Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Reuniting not only the cast for one more go-around, but also the duo of Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow), the fifth addition to the blockbusting Mission: Impossible franchise still manages to pack a mighty punch, as it soars high with great action and witty humor. As skeptical as I might have been at one point in time, weighing my opinions on whether this film would do justice to a fantastic fourth film with 2011's Ghost Protocol, in the end, Rogue Nation surpassed all my expectations and delivered something awesome once more. With a cast you can't help but love (even Alec Baldwin's snooty subordinate) and brilliant scenes of high-stakes action, this franchise may be one of the few good ones left in Hollywood's tight grasp.

After years of successful yet highly dangerous covert missions conducted by the IMF and their team of fearless agents, the organization is suddenly stripped of their ranks and disbanded. Leaving its agents in the dust and forgotten, a weary Ethan Hunt (Cruise) lurks in the shadows, conducting his own investigation into the so-called "Syndicate", a secret organization tasked with pulling off deadly terrorist attacks. Going his own way, Hunt suddenly finds himself on the hunt from the Syndicate, prompting him to call in his old team (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner), as well as enlist the aid of a mysterious ex-agent (Rebecca Ferguson), for help. Targeted not only by the deadly Syndicate, but also by the CIA and its top agent (Alec Baldwin), Hunt and his team must once more prevent global destruction, something which, for them, is quite far from impossible.   

After debating whether or not to spend my night at the movies trying out the poorly reviewed Fantastic Four reboot, I finally decided on checking out the latest installment in the famous series of stunts, explosions, and gadgetry. Even in my minor skepticism of how the fifth Mission: Impossible film might have turned out, I ended up once again coming out of the theater genuinely satisfied. A action-adventure from start-to-finish, with no-holds-barred thrills and superb action sequences, Rogue Nation exceeded my expectations and really surprised me, as I began to think this franchise might be dying off. Nevertheless, the fifth round not only brings back some familiar faces, from Simon Pegg's quirky comic relief Benji (however this time more serious than ever) to Ving Rhames' stern but sarcastic Luthor, but also takes the scenes of suspense to a whole new level. From close-corner motorcycle chases to swimming through giant fishbowls, one thing I knew going in was that the thrills definitely wouldn't disappoint.

A franchise built on high-stakes action and elaborate schemes of espionage, as well as its leading man's great charisma (and hair), the Mission: Impossible films have yet to deliver an installment I can't find enjoyable, at least in some way or another. From the 1996 hit that originally lit the fuse with a hot take on the Cold War era TV series to the next two sequels that had their own share of explosive action and lackluster plots, the franchise may have hit a few roadblocks along the way, but never failed to catch my attention. Following a dynamic fourth entry that proved, after 5 years, that the series was far from dead, and that the action may not be over till leading man Tom Cruise steps away (or worse), the franchise returned with Rogue Nation, and a hell of a lot more to show off. A franchise that has its clear flaws, and is praised mostly for its stunts and action (Thanks to the fearless Cruise), the M:I films nevertheless succeed time-after-time with nostalgic espionage and big-budget action. Whether the franchise can live long enough to see the end of James Bond or even Star Wars or not, you can guarantee the next time we see Cruise as Ethan Hunt, he'll be starring death in the face once more.   

Speaking of death, how the hell is Ethan Hunt not dead yet? I would ask the same about Tom Cruise, but I don't want to be morbid. Surviving explosions atop speeding trains, almost getting stabbed in the eye, getting in countless fist fights, scaling the tallest tower in the world, oh and holding his breath for 3+ minutes, you could say Hunt needs a day off. Ever since he lit the fuse back in '96, going on the run as a murder suspect, Hunt has put his life on the line at every turn, making the impossible truly appear possible. An action hero with enough wit and charm to keep himself kicking for 5+ films now, Hunt gets hit with the worst of it, all to our great pleasure and nail-biting. As gripping and non-stop as Hunt himself is, the action in these films never fail to keep you on the edge of your seat. Even if seeing Hunt get hit with everything from deadly terrorists to nuclear bombs (oh, and heartbreak of course) may not seem all that fun to him, it's a hell of a ride for the audience. As long as Tom Cruise keeps hanging off planes and jumping off buildings, and Hollywood doesn't stop paying him to do it, the action in these films will always feel as genuine and bat-sh*t crazy as they should. 

