For the past three “Mission: Impossible” movie releases, there have been an assortment of headlines that proclaim something like “New entry reinvigorates ‘Mission: Impossible’ Franchise.” However, after the unqualified creative and box office success of “M:I Ghost Protocol,” the series’s new entry, “M:I Rogue Nation” seems less like a rejuvenation of a dormant franchise, and more like a showcase for the series’s growing confidence in its abilities at telling enjoyable, globe-spanning espionage adventure stories, with enough twists to make up for some of the drier scenes.
“Rogue Nation” follows what happens when, after the IMF (the fictional Impossible Missions Force) is shut down by the government, forcing Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, coming off the great “Edge of Tomorrow”) to go underground while attempting to take down the mysterious group “the syndicate.” Along the way, he seeks help from former-IMF friends William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Benji (Simon Pegg, “The World’s End”) and Luther (Ving Rhames, “Monday Mornings”) and possible-syndicate-double-agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, “The White Queen”).
At its core, “Rogue Nation” is a spy movie, and it has all the major pieces you would expect. It includes gadgets, secret
messages, double crosses and lots of covert activity, all of which are executed at about the highest possible level. The story is filled with enough enjoyable twists and intriguing mysteries to keep pushing the story forward, even when a couple over-long dialogue sequences threaten to hold it back.
Even with the strong plot, “Rogue Nation” ’s major successes lie in its major action set pieces, which help in keeping the movie moving at a brisk pace. The most well-known of these sequences featuring Hunt hanging off the side of an airplane does lose some of the shock factor because of its presence in pretty much every trailer for the movie. However, the other major set-pieces are both surprising in the amount of fun they have, but also how they use the movie’s exotic locations. The movie was shot on location in places such as Austria, Morocco and London, each of which has a corresponding action sequence. There's a scene set in the Vienna Opera House which has multiple fights in and around the rafters of the stage which are about as good as anything you’ll see at the movies this year. Director Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher”) frames them in a tight, claustrophobic way that creates a small feel in the Opera House’s huge setting.
It helps that each of the movie's performers are working at the top of their game. A lot of the comic relief in this movie is put on the shoulders of Pegg, who has proven himself in the past as a gifted comic actor. He routinely gets laughs, especially when he’s shown in his role after the shutdown of the IMF. Ferguson has a complicated role to play, with a character who peels back multiple layers as the movie moves on, and she does a good job bringing them to life.
However, despite the strength of the ensemble, this is Cruise’s movie, and it’s as strong as it is because of his work.
Despite being 53 years old, he can still do the stunt work required of a above-the-title star (like hanging off the side of an airplane), and he has the charisma to play a central character in a movie like this. While his movies haven’t been as successful recently as the past (“Edge of Tomorrow” only made $370 million off a $178 million budget), “Rogue Nation” shows that he still has the same movie-star qualities that made him famous.
What all the pieces of “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” add up to is a film which knows exactly how to tell an entertaining espionage story. At this point, the “M:I” franchise is starting to become a well-oiled machine, and as long as they produce movies with this tight storytelling and high-quality action work, and keep the ensemble together, they should make several more.