For one who was not a fan of the first Mission Impossible by Brain De Palma (I’ll never forgive him for making Jim Phelps the villain), and less said of John Woo’s attempt the better, but I’ve really enjoyed these later installments. It’s rare for a franchise to make it to five films, and maintain any semblance of quality, but rarer still is when the later chapters are actually better than the earlier installments. In the case of Rogue Nation we have a fun and exciting film that hits all the right notes, not quite as good as the previous chapter, but which still makes this film better than 80% of the action movies out there.
In this outing we find the Impossible Mission Force under the gun from CIA head Hunley (Alec Baldwin) who brings William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) before a government oversight committee to see about disbanding the whole organization. The IMF have been deemed to be a reckless and out of date organization, and is ordered to be shut down. This causes IMF’s chief agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to go rogue.
The amount of times Ethan Hunt or his teammates are disavowed, disbanded, and or forced to go rogue has about hit the “running gag” level at this point. I think Mission Impossible 2 is the only film in the series where we don’t find Ethan and friends on the run from their own government. And sure enough at some point a supposed good guy will be revealed as being behind the whole thing, or at least helping the chief villain. Now the last film ended with Ethan Hunt vowing to find the shadowy organization known as The Syndicate, an evil Anti-IMF if you will. Tracking down a group of people with the same skill sets and equipment you have wouldn’t be an easy job at the best of times, but add to the mix that you are also being hunted by your own government, well that makes your chances next to impossible.
Of course going rogue alone isn’t any fun so Ethan drags Benji (Simon Pegg) back into the fray, and later Brandt will bring in Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) to help bring down The Syndicate. Spicing things up is British Intelligence Agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who is working for Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) the evil mastermind behind The Syndicate. Where her loyalties lie is of course the crux of the film. Hunt wants to trust her, but when it comes to a femme fatale in a spy film you really have to watch your back.
This movie has some stellar action set pieces; from the incredible opening stunt where Tom Cruise hangs off the side of an Airbus A400M at 5,000ft, to a fantastic high speed motorbike chase down perilous roads, and most effectively to a nice homage to Hitchcock where Hunt must thwart a sniper in an opera house. None quite match the Dubai hotel sequence in Ghost Protocol, and the third act kind of screeches to a halt for a lot of ridiculous exposition, but overall this is a solid action film relying on a ballsy star (even Simon Pegg did his own stunts) with real life stunt work, and not your super fakey CGI extravaganzas we often get in our big budget summer action movies.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie steps in for Brad Bird and does a remarkable job putting together enough new twists and turns that the old stuff doesn’t look tired or clichéd. Though I do hope this is the last time we see Ethan Hunt and company disavowed and on the run, at least for a little while. Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation is a fun summer fling as the ever likable Tom Cruise takes on a rousing global romp, and makes us again look forward to more in the series. Certainly not something that can be said about certain Michael Bay franchises.