To date, there are five Mission: Impossible films. Not counting the current release, with the exception of the Brian De Palma original, the remaining three tend to hover at the back of the memory without form; you know they’re there but without looking them up, it’s hard to recall exactly what they were all about.
In Rogue Nation there’s a twist to the way Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets his orders. The self destruct message that Hunt traditionally receives at the beginning – the one that begins, “Your mission, should you accept…” – here becomes a tool for the bad guys. While listening to the recording in the privacy of a used record store in London, what Hunt believes are the details of his next mission turns out to be a direct message from the head of The Syndicate, a ruthless organization of ex-international agents causing havoc in the world.
“The Syndicate is real,” Hunt tells fellow Impossible Mission Force (IMF) operative William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). “They know how we operate.”
The agents of The Syndicate are the ones responsible for banks collapsing, bombs exploding in foreign countries, commercial planes disappearing and various other disasters that have hit our headlines – all seemingly unrelated yet all the work of one. Who they are, how they were formed and why they need to be stopped takes up the bulk of the film. They’re the rogue nation of the title.
But Hunt and his secret team have other problems. CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants the IMF disbanded citing reckless world wide behavior, including demolishing the Kremlin. And he gets his wish. The government shuts them down. Suddenly, the IMF is on its own. In the same way that The Syndicate is a rogue nation, so, too, is the IMF. “This may very well be our last mission,” Brandt tells Hunt. “Make it count.”
What follows is a non-stop barrage of chases, gun play, rubber-faced disguises, spies turning on each other, and breathless set pieces that really do thrill, all set to Joe Kraemer’s pulsating score that continually echoes stabs of Lalo Schifrin’s famous original TV theme. The way the film sets things up, you’d think that Rogue Nation was the last in the series, yet the ending suggests otherwise, which is good news. Rather than running out of steam on this fifth outing, the series actually appears to have successfully resurfaced; there’s a fresh burst of energy throughout. It’s as if they’ve finally got the formula right. By reuniting faces accumulated over the past four films – Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Renner and Cruise – and having them working together and on the edge of getting everything wrong all the time, the stakes seem constantly higher.
Plus, the story itself is one of intrigue involving not only the CIA but the British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander), the British secret service, a rogue female operative (Sweden’s Rebecca Ferguson with a flawless English accent and several killer moves of her own) and an MI6 agent gone really, really bad (Sean Harris). Imagine a Bond-like character changing sides.
Interestingly, the series has had a different director behind all five films. This accounts for a differing style to each one, either with its telling or with its look, though with Rogue Nation there’s something else going on. Director Christopher McQuarrie is also the writer, a first in the franchise. With that in mind there’s little wonder that a well-thought, cohesive story emerges out of the spectacular, nail-biting mayhem. Director McQuarrie is making sure that the work of writer McQuarrie isn’t buried under a cacophony of visual noise and well shot, global widescreen action pieces, and it works.
As for Tom Cruise, whether recent negative publicity and the sharply critical reaction to Cruise’s involvement with Scientology, a result of the recent HBO documentary Going Clear and the live-stage satire THE TOMKAT PROJECT, will have any adverse consequences at the box-office is difficult to say. My guess, probably not. Understandably, Paramount Pictures would rather the issue remain mute, at least, throughout the duration of Rogue Nation’s release, but there’s a lot to be said for requesting, at the very least, some kind of a statement from the fifty-three year-old action hero. However, real-life issues aside, with a myopic vision focused solely on the matter in hand, the man throws himself headfirst into the film and emerges every bit the movie star that has kept him a headliner since the eighties. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is 2015’s summer popcorn movie making at its best.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 Minutes Overall Rating: 8 (out of 10)