Clearly, the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) is doing something right.
For a franchise that is entering its fifth outing – and with no well-written novels as a source material – the Mission: Impossible series has been remarkably consistent at producing good movies. An even rarer feat for the action genre, one must add.
But then again, this consistency is a double-edged sword. Because as great as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is to watch, it does not feel like anything ground-breaking or that we have not really seen before.
MINI-SPOILER MARK: Minor plot details discussed beyond this point. No major spoilers revealed.
Just as IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) encounters a deadly rogue organisation known as the Syndicate, the IMF is dissolved and its remaining operatives – including Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – are absorbed into the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). With the advice of Brandt, Hunt goes rogue in order to keep investigating the Syndicate. In response, CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who does not believe the Syndicate exists, focuses the agency’s efforts on pursuing Hunt.
With the help of Benji, Hunt tracks down the Syndicate and comes face to face with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an MI6 double-agent trying to gain the trust of Syndicate leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and infiltrate the organisation. As Hunt and Benji work with Faust, her intentions prove to be suspicious, and Lane increasingly establishes himself as a mastermind that cannot be beaten.
With Rogue Nation, the Mission: Impossible franchise continues to do what it does best. This mission, should you choose to accept it, delivers an action-packed adventure with plenty of slickly-choreographed fight and chase scenes, perhaps some of the best of the year. As expected of the series, the movie also has its creative, nail-biting sequences that thrill the way most action movies can only aspire to. Rogue Nation is an opportunity that action fans and adrenaline junkies cannot pass up on.
Ferguson‘s Ilsa Faust is a strong addition to the series, providing a certain amount of intrigue with her somewhat dubious intentions. It is Faust rather than the Syndicate that is the movie’s central enigma. Sure, she shows plenty of skin (this is a guy’s movie, after all), but she also packs as much of a punch with her combat prowess and confidence.
Rogue Nation also boasts one of the smartest plots in the franchise. It features so many twists and turns along the way (believe us, there are many) that it occasionally feels like it is edging towards a detective story. Lane is certainly not the most terrifying villain in the franchise, but the film does orchestrate a showdown that elevates the glory in pursuing him. This is one example where action, rather than plot, makes the movie better than it should have been.
There are not many significant complaints to hurl at Rogue Nation in and of itself. Faults include the somewhat insincere insertion of CIA employee Lauren (Zhang Jingchu). While commercially obligatory (we get it; there is a very large market that Hollywood wants to tap into), the Chinese actress’ character is completely redundant. Thankfully, so brief is Lauren’s appearance that we more or less forget that she was ever there.
The movie also does little with its CIA premise. The beginning of the film makes abundantly clear that the agency is after Hunt’s head, but the CIA more or less disappears for the rest of the movie. Save for occasional reminders, we never really feel that an entire intelligence agency is on Hunt’s tail. But then again, Hunt is so busy with more important issues that we share his willingness to let this matter slide. A little.
Rogue Nation is by and large a solid effort. But in the wake of Brad Bird’s phenomenal Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this fifth instalment feels simultaneously impressive and unimpressive. There is no denying that the action is great and the plot is commendably written, but Rogue Nation feels a little less memorable than the unforgettable action scenes featured in its predecessors (particularly Ghost Protocol). If we were to compare all of the franchise’s most famous moments, Rogue Nation‘s action (save for one major scene) would not rank very highly, even though they are all well put together.
In the end, this is not the franchise’s finest or most memorable outing, but only because the Mission: Impossible films have been especially good as of late. Rogue Nation commendably meets the lofty expectations set by its forebears, but it does not raise them.
Rating: 3.5/5 (TALK-o-meter: “Good, not great.”)