Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: July 31st
At its best (either the first, the third or the fourth, depending on who you ask), the Mission: Impossible series is a modern highlight in the action genre. Even at its worst (the second, regardless of who you ask), it’s still dependably fun. The introduction of a new director with each installment helps the series continually hit the refresh button, highlighting with Ghost Protocol’s near $700 million box office take. This time, under the gaze of Christopher McQuarrie – writer of The Usual Suspects, director of Jack Reacher – Rogue Nation feels like a Best Of compilation of the franchise to date, representing the kinetically giddy highs while simultaneously failing to have a personality of its own.
Kicking off with that attention grabbing side-of-the-plane sequence, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and co (Pegg, Renner, Rhames) discover that there’s a shadow group known as The Syndicate, consisting of former intelligence agents from around the world, with nothing but destruction on their collective minds. While trying to bring them down, Hunt’s IMF team is trying to be brought down by Alec Baldwin’s CIA agent, rendering them all rogue and potentially traitors (for what must be the seventy-sixth time in the series).
There’s a checklist to each M:I movie at this point, and for better or worse, Rogue Nation adheres to it a little too strictly. Rebecca Ferguson (not the X-Factor star, but the other one) is great as a kick-ass duplicitous double-agent, keeping up the strong female contingent in these films to date, but Sean Harris is underwhelming as the head of The Syndicate, and the reasoning behind his evil-doings doesn’t hold up under the weight of even the lightest scrutiny, in line with the series’ mostly weak villains. The incredibly tense underwater heist scene is fantastic, while the protracted bike chase through Morocco will likely be counted in future Best Ever Car Chases listicles, but both occur with still an hour of the film left to go, holding over that climaxing-too-soon problem that plagued the third and fourth entries.
Cruise is obviously still having a ball playing Hunt, getting to dangerously throw himself around exotic locales every few years while maintaining that smirking grin that keeps him on this side of likeable, but whereas it now feels like he’s using these films as an outlet to do ridiculous things – get blasted into a car by a drone missile, hang off the tallest building in the world, tie himself to the outside of a plane mid takeoff – these singular scenes aren’t enough to warrant the Mission: Impossible series continuing on its current course without a bit of a switch-up. Not that the IMF should undergo a Pierce Brosnan-to-Daniel Craig change in tone, but there’s very few surprises in store here. It’s perfectly enjoyable, confidently made, but lacking in any kind of originality or particular verve. For all the fun it provides, perhaps the real impossible mission is for the series to start thinking outside of the box.