Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Does More Than Just Keep The Franchise Alive.

Director: Christopher McQuarrie.
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce based on the TV show by Bruce Geller.
Actors: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin.
Opens at: Wide.

It's kind of amazing to think that the first Mission: Impossible is almost old enough to drink. What's even more amazing is the fact that after seemingly dying in the early aughts, the franchise has come back stronger than ever with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, this time written and directed by long time Tom Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie ( Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher, Valkyrie ).

Continuing the shift that began with 2013's Ghost Protocol, the franchise, while still very much focused on IMF agent Ethan Hunt's (Cruise) exploits, has kept the team dynamic intact with a strong supporting cast and a complicated, globetrotting plot. It's another fun entry into the series.

The mission this time around is a little more complex, but it essentially boils down to Ethan going rogue, if you will, trying to find and destroy a secret organization called the Syndicate that's responsible for various terrorists attacks worldwide. At the same time, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Baldwin) wants the IMF shut down for its rather unruly methods, and to be fair, he has a point. Unfortunately for our heroes, that makes them traitors.

Unlike most other action movies that are just set pieces held together by badly connecting scenes, Rogue Nation actually takes the time to develop a pretty intriguing plot around the shadow organization, which may or may not exist. This is also one of the more thematically dense movies in the franchise, tackling themes of morality in the grey world of spy agencies, collateral damage and the ends justifying the means.

Between Ethan and the team's fugitive status, there's an undercover British agent, Ilsa Faust, who just happens to be both the most interesting character in the movie and its most capable. Depending on the scene, you don't know where her loyalties lie with the Syndicate, MI6 or someone else entirely. Oh and she also happens to have the best fight scenes in the movie and, hell, is probably the best female character the series has ever had.

Mission: Impossible movies have gained reputation for having insane action sequences that push the boundaries of what a middle aged man can do, and Rogue Nation is certainly no different there. It does take the approach of having various set pieces all bleed into one another, seamlessly making the movie feel like one long action set piece. While there isn't something as memorable as the Dubai sequence from the previous movie, there are still plenty of tense action and heist sequences that were all shot incredibly well.

This being an ensemble movie, it makes good use of the returning members of IMF, Benji (Pegg), William (Renner) and Luther (Rhames), who all add their own mix of humor and swagger into this mix, which is nice, as those are all traits that Ethan lacks. Pegg, especially, is given a more prominent role this time around and, if this series were to end after this film, he could do well in his own spin-off — provided he was paired with a good co-star.

Summer 2015 has been an interesting mixed bag as far as blockbuster seasons go, but Rogue Nation, along with Mad Max: Fury Road, will go down as some of the best action movies of the year — and recent memory, for that matter. Expanding on the small continuity of the series, Rogue Nation is an example of how sequels can enrich a series and up the ante in an exciting way.

Grade: B+

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