Over the course of almost two decades, the Mission: Impossible series has gone from strength to strength at the box office, with most of the movies managing to please critics and fans alike. The success of the action spy franchise is no small part due to leading man Tom Cruise, whose dedication to practical stunt work has allowed the five different Mission: Impossible movie directors to capture some thrilling moments on camera.

In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the fifth instalment in the series, the big action sequence that’s been presented as the stinger to many of the trailers is Cruise clinging to the side of an Airbus A400M plane during takeoff – something that Cruise has described as “the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done.” Of course, it takes more than a single impressive stunt to impress the critics, and now the first wave of reviews has revealed the collective verdict on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

With the theatrical release set for later this week, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation currently holds a 96% “Fresh” rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 78% on Metacritic. Despite what the Rotten Tomatoes score might suggest, there aren’t really many critics outright raving about it. Most of review scores (where they exist) are in the 6-9/10 range, with critics praising the movie for being a well-shot, entertaining experience. The consensus seems to be that it’s a classic, thrilling spy story that’s fun to watch but doesn’t really break new ground, and has a generic, forgettable plot.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation picks up a story thread laid down in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, with the Impossible Mission Force operatives facing off against a group called the Syndicate – a collection of ex-operatives that’s effectively an anti-IMF. Cruise once again plays super-spy Ethan Hunt, and other returning cast members include Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg. Ethan also finds a new ally – and possible enemy – in Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a lethal agent with mixed motives.

Before we get to what the critics had to say – first, a brief reaction from us here at Screen Rant (check back Friday for our official review):

Rouge Nation Early Reviews

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The Playlist (Rodrigo Perez):

“What’s more apparent than in any ‘Mission: Impossible’ film is how ‘Rogue Nation’ is led by and stitched together via its stunts: Ethan Hunt jumping on the side of a plane, an intricate assassination at the opera, a complicated underwater set-piece, a death-defying motorcycle chase, and more. It’s as if each one of these (admittedly terrific) sequences are the tent pole delineators of each act and the plot is then reverse-engineered to connect all the action dots. Strangely enough, it all works fairly successfully, but it’s slightly depressing to be able to see the framework so transparently.”

Empire Magazine (Ian Nathan):

“Latest director Christopher McQuarrie has decided the only way forward for the unflagging spy franchise is the direct pleasures of old-fashioned genre entertainment. Resisting the vogue for narrative sprawl, and the bad habits of former Missions, this is a thriller that aspires only to be a great thriller. Set up the dilemma, throw in the characters and watch them try to figure it out. No need for backstories, real-world relevance or, worse still, irony.”

Variety (Justin Chang):

“‘Rogue Nation’ feels like the most dramatically sustained and conceptually unified picture in the series. To be sure, McQuarrie isn’t as flamboyant a stylist as his predecessors Brian De Palma and John Woo, and although it shares with ‘Ghost Protocol’ the same superb cinematographer (Robert Elswit), the new film has an altogether darker, more workmanlike palette, with little of the previous film’s eye-tickling compositional flair.”

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THR (Todd McCarthy):

“McQuarrie doesn’t change the prescription for what makes this franchise so successful, nor does he have the most practiced hand among the series’ directors at milking the big action sequences for all they’re worth. But he’s deepened the dramatic involvement by so thoroughly casting Ethan Hunt to the wolves that he’s a man without a country or a reliable partner.”

The Guardian (Henry Barnes):

“The light-hearted tone is mostly due to an expanded role for Pegg, who again proves himself proficient at looking astonished and/or peeved at the cool stuff Tom Cruise is doing. It allows for plenty of implausibility, but sometimes McQuarrie stretches his licence to the limit.”

ComingSoon (Edward Douglas):

“It’s a valiant attempt, but the results aren’t nearly as clever or fun as its predecessor, the Brad Bird-directed “Ghost Protocol,” which tried much harder to blow us away with things we’ve never seen… Even the coolest of action sequences are hard to enjoy when you have such a bland and unoriginal plot and a movie that feels dated and redundant due to the lack of originality and innovation that’s defined the franchise.”

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HitFix (Drew McWeeny):

“I would argue that this may be the funniest of the films overall, and with Robert Elswit shooting it, it’s absolutely gorgeous, with crisp, clean action choreography that you can actually see. As with most of what he does, Cruise always feels like he’s giving it everything he’s got, and he continues to make Ethan Hunt’s adventures interesting after two full decades in the role. I was delighted by this one end to end, and I plan on seeing it again in IMAX as soon as possible.”

Entertainment Weekly (Chris Nashawaty):

“Can Ilsa be trusted to work both sides against the middle while Hunt and his crew work their way up the Eurobaddie food chain to Lane and clear their names back at home? Cruise’s franchise is too valuable to Paramount to ever put that question in doubt. But like all ‘Mission: Impossible’ films (of which there’s yet to be a dud), it’s not so much about the outcome as it is the breathlessly thrilling journey Cruise takes us on to get there.”

TheWrap (Alonso Duralde):

“‘Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’ is the very model of a modern major film franchise: Loaded with globe-trotting adventure, breathtaking stunts and just enough plot to hold together the whole ball of wax, it’s the sort of movie where you wouldn’t bat an eye if Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team were suddenly replaced by the cast of ‘Furious 7.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with that — there are good popcorn thrills, and there are bad ones, and if ‘Rogue Nation’ falls slightly below ‘Ghost Protocol’ on the adrenaline scale, this fifth entry in the spy saga is definitely the sort of over-the-top spree that generates goofy grins, clenched armrests and spilled soda.”

The box office gross for the Mission: Impossible movies has been steadily climbing since their inception, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol garnering almost $700 million at the worldwide box office, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation seems likely to, if not continue the trend, than at least keep Paramount Pictures happy. The studio is confident enough in the franchise that Mission: Impossible 6 is reportedly already in development.

Are you planning to see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in theaters this weekend? Let us know in the comments if the promise of a slick, stunts-driven popcorn movie sounds like the perfect recipe for a summer movie experience, or if you’d prefer something with a bit more depth.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opens in U.S. theaters on July 31st, 2015.