Editor’s Notes: Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation is currently open in wide theatrical release. For more on the film, read Mission: Impossible Retrospective: A Durable Franchise Refined Over Time by Jordan Ferguson.
It’s incredibly fascinating how the Mission: Impossible cinematic franchise has evolved since Brian De Palma’s first film in the series premiered in 1996. Four films and as many directors later, the latest adventure for Ethan Hunt and his team may very well be the best entry in the franchise yet. Each Mission: Impossible film has had its own distinct signature thanks to different hand-picked directors by Tom Cruise. Rogue Nation makes a brilliant, impossible-to-ignore case for Christopher McQuarrie being the first director to helm more than one of these films.
Rogue Nation makes a brilliant, impossible-to-ignore case for Christopher McQuarrie being the first director to helm more than one of these films.
The phenomenal critical and box office acclaim generated by Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol naturally set a high bar for future installments, but Rogue Nation actually does its predecessor few favors. When lined up next to each other, it becomes clear just how simplistic and one-dimensional (albeit incredibly entertaining) the fourth film is. Ghost Protocol features some well-exectuted humorous moments with its characters and one hell of a major set piece, but Rogue Nation breathes life into its characters, gives them depth, makes their conflicts and inner demons seem real.
Contrary to the focus of Paramount’s advertising for the film, there isn’t one major set piece in the film. The airplane scene on which the marketing so heavily relied, while meticulously executed and bursting with thrills, is little more than a reintroduction to the Impossible Mission Force. Roll title credits. Once the real movie begins, we are treated to scene after scene of brilliantly choreographed and breathlessly executed action scenes, the likes and quality of which this action franchise and cinema as a whole have never seen before.
Rogue Nation breathes life into its characters, gives them depth, makes their conflicts and inner demons seem real.
Of all the action scenes to be found in Rogue Nation, two easily old their own against sequences from George Miller’s Fury Road. The first sequence, set at the Vienna Opera House, plays like something from a Hitchcock film. McQuarrie stages an incredible sequence that masterfully builds tension and ultimately leaves one breathless. The second sequence in question is simply one of the best chases cinema has ever seen. Starting in a car and ending on motorcycles, the scene features no music but is as immersive, engaging and pure as cinema can be.
If there was any question following the mind-boggling mess of Jack Reacher that Christopher McQuarrie is an incredibly talented assembler of action sequences, Rogue Nation decidedly puts the nail in the coffin. The real question that lingered following Jack Reacher was if the Oscar-winner for The Usual Suspects was a one-hit wonder, given that writing credits for Jack the Giant Slayer and The Tourist were on his resume. Rogue Nation is by far the best thing Christopher McQuarrie has written since his 1995 milestone.
Rogue Nation reintroduces us to characters we’ve enjoyed spending time with, but this feels like the first time that we really love them for who they are. Though his charmsma and electric screen presence has always made for enjoyable watching, this is the first time I felt as if Tom Cruise was actually playing Ethan Hunt and not himself. Rogue Nation gives us an Ethan Hunt with clear motivations and inner conflicts. Simon Pegg is elevated beyond the comedic sidekick role and given some great dramatic depth as we are shown the ways in which Ethan’s actions have effected those he claimed to call his friends. The addition of Rebecca Ferguson as a femme fatale with questionable intentions and unknown alliances is particularly enjoyable. Ferguson lights up the screen with her presence, and in more than one instance steals the show from Cruise. She is destined to become a movie star.
Though its story is more simplistic than it would want you to believe, Rogue Nation is the best option for summer entertainment this side of Mad Max: Fury Road. In the age of brooding and serious action movies, Mission: Impossible provides a welcome light- hearted and highly entertaining respite from the norm. Director Christopher McQuarrie stages some of the best action sequences (shot on glorious 35mm by Robert Elswit) the medium has ever seen while simultaneously taking full advantage of his wide array of locations. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the full realization of the franchise’s potential. You’d be a fool not to accept this mission.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the full realization of the franchise’s potential. You’d be a fool not to accept this mission.