In the age of countless stunt doubles and action stars trading places on-screen to pull off the perfect stunt, one actor has remained dangling off planes and buildings all by himself, without the need for a stunt guy to take his fall. That guy, of course, would be Mr. Tom Cruise, the money-making face of this money-making franchise. A man committed to his craft, and dedicated to nearly killing himself every time, Cruise makes the impossible look very much possible on the big screen. And that of course doesn't come by just because of his physique, there's also his famous charm and charisma that aid him in doing the impossible. An actor known well among Hollywood, from his days as a witty pilot to his many dealings in nearly every action film out there, Cruise needs no introduction when it comes to selling his name for a movie. As for Rogue Nation, Cruise's fifth time at the reins of this monster franchise, he's basically how he always is, but it definitely feels like he might actually be aging now. Playing the witty and calculated Ethan Hunt, a master of espionage and top IMF agent once again, Cruise's style hasn't really changed all that much from Ghost Protocol, but nonetheless he still manages to bring fresh laughs and amazing stunts to the table. An actor I don't see stepping down from the Hollywood scene anytime soon, I expect we'll be seeing Mr. Hunt and his friends for at least a few more films in the future. Always a crowd-pleaser (at least on the silver screen), Cruise and his charisma may be one of the best things this franchise still has on quick supply.

Aside from the scene-stealing Cruise, the remaining cast is also quite brilliant, something we've come to expect from these films. Almost always a cast of unique individuals, each with their own skill set to bring to the table in this spy franchise, the team behind Hunt brings both laughs and pleasant surprises with each time we see them again. From the tech wizards of Benji (played by the witty and hilarious Simon Pegg) and Luthor (played by well-versed M:I veteran Ving Rhames once more) to the new members of the series, one thing the M:I franchise never fails at is delivering a fun cast to go along with its amazing action. While the cast may be quite similar to what it was in our last mission with Hunt and his team, nevertheless the actors definitely feel more at home with their characters now that they've been here a while.

As for the freshman cast members to join the franchise, we have many great surprises that make the film a lot more enjoyable, rather than just relying on the returning veterans and their talents. Beginning with the newest woman in Ethan Hunt's life, we have the alluring Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the mysterious ex-British intelligence agent Ilsa Faust. A fantastic addition to the franchise, Ferguson brings a brilliant mix of Bond girl wit and beauty and the bad-ass tendencies of your average female hero. Much like Charlize Theron's Furiosa did in Mad Max: Fury Road, Rebecca Ferguson steals the show in Rogue Nation, kicking ass and taking names with every back-stab or punch she throws our way. Very much a character I'd love to see once more in the series, possibly crossing paths with Hunt down the road again, the deadly Ilsa Faust is likely one of the best heroines of the year (Close behind Furiosa and maybe Melissa McCarthy's dirty-mouthed secret agent from Spy). 

Along with Alec Baldwin's worthy performance as the sarcastic yet serious CIA agent Hunley who tracks Hunt and his team, as well as the returning Jeremy Renner as the loyal yet scheming subordinate/secret agent Brandt, the final highlight of the cast would have to be the villain. Played by Prometheus actor Sean Harris, who ditches the red beard for a clean cut and some very villainous glasses, the villain of this film is probably the best of the franchise. Possibly more conniving than Jon Voight and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harris' rat-faced and remorseless terrorist also felt very Bond villain-like, making him near-perfect for this spy series. While his ultimate demise might not be as glamorous as others in Hollywood's history, it has just enough humorous irony to it to make it a worthy ending to the film. Definitely one of Hunt's most challenging foes, putting the agent's life at stake at nearly every turn and even pointing a gun at one of Ethan's most loyal allies, this villain may not the best in the business, but he does give the film a nice razor edge. 

Overall, if you're a fan of the franchise, or at least of fan of spy films, this one is a must-see. After a few decent entries this year in the spy genre, from the ultra-violent Kingsman to the ultra-vulgar Spy, Rogue Nation truly brings us back into the spy world, delivering another witty collection of fantastic espionage and heist action. A crowd-pleasing franchise that continues to soar with every new installment, Mission: Impossible, much like its leading man, may very well be immortal. Ending the summer with fast-paced action, a fun cast we're can't help but love, and more incredible stunts, this film kicks ass just as it always should. 

I gave this film an 8 out of 10 for its awesome and gripping action scenes, its dynamic cast from its aging hero to its newest bad-ass heroine, and its valiant stride to the top of the box-office as it delivers exactly what we wanted at the theater this summer. Also, that opera scene was kick-ass and suspenseful as hell!            

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