The Illuminati exist and control everything and everyone. Elvis, 2pac, and Biggie are all on some South American island having drinks in Steve Jobs’ beach house. Gluten allergies are a legitimate medical condition. Conspiracy theories are like a very broken clock in that they happen to be right once in a great while. For Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), it is the existence of a rogue nation that has been stimulating unrest and manipulating events for their own personal gain. The only difference between this theory and all of the other ones is that Hunt’s theory turns out to be true. After the events of Ghost Protocol, the IMF is in shambles without a Secretary, and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is the only line of defense against CIA director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) trying to absorb the secret organization into the CIA. Hunley succeeds, leaving Hunt’s team, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Strickwell (Ving Rhames) included, scattered to the wind. Meanwhile, Ethan hunts down the leader of the elusive Syndicate (Sean Harris) with the help (or maybe hindrance) of a possible ally/enemy, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Will the missions be just as impossible this time around? You’d better believe it!
Director/Writer Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have proven to be a dynamic duo, even against the most impossible of enemies: boredom. Together, they are able to continue the upswing in cinematic quality established by Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol. Making it past the first film is hard enough, but arriving at the fifth one with the same, renewed gusto its predecessor displayed hasn’t been achieved by many other franchises, except maybe the James Bond franchise. Unlike the Bond series, Rogue Nation (and Ghost Protocol) realizes just how far-fetched (even for supposedly impossible scenarios) many of the stunts and series of events are. Instead of staying stone-faced and serious the entire time, we are given several comedic reprieves, thanks in big part to the risible Simon Pegg. These intentional, comical moments keep the film from taking itself so seriously that it comes off as unintentionally funny. The rest of the entertainment lies solely on the probably bruised shoulders of Tom Cruise.
There are few actors in all of Hollywood with the consistency (and stamina) to be the lead in big budget action films AND still, voluntarily, perform their own stunts. In all of Hollywood, Tom Cruise continues to be that gem, and boy does he shine in this film. Cruise can still convincingly play an action star because he is, in fact, a real action dynamo. I’m not just referring to him doing his own stunts, because that alone is beyond impressive (maybe a little reckless). I’m referring to his absolute conviction and impressive consistency for every character he portrays, including Ethan Hunt. Last year he reminded us how he became such a well-known action star with his role in Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (also written by McQuarrie), and this year he continues this precedent.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation relies heavily on action sequences, even when it comes to the aggressively romantic scenes between Ferguson and Cruise. A majority of their flirting happens in the heat of the battle (often times against each other), or with one of the having their legs wrapped around another person’s neck, only moments away from snapping it. While their bad romance routine was well executed, not all of the action sequences were as engaging as the others.
These types of sequences have lived or died based on how realistic they appeared. This is where Cruise being very hands-on has greatly benefited the franchise. This time around, the action sequences have let down that established standard we have come to look for and expect. There are a couple of scenes that go from the realm of realism and cross into video game territory, namely the motorcycle chase scene. We’ve seen chase scenes before in the Mission: Impossible films, but for some reason they opted for CGI-created shots over Cruise-controlled scenes. It’s not that the CGI was particularly bad, but it is just a disappointing turn this hands-on franchise took this time around. Even the most successful, impossible missions tend to have a few rogue casualties.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)