At what point does the title “Mission: Impossible” become obsolete in a film franchise that is 19 years old?
The series follows the exploits of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force, in case you were wondering) and their top agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). This time around Hunt is tracking any information on a mysterious criminal organization known as “the Syndicate.” After being kidnapped by the group early in the film, Hunt is rescued by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an untrustworthy ally. Just after this, the IMF is dissolved by the head of the CIA, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). With nowhere to turn for help and a mission to complete, Hunt goes rogue in order to bring the leader of the Syndicate to justice.
As always with these films, Hunt is eventually joined by a team of operatives from the previous films. In the case of “Rogue Nation,” this includes Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner).
Though the series began as a more serious spy franchise with Brian De Palma’s 1996 film, it’s focused more on being action/thriller since John Woo made M:I 2. With this new installment, the story takes one step closer to the original’s tone. Less slow-motion action scenes, more backstabbing and complex characters.
Two of the film’s newest characters, Ilsa and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), are mostly to thank for this more leveled action:espionage ratio. Ilsa has the fighting skills of Ronda Rousey but her character proves as difficult to read as most femme fatales from a Bond movie. Lane is the leader of the Syndicate who is always several steps ahead of Ethan and his team. His introduction near the beginning of the film is cleverly written and sets up an interesting showdown for the film’s climax. While Harris is very good at portraying creepy intellectuals, I would have preferred an actor with a little more gravitas for such a big role in the franchise.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has worked very well with Tom Cruise lately in “Jack Reacher” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” but for every good film he’s made there’s a “Jack the Giant Slayer” or “The Tourist.” Of course “Rogue Nation” isn’t a bad film and it’s far from the worst in the franchise, yet it feels like it doesn’t live up to its potential. Beyond the opening sequence of Cruise hanging outside of a plane, there isn’t too much in the way of major excitement the rest of the film.
The saddest part of “Rogue Nation” was noticing just how old everyone is getting. Cruise looks 10 years older than he did in “Jack Reacher” and, at 56, Ving Rhames doesn’t look capable of doing much beyond typing on a keyboard.
With a more stylish director and perhaps a casting change or two, “Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation” could have been one of the biggest films of the summer. However, settling for a solid spy movie with pretty good action sequences is nothing to frown upon. If nothing else, the film continues the franchise’s legacy of quality entertainment and further solidifies Cruise’s stardom.