REVIEW: 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'


If you go to a screening of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation sometime soon, as you sit in your seat, you might as well imagine you’re one of the agents from the film, getting your retinas scanned and your voice print confirmed. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to believe that the Mission: Impossible series is still a great time at the movies.

The good news? Your objective may not be as hard to achieve as some may think, because Christopher McQuarrie’s new addition to the franchise is just as slick and exciting as either of its immediate predecessors, directed by J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird. Rogue Nation gives you everything you expect from a Mission: Impossible movie: crazy stunts, Bond-style gala evenings, heists, one-liners. Tom Cruise is once again the apparently invincible Ethan Hunt, and Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg compete to steal the most scenes. Better yet, we’re introduced to yet another brilliant Swedish actress, Rebecca Ferguson, who gets one of the better arcs and some of the best scenes for any character in the series in recent memory.

The story this time, even though it’s probably not all that useful to enjoying the film, follows Hunt and his team as they try to dismantle a rival intelligence organization called the Syndicate. Headed by a mysterious man named Lane (Sean Harris), the Syndicate is responsible for a number of high profile assassinations and disasters around the globe, and Hunt must convince his government (which, as usual, is quick to disavow him) that the shadowy agency must be stopped before more people die.

Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, the shadowy villain in this installment.

Is it essential viewing? Probably not. But if you like Tom Cruise or the actors he collaborates with on these films, you could certainly do worse than Rogue Nation. It’s a solidly-made action film that doesn’t try to be about more than it is, but it also doesn’t ask you to perform the proverbial cerebral shutdown, and that’s more than a lot of Hollywood franchises can offer.

In fact, the movie pulls off a greater cloak and dagger routine than even its ever-present face-swapping sequences. Somehow, the filmmakers have figured out how to make the same basic components entertain in film after film – a fact that hasn’t been lost on some folks, like the team at Honest Trailers. The espionage-flavoured plots are just vague enough to direct the story, and the characters run, fight, infiltrate and crack wise fast enough to keep you engaged.

But unlike Terminator Genisys, the other fifth installment of a timeworn franchise hitting theatres this summer, Rogue Nation re-uses tricks and references previous entries without jumbling up its timeline or wedging in a quasi-reboot structure. There’s a noticeable kind of confidence in the way Cruise and company make these films, and it’s not hard to see evidence of that in a line that CIA director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) delivers late in the film. Describing Ethan Hunt’s prowess as an agent, Hunley says, “He’s the manifestation of destiny.”

In my screening, the overstatement in the line got a weird laugh from the audience, and I think they sensed the extra meaning behind it. Cruise seems so assured of success when he makes these movies that it allows him a kind of freedom that some actors probably envy. It’s the freedom to jump into what he does best: be a movie star, an entertainer, in that intangible way that so few people can be.

Alec Baldwin as CIA director Hunley and Simon Pegg as agent Benji Dunn.

We buy Cruise in the role of superspy Ethan Hunt in the same way we buy him as a 19th century military advisor in The Last Samurai. Like Hunt, Cruise is a man of many faces, and it’s worth the price of admission to see him slip into a character he knows well, and even to see him risk his life while doing it. I mean c’mon, to make Rogue Nation, he strapped himself to a military cargo plane eight times while it took off – there’s something surprisingly cinematic about that kind of commitment.

Material like that turns Rogue Nation into a straight shot of escapism right to the heart. It doesn’t need to be dressed up in some ripped-from-the-headlines references, or to concoct explanations to link the series in some detailed continuity. But if there was a guiding theme for the film and the series, it would be choice: agents must accept or deny their missions, and they have to make split-second choices in the field – including whether to walk away forever. Similarly, it’s up to the audience to choose whether to fall for Cruise’s unique brand of entertainment once again. As for me? Slide me another mission dossier, Mr. Hunt.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation gets three stars out of four.

Three Stars

What did you think of the new Mission: Impossible film? Are you on board for more adventures after this one? Or do you expect more innovation from the action genre? Join the discussion in the comments section, and if you liked this review, share it with your friends and followers!