Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Photo credit: Christian Black

There are very few movie franchises that can compete with Mission Impossible’s two decade in theaters.

Over those years, Ethan Hunt and his IMF (Impossible Missions Force) team have tracked down the NOC (non-official cover) list, stopped the deadly Chimera virus, chased The Rabbit’s Foot, and prevented nuclear war – however they did damage the Transamerica Pyramid in the process.

In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the team fights the disbandment of their IMF team and battle an evil shadow organization known as The Syndicate – group that’s as equally trained and motivated as them.

After a successful mission in Belarus, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) finds himself face-to-face with CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) who is asking a Senate oversight committee t to disband the IMF. Since the CIA has zero info on The Syndicate, Hunley believes they’re a myth and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is behind the recent terrorist attacks against Western allies. Hunley thinks Hunt is staging these attacks in order to keep an outdated IMF team in operation. With Brandt not able to provide any details on their missions, and no proof The Syndicate exist, the government shuts down IMF’s operation immediately.

Meanwhile in London, Hunt is on his way to receive his new mission from an IMF substation when he’s kidnapped by The Syndicate. Before Hunt can be tortured by The Syndicate’s goons and a guy known as Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten), a woman named Isla (Rebecca Ferguson) helps him escape.

Six months later, the IMF is disbanded. Brandt is working for the CIA, and Benji (Simon Pegg) is working an IT job for the government. Hunt’s only lead to The Syndicate is the blonde haired man in glasses he saw at the substation. Unable to do it on his own, Hunt enlist Benji and Isla to help him track down the mysterious man and prove The Syndicate’s existence.

At the same time, Hunely has a CIA unit deployed to find Hunt and take him in dead or alive. Fearful Hunley plans to have Hunt killed, Brandt ask Luther (Ving Rhames) to help him find Hunt before the CIA does.

And that’s just the first 45 minutes.

Like the series’ previous films, Rogue Nation is broken down into three parts – the set up for the team’s mission, the impossible mission, and the finale.

The tail end of the “set up” features a Spy vs. Spy showdown at an opera in Vienna.  The sequence shows how highly skilled The Syndicate is and just how far they’re willing to go to complete their missions. It’s the type of heart-pounding espionage you’d expect in a Bond movie.

Rogue Nation’s “impossible” mission is exactly why people love watching these movies.  The string of edge of your seat action scenes starts with a breaking into an underwater server in Morocco, followed by a car/motorcycle chase down Moroccan streets a little bigger than a high school hallway. The big finale for the sequence is one of the best motorcycle chase scenes I’ve seen in cinema. That scene alone is worth the price of admission.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) does a magnificent job capturing large scope of those scenes without compromising any of the action.

The “finale” isn’t a predictable third act. Kudos to McQuarrie and the other writers for keeping the finale a mystery and how the team was going to pull it off a bigger mystery. They also used the final act to explain Lane’s (played wonderfully by Sean Harris) motivations and show why he’s a formidable foe.

Tom Cruise will always be the main attraction in this series, but Rebecca Ferguson steals the show in Rogue Nation. Ferguson does a great job selling her character as someone who is able to match wit and skill with the team while constantly seesawing between friend and foe. It’s great to see her not just written in as an unnecessary pretty face, but as a character that wants in on the action and has their own motivations.

Rogue Nation has every ingredient that makes the Mission Impossible series so enjoyable. We have Tom Cruise doing his own stunts, gadgets, and wall-to-wall action. But what separates the series from the rest of the pack is its fascinating villains. Instead of bad guys with no personality or nameless/faceless organizations, we’re treated to an antihero with motivations that are easy to understand. It also helps that Sean Harris’ calm creepiness natrually makes him look like the leader of an evil organization.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the film of the summer. It has humor, action, and everything you want in a summer movie. It’s a 131 min reminder why this franchise has been around for so long.  Plus it has Tom Cruise running. Seriously, the movie opens with a scene that would be a finale in most action movies. What more do you want? This is the fifth installment in the series and it doesn’t feel like it’s losing steam. As long as Tom Cruise keeps making these movies, I’ll keep seeing them. I hope you do too.

Grade: A