6 out of 10
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
The IMF (“Impossible Mission Force”—they really call themselves that!) has been disbanded by the government and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is forced to go rogue with his colleagues Benji, Luther and William (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner) when a new undercover organization called The Syndicate threatens the globe with a mysterious woman named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) seemingly playing both sides.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the third spy movie of the year (of six!) and it has the misfortune of following two excellent comedies that spoof all the usual tropes and clichés that come with the spy genre. The “Mission: Impossible” franchise has worked hard to set itself apart from the Bournes and the Bonds, changing directors with each movie, so it’s a little disappointing that with the likes of McQuarrie and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce steering the wheel, it ends up being far less original and unique than one might hope.
The opening sequence of Ethan Hunt trying to get into a plane that’s taking off is pretty exciting in the same way as some of his other stunts from the franchise, but after that, it never seems like McQuarrie is trying hard enough to get away from comparisons, not only to the Bond franchise but even earlier “Mission: Impossible” installments. One presumes it might be hard not to fall into formula, especially when you keep bringing back the same characters from previous movies, but it’s more obvious the fifth time around.
That wouldn’t be as big an issue with “Rogue Nation” if it didn’t feel like every single aspect of the movie is something we’ve seen before, from the moment the CIA disbands the IMF and then starts chasing after Hunt (like in all four Bourne movies), while at the same time, he’s trying to stop another group of rogue agents calling themselves The Syndicate from committing the type of terrorist acts spy movie baddies have been committing for decades. (It’s never explained why agents might get so disgruntled by their jobs they would turn evil, but hey… movies.) You might think that Hunt would actually tell the CIA about the Syndicate and get their help in stopping them, but then there wouldn’t be a movie.
The similarities to previous spy movie plots doesn’t end there as even the action scenes seem to be sampled from other sources like a car and motorcycle chase through the streets of Morocco, a location we’ve seen in recent Bond and Bourne movies, even to Hunt’s fight amidst the rigging high above an opera, which might have been exciting or suspenseful if we hadn’t seen a similar sequence in Quantum of Solace just seven years ago. And what would an action movie be without a car chase through a winding mountain road? We get one of those, too.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, because there’s at least a little innovation like that initial stunt involving Cruise hanging from a plane, but otherwise, the only thing that seems even partially original is an underwater scene in which Hunt tries to help Benji hack into a database to get information that might stop the Syndicate. Mind you, that’s resorting to the exact same formula of every “Mission: Impossible” movie in which Hunt needs to break into an impregnable security system to get information. The stakes are high but the outcome is predictable.
It’s more of a shame there isn’t a woman on the IMF team as in past movies—both Paula Patton and Maggie Q were a lot of fun. Instead, we get Rebecca Ferguson as a bad-ass double agent who can hold her own against the toughest of assailants whether on foot or motorcycle. She’s cool, but her loyalties shift so much, often on a dime, as she saves Ethan one minute and tries to kill him the next. There’s very little rhyme or reason to her motivations, but that’s because it’s a classic femme fatale situation where one constantly thinks it will lead to romance. But again, we may only think that because it’s been done in at least 2/3rds of the James Bond movies. You kind of have to feel bad for Ferguson since she’s probably going the same route as every other actress who appeared in the previous four movies – only one who has ever returned (and only for a cameo, at that).
The underwater sequence is not the first time where you have to suspend disbelief for one of these movies, but there’s a certain point where you have to laugh at how ridiculous things are starting to get all because Hunt didn’t just tell the CIA or other agencies what was going on.
There are a couple of saving graces, like the humor Simon Pegg brings, but even that takes some time to warm up to compared to the last couple of movies, since his character starts being overused, his antics becoming more the center of attention, maybe because Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has barely evolved since the first movie.
The casting of Alec Baldwin as the CIA head who instigates the shut down of the IMF and the hunt for… um… Hunt also seems like an odd choice, maybe because he really doesn’t do much to much to define his character, unlike Sean Harris, who is chilling as Syndicate head Solomon Lane. It also doesn’t help that Baldwin previously played Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, and then you put him in lots of scenes with The Bourne Legacy’s Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and you’re reminded of far more distinctive uses of the spy thriller genre.
McQuarrie’s secret weapons are cinematographer Robert Elswit and his long-time composer Joe Kraemer, who both do excellent work that separates “Rogue Nation” from other summer movie fare, but it’s still not enough to forgive the fact that they’re liberally sampling other films in order to create the perfect spy movie mash-up.
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.
The Bottom Line:
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.[Gallery not found]