Once again, I’m reviewing a spy film. This has been a good year for those films, with the prior success of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Spy, and the certain future success of Spectre. In this line up we get the next Mission Impossible film. My experience with the series is definitely incomplete. I only started with the series with Mission Impossible 3 and I still haven’t seen the first 2 films, although I hear I’m not missing much by skipping Mission Impossible 2. Still, as 3 and Ghost Protocol proved to me, these films are always a lot of fun to watch and I’m happy to say that Rogue Nation follows that trend well.
The plot is a direct continuation of the ending of Ghost Protocol, a continuation which wasn’t really seen in the other films, with Ethan Hunt having to go into hiding as he tries to find The Syndicate, an organisation that was instrumental in toppling regimes and causing economic and political difficulties throughout the world. However, Hunt no longer has the resources of the IMF as the events of Ghost Protocol have led to Congress giving the CIA full control over the missions and resources of the IMF, with Hunt being wanted by them due to his involvement in the events of Ghost Protocol. Along the way, Ethan meets up with Isla Faust, a member of the Syndicate who keeps saving Hunt’s life and has her own agenda outside that of The Syndicate. The overall plot of the film works really well. It’s a straightforward spy plot, but this works for this type of film. A lot of the plot points you can guess pretty much from the get-go and the film decides to just have fun with it. The plot feels a lot like an excuse to go from location to location, in pretty much the same way as Ghost Protocol. It’s also great to see the consequences of the actions of the team in Ghost Protocol, although I was disappointed that Paula Patton didn’t come back for this film, as that would have helped this overall plot of the film. I also loved that this film addresses the fact that nothing can kill Ethan Hunt, with this becoming a plot point near the end of the film, which feels really self-aware, and I’m amazed that this type of thing wasn’t seen in any of the other films. There is however a problem with the tone of the film, whilst most of the film has this really light, breezy tone, there are some points where it goes quite dark, and some scenes later on in the film feel more like a John Le Carre story than Mission Impossible.
The cast meanwhile are all having fun in the roles. Tom Cruise can pretty much play Ethan Hunt in his sleep, but in this film, they make the character more damaged. You see that the obsession he has with catching the Syndicate has caused a lot of harm. He could have stopped the Syndicate a few times throughout the film, but he is obsessed with catching the leader, which shows that he is losing himself in his mission. Plus, Cruise doing his own stunts in the film works wonders for the action scenes, which I’ll go into more detail about later on. Simon Pegg meanwhile is great as Benji, whose role has continued to expand since his first appearance in 3. He’s gone from someone behind a computer to the person that Ethan Hunt trusts the most, with Pegg brilliantly showing his loyalty to Hunt, along with providing great comic relief and being a lot of fun. Rebecca Ferguson meanwhile is a great addition to the series as Faust. Whilst the character doesn’t really have much personality, Ferguson does great work in the role, showing the duplicitous nature of the character effectively and handling herself really well in the action scenes. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames meanwhile are in more supporting roles this time around. Whilst it’s great to see the characters back, in particular Rhames who only appeared at the end of Ghost Protocol, most of their scenes could have been cut out, the only relevant scenes for Renner are at the start of the film and Ving Rhames doesn’t really do much throughout the film. Alec Baldwin meanwhile does good work as the director of the CIA, but he feels really one note throughout most of the film, ignoring the evidence that Hunt didn’t cause the disasters associated to The Syndicate and ignoring the events of Ghost Protocol. The changes to a more John Le Carre style are best seen when Simon McBurney and Tom Hollander are in the film and they do good work. The main problem though comes with the villain, a problem that was also in Ghost Protocol. None of the villains have been able to match Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, who legitimately scared me with his performance in 3. Sean Harris is really bland throughout the film, there’s no real character there and he doesn’t really impact the majority of the plot.
On a technical level, the film continues the high standard of the other films. Christopher McQuarrie does a great job directing the action scenes, with the use of practical stunts being a great call, along with Cruise’s decision to do the majority of the stunts himself. McQuarrie is able to mine a lot of tension out of these scenes, mainly when the team has to infiltrate a secure computer facility, along with some really thrilling moments of action, in particular a car/motorbike chase through Casablanca. However, the film peaks with the stunts too early. The scene with Cruise hanging on the side of a plane as it takes off, a great piece of stunt work, is at the start of the film and none of the stunts topped it throughout the film. Still, the film does a great job with the action and does good work meshing the music with the action, in particular a scene in the opera house, with great cinematography adding to the tense, adrenaline filled nature of these scenes.
Overall, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a great addition to the series. It doesn’t quite meet the same quality of 3 and Ghost Protocol, mainly due to the poor quality of the villain and some of the characters not being utilised well, but this is still a great action film, with Tom Cruise doing great work again as Ethan Hunt and an effective plot that does have some self-awareness about the nature of the series.