense of The Syndicate being this big, complex thing that will keep chasing IMF. The way they conclude The Syndicate by the end feels too easily wrapped up as though this entire thing falls the moment Solomon falls. It doesn’t make any sense and its clear the writers have no interest in making The Syndicate this massive thing that will an equally important role in future Mission Impossible movies.
Also, for as uninspired as the overall story is, it sure has a confusing way of explaining a lot of areas of the plot. On a small scale, a lot of the smaller pieces that are there to move the story forward seemed unsatisfying. The film seems to create these ridiculous, hard to follow plot points that justify another action scene or help move its mundane, useless storyline forward. It goes out of its way to make the story this hard to follow thing which I can usually respect in something like a drama or a science fiction. The problem is that the overcomplicated story here clearly isn’t meant to be understood and you can shut it out and have an equal if not better experience watching the flick doing so. The movie goes out of its way to add these weird twists and sloppy explanations and if you try to follow them you will be rewarded with something that is not nearly as rewarding or enriching as it presents itself up to be. The movie is smart in the artificial, messy way that doesn’t require for them to include actual intelligence.
The movie does largely accomplish being high entertainment in two different areas, the action scenes and the charm. The film has the shame of being a really good action film the summer of one of the most beautifully crafted action movies I’ve ever seen (oh what a film, what a lovely film). That being said, this movie manages to have some really impressive scenes that will leave you wondering how they were able to do that. The moment of Tom Cruise hanging outside the door of a plane has been posted everywhere by now but to actually watch it and then remember that this is a real stunt that Tom Cruise pulled off is unbelievable. An intense scene with an equally unforgettable stunt happens later on when Ethan Hunt has to rob something underwater. He actually has to hold his breathe underwater for 3 to 4 minutes all while being tossed around by this strong current. It’s such an exciting, well shot scene that makes you wonder how Cruise was able to perform it and how director Christopher McQuarrie was able to shoot it.
But all of this doesn’t match the brilliantly executed fight scene at the opera house in Vienna. The basic premise of what is going on here sounds like something out of an old Hitchcock movie. Ethan is fighting a sniper during the play as this assassin tries to take down the Austrian chancellor on a specific note in a song. It doesn’t have the best stunts in the film or the most tension but it is proof that a fight scene can be beautiful if it’s perfectly shot and edited. The classical music mixes together with shots of the two men fighting at the top of this opera house all while these other people on different sides are trying to a much smaller extent to foil the plans of their opponents. It’s this excellent moment of chaos set to this classy, magical setting and soundtrack. It’s hard to explain here but it’s grand and epic when you’re watching it unfold. It’s this simple sounding action scene but it manages to be both an original piece of filmmaking as well as a thrilling tribute to a much more elegant age in studio thrillers.
The movie has great action scenes but it’s also helped by its great cast. The film has this group of actors who are doing their best possible version of something they’ve done countless times before in previous movies. Tom Cruise plays the eccentric, action film leader he was in Oblivion or Top Gun. Simon Pegg plays the wacky comedic relief he was in the Star Trek films. Alec Baldwin is the stern, cynical bureaucrat like in Mercury Rising or Pearl Harbor. The difference here is that these actors seem to be doing the perfected versions of these parts they’ve play dozens of times. Tom Cruise is one of the best action film stars working in Hollywood and he breathes wit and charm into these parts that would’ve felt dull and bland with a darker, more humorless lead like Chris Hemsworth or even Brad Pitt. Pegg is significantly better here than in the Star Trek film because he manages to play an important part to the story as well as be really, really hilarious. I also used to consider Jeremy Renner a very uninteresting actor when it comes to being in action films but I think he’s starting to become a lot more charismatic in films like this and Age of Ultron than he was several years ago in The Bourne Legacy. The definite best of the lot is new Mission Impossible star Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa. She’s smart, cool and sexy and the confusion and frustration she has with being caught between these two identities makes for the heart of Rogue Nation. Ilsa is the femme fatale that you would expect to see in again, an old Hitchcock film. It’s also really respectable that she doesn’t end up with Hunt by the end of the film.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation isn’t surprising or new but it packs a lot of fun due to its likable cast and some outstanding action scenes. I would definitely recommend checking this action flick over all the ones that still happen to be in theaters. It’s a cool, breezy piece of popcorn entertainment that will leave you feeling pleasant and satisfied.
Release Date: 7/31/2015
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay by: Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pearce
Based on the television series by: Bruce Geller