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Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg
Rated: PG-13 for Sequences of Action and Violence, and Brief Partial Nudity
Running Time: 2 h 11 m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Action, Humor, Actor Chemistry
WEAKNESSES: Stakes, Forgettable Villian
After the IMF is shut down, Ethan Hunt goes rogue to find the Syndicate, a deadly crime organization.
It’s our fifth outing with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow) and co, and, of course, the stunts are more insane, the action more frenetic, and the villain more evil than ever. Do you think Ethan will die? Will the IMF stay shut down? Will the world end?
Of course not… they’ve got to make way for the sequel.
I’m only joking of course. I actually really enjoy the Mission Impossible series, but…this series, just like the James Bond series, comes with a little bit of predictability. The Mission Impossible series has become one of the more popular franchises of the last two decades, and to think they’re going to kill off that cash cow now is laughable. We all know that in the end IMF will more than likely triumph, and most likely Ethan Hunt will emerge miraculously unharmed. Should this knowledge stop you from enjoying the film? Absolutely not. I still enjoy James Bond movies, even though you can pretty much predict how things will play out every time. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and the journey through these movies is intense, insane, and altogether enjoyable.
A Perfect Team
One of the things that makes this film in particular stick out above most spy thrillers, and even most of the other movies in this series, is its ability to laugh at itself. It knows that its premise is ridiculous and it doesn’t take itself seriously. The first Mission Impossible movie is a run-of-the-mill thriller that does take itself far too seriously, but as the series goes on it loosens up, and that makes it far more entertaining and fun to watch. This movie takes it one step further by making Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) essentially a second main character. Pegg’s character Benji is just what this series needed in my opinion; he’s been around since the third film, but in this one they really let him shine. The chemistry that Cruise and Pegg share is wonderful. They have a way of flipping from humorous to white-knuckle intensity that works marvels for the film. The other actors that this series has picked up along the way all add something to the movie too. Rebecca Fergusson (The Girl on the Train) is perhaps the best M:I girl they’ve brought in to play opposite Cruise (though I loved Monanghan in M:I:3). She seems to be able to match his intensity with ease. Jeremy Renner brings his quiet cockiness to the table, resulting in some rather humorous exchanges. Ving Rhames is still there too… He never really does much, but it’s nice to see another member from the first M:I movie still sticking around. Alec Baldwin brings his classiness.
As the series has gone on, it’s gradually garnered a perfectly assembled team. There are just enough members of the team that everyone still has something to do (for the most part) and we get to know the characters a little more as time goes on. This sets the series apart from the James Bond films, where 99% of the time, Bond runs around contacting Q and M only once in a while, and then he teams up with a random Bond Girl to finish off his mission. In this series, we know and care about the side characters almost as much as our protagonist.
Stunts and Action Sequences
This is the main reason we came, isn’t it? Everybody loves a well-shot, well-choreographed action scene, and this film is full of them. There are probably half a dozen great action scenes in unique locations; from jumping out of planes, to fighting in the scaffolding of opera houses in Vienna, to car chases in morocco, this movie is a nonstop adrenaline shot. But what makes this better than some action spy thrillers? Well, first off, the action has a purpose to the story, and it moves the story forward. A lot of action movies have action just for the sake of action, and I’m not 100% against that, as long as it’s well executed, but there needs to be stakes in order for us to care. In Rogue Nation in particular, it’s always easy to follow what’s going on and what the goal of the action sequence is. Also, spatial relationships are huge. If you can’t tell where your characters are, then your audience gets confused as to what’s happening and how. On the podcast, we’ve talked extensively about how Marvel films tend to through spatial relationships out the window, and as a result, their fight scenes can sometimes feel disorienting or they play without tension, because if they need a character to appear somewhere, they’ll be there instantly.
The Mission: Impossible series has also always found ways to keep things fresh. How many car chases have you seen on film in your lifetime? How many gunfights? I honestly couldn’t even begin to imagine. But somehow M:I keeps it lively and entertaining. One reason for this is they keep it relatively grounded. Grounded… erm… in comparison to other action franchises: they don’t have high-speed car chases on frozen lakes while pursued by nuclear subs (Fast and Furious 8). In lieu of upping the ridiculousness each time, the M:I series keeps it simple. One of the most intense scenes in this movie takes place at an opera house, where Hunt has to jump from scaffold to scaffold fighting one man, while at the same time keeping an eye on a sniper across the room. It’s simple, but incredibly effective. Tom Cruise is also a madman and does a lot of his own stunts for the movies. For this movie, he was literally strapped to the outside of a plane while it took off in the first scene; that was all practical. The fact that we still get real stunts like that is fantastic. They could’ve probably done the same thing with green screen, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Cruise just recently turned 56, but for him, apparently age is just truly a number. In the upcoming sequel for this film, I know he broke his ankle jumping over a gap in a building, and there’s another scene where he climbs out of a plane again. Good for him. These movies are a blast.
Who Was the Villain Again?
As I mentioned above, my biggest issue with this series is the stakes. We pretty much know from the beginning that, of course, Hunt and Co will succeed. Another issue I had with this film was the villain was rather forgettable, and that’s something this series has struggled with ever since the beginning (Phillip Seymour Hoffman was great in MI3, and Join Voight was fine in the first one, but I defy you tell me the bad guy in MI 2 or Ghost Protocol without looking it up). This one was no different. Our bad guy in this movie, Guy-With-Glasses (Sean Harris, Macbeth (2015)), is rather forgettable. Aside from a few cool moments, he’s pretty much a shadow-villain. He doesn’t feel inherently threatening because he gets his lackeys to do almost everything for him. If the villain had been a smidge better, my rating would’ve been a smidge higher. I honestly can’t complain too much though; he’s still better than the villain in Quantum of Solace (2007).
This is a fun movie. It’s not like films like this will ever be up for Best Picture, but it’s certainly an exhilarating way to spend two hours. As far as action series go, the Mission: Impossible movies have been fairly consistent. They’re like James Bond minus the sexist womanizing and plus teamwork. You might always know that the IMF will succeed, but that doesn’t matter, because the ride itself is worth experiencing.
Like the Mission: Impossible series? So do we! Check out our all of our reviews for Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, and Mission: Impossible: Fallout.
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