The Mission: Impossible franchise is a strange beast. It’s been around for nearly 20 years, and probably the closest thing America has to a James Bond franchise, but each installment is hardly ever met with hype. It doesn’t have the established fanbase like Marvel or DC, nor does it have Fast & Furious‘s epic money mountains. Really, all it’s got going for it is Tom Cruise‘s ability to print money in theaters across the globe (this installment includes financiers from The China Movie Channel and Alibaba, showing Cruise’s pull in China). Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation finds Cruise and the IMF taking on yet another global terrorist threat. While the film has some heart-pumping action sequences and quality one-liners, it doesn’t do much new or exciting that will leave it in your memory.
Ethan Hunt is on the hunt for the Syndicate, a mysterious terror organization bent on destabilizing governments across the globe. To make things worse, the US government has shut down the IMF because of their controversial methods. Hunt now has to go rogue and take down the Syndicate himself, while also keeping tabs on the mysterious Ilsa Faust.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about any M:I movie without talking about Tom Cruise, whose fall from The Biggest Movie Star In The World is just as fascinating as his rise to said throne. Cruise throws himself into every stunt, kick, punch, airplane grab, and pole jump with gusto, and it’s hard not to admire him for his sheer earnestness. Also, at 53, he seems to have discovered the fountain of youth. Costar Alec Baldwin looks like he’s from another generation, despite only being 4 years older. Cruise’s biggest flaw is his acting, and it’s at its most apparent here. Right before the final showdown, we get the stereotypical Tom Cruise Monologue, where he shouts about how he won’t let the villain get away, his neck veins bulging out as he speaks. Cruise, ultimately, lacks the charm that Sean Connery or Matt Damon brought to their spies. His portrayal of Hunt is just a little too forced.
The supporting cast is solid. Simon Pegg returns as computer-whiz Benji, a cookie-cutter, sassy hacker role that he’s niched himself into in Hollywood. He provides needed comic relief to Cruise’s serious demeanor. Rebecca Ferguson plays femme fatale Ilsa Faust, whose motives are constantly under scrutiny throughout the film. She does a solid job of balancing seductiveness and mystery. Sean Harris plays Soloman Lane, leader of the Syndicate, and a villain so fascinating because of his sheer cliched-ness. He spends the entire film wearing designer glasses and black turtlenecks. I can only assume there was a discount at the Generic Villain Apparel Store.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin never seem quite interested in actually acting. Baldwin, especially, seems hellbent on getting off set in as few takes as possible. He delivers a third-act monologue so monotonously that my entire theater guffawed at the end of it. Renner, though, at least tries somewhat. He tends to out-act Cruise whenever they’re paired together, thanks to his ability to act angry without screaming his lungs out. Ving Rhames also returns as Luther Stickell for several well-placed one liners.
The action scenes, overall, are well-choreographed, and shot even better. Director Christopher McQuarrie has a real talent for putting the audience right in the midst of the frenzy. A motorcyle chase through Morocco darts between first-person views and street-views with startling vivacity. The film’s major setpiece, an underwater computer facility, is also shot with tight angles to maximize the impact of the forceful water pumping through the room. There’s also a plane takeoff scene, which you may have already seen on posters, that makes you feel the same G-forces ripping against Cruise’s skin. The cinematography really gave me an adrenaline rush throughout the film.
Overall, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation does what it set out to do: provide two hours of action with a sprinkling of humor. In that, it succeeds. It doesn’t reinvent the genre like Bourne or even create its own swagger like Kingsman: The Secret Service, but it is a solid popcorn flick if you’re looking to spend an afternoon.
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