Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is a smart and exciting blockbuster, as well as another strong installment in the Tom Cruise action franchise.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation finds the legendary IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) caught in a cat and mouse game with The Syndicate: an international crime organization that has long kept its existence a secret, while using clandestine methods to incite chaos around the globe. However, when CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is successful in his bid to have the IMF dissolved over its past reckless conduct, Ethan decides to go rogue and track down the mysterious leader who is seemingly responsible for running The Syndicate.
Ethan is aided on his mission by his trusted fellow agents - Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) - as well as one Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a mysterious individual who keeps her true allegiances a secret. With their backs against the wall and the clock ticking until The Syndicate makes its next big move, it's up to the IMF team to save the day and prove that the world is a safer place with them around.
Rogue Nation is the fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible movie franchise, yet it still keeps the blockbuster series feeling as fresh as ever, even nineteen years after the first installment was released in theaters. Much of the credit for that belongs to the film's Oscar-winning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who has done some of his best work collaborating alongside Cruise over the past decade on such films as Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow (both of which were co-written by McQuarrie).
The Rogue Nation screen story by McQuarrie and Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) is quite labyrinthine, even by the Mission: Impossible franchise's standards. However, the screenplay by McQuarrie brings to mind his script work on The Usual Suspects, with regard to how it aptly combines the necessary exposition with sparse, yet sharp, dialogue and a twisty plot that's smarter than average for this particular type of genre fare. Rogue Nation's narrative lacks the personal drama of the best previous Mission: Impossible films offered, but like the fourth movie (Ghost Protocol) it forms a clean and tightly-constructed three-act structure around its various action sequences.
McQuarrie, like the Mission: Impossible film directors that've come before him, delivers his own distinct take on the Ethan Hunt character and his world in Rogue Nation, while still incorporating core elements associated with this franchise. Rogue Nation brings to mind McQuarrie's previous directorial effort with Cruise, Jack Reacher, offering grounded cloak and dagger thrills with elaborate action that showcases its protagonist's sophisticated (and deadly) skill set. McQuarrie and his cinematographer Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood, Nightcrawler) also take cues from Brian De Palma's directorial style in the first Mission: Impossible, crafting visually-striking and terse sequences that span locations ranging from the extravagant (Austrian opera houses) to wild west-style scenery (Morocco) and even Noir-ish backdrops (nighttime on the streets of London).
Rogue Nation's set pieces lack the massive scale of those found in Ghost Protocol (even during Cruise's now famous plane-hanging stunt), so IMAX viewing isn't a necessity for the latest Mission: Impossible film. However, what Rogue Nation may lack in scope it makes up for with tension, thanks to the careful and often artistically stylized editing by Eddie Hamilton (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service). The reliance on suspense over grand-scale spectacle distinguishes Rogue Nation from similar recent globe-trotting tentpoles; this, in turn, allows for a Mission: Impossible film that offers the expected big stakes and blockbuster entertainment, yet also feels more like a proper espionage adventure.
The version of Ethan Hunt depicted in Rogue Nation is a seasoned professional (also recalling Cruise as Jack Reacher), though here the character is shown as more physically vulnerable and is continually put at a disadvantage while he's on the job; this allows Cruise to portray a version of Hunt who has subtly evolved from previous Mission: Impossible films. Ethan, as indicated earlier, doesn't have a distinct arc in Rogue Nation, but the film still quietly acknowledges the toll of his work on him over the years. Meanwhile, Cruise again proves there are few other Hollywood action movie stars as committed and willing to putting themselves in harm's way (literally) as he is.
Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) as Ilsa Faust is the breakout newcomer in Rogue Nation, bringing her characters to life with wit, intelligence, and a sense of sophistication that make it easy to envision Ferguson headlining her own action movie down the line; that Ilsa is also the most well-rounded female character in the Mission: Impossible series to date (and the best foil to Ethan so far), is icing on the cake. Pegg as Benji is once again solid, with the character providing comic relief (and even some heart) all while he explores fresh ground with each new installment. Meanwhile, Renner and Rhames don't have as much to do this time around, though Rogue Nation does feature them in a subplot where they must work together - providing some good buddy action/comedy in the process.
Baldwin's Rogue Nation character isn't necessarily a stretch for the actor (Hunley is a bit like Jack Donaghy: CIA director), but he serves his purpose as a semi-comical obstacle that forces Ethan and his team to carry out world-saving without government support. Likewise, Sean Harris (Prometheus) as Rogue Nation's raspy-voiced antagonist doesn't come off quite as quietly menacing as he's meant to be, but since his character often stays in the shadows, this doesn't weaken the film's high stakes. Plus, the memorable henchman Janik "Bone Doctor" Vinter (Jens Hultén) - who gets nearly as much screen time as Harris - makes up for the shortcomings of the film's main villain.
In short: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is a smart and exciting blockbuster, as well as another strong installment in the Tom Cruise action franchise. Rogue Nation also serves as evidence that Cruise and McQuarrie's filmmaking collaborations not only continue to produce rock-solid returns, but they have also improved with time and experience. It remains to be seen which filmmaker Cruise recruits to put their spin on Ethan Hunt's world next (in the already-in-development Mission: Impossible 6), but in the meantime Rogue Nation can be recommended as a pretty great piece of summer movie escapism, purely as a stand-alone experience.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 131 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the movie by the Screen Rant editors, check back soon for our Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation episode of the SR Underground podcast.
If you've already seen the film, then feel free to head over to our Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation spoilers discussion!