Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

I was a big fan of the original Mission: Impossible series.  Of course, I'm not old enough to have seen it when it was first on, but the repeats played quite a bit when I was a teenager.  That was about the age to first encounter it, because the show largely focused on subterfuge and plot twists rather than major action sequences.  I'm sure a lot of that had to do with budget, but sometimes being forced to think around corners when writing can be a wonderful thing.

I remembered the series fondly and was excited when the first movie came out, especially since it was directed by Brian De Palma.  Unfortunately, it was a big-budget mess.  A few good set pieces, but nothing much.  The only reason I saw the second movie was because John Woo directed it, and I find myself in the minority of people who really like that film on its own, even if it is largely a remake of Hitchcock's Notorious mashed with Woo's previous movie, The Killers.  I never saw the third one (thought I did, but turns out I didn't), but quite enjoyed the fourth.  Despite his Scientology leanings, Tom Cruise is a fun actor to watch, especially since he does many of his own stunts.  And, despite how lackluster the original was, by the fourth movie Cruise was turning Ethan Hunt into an American version of James Bond.

And that is how the series stands as we get into the fifth movie, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.  By this point we are getting a steady series of characters, a major stunt from cruise each movie and, despite it being largely action-oriented, a bit more of the actual feel from the original series.

This time around Ethan Hunt (Cruise) goes up against the Syndicate, an organization that he begins to uncover in the previous movie, Ghost Protocol.  However, U.S. intelligence thinks that the Syndicate is a phantom that Hunt has invented to distract from the fact that the IMF team has caused a number of international relations disasters over the years.  CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) manages to get the MI team shut down and orders that Hunt be arrested or killed if necessary.

Meanwhile, Hunt finds out that the Syndicate is not only real, but that it compromised IMF.  He is captured, but his escape is orchestrated by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a British Intelligence agent who has managed to infiltrate the Syndicate and get close to its leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).  With the aid of fellow IMF veterans Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Faust and Hunt attempt to retrieve information from a high-security facility in Morocco that will lead to answers about where the Syndicate came from, their plans and their funding.  Faust steals the information for herself, turning it over to her boss Atlee (Simon McBurney) in MI6, only to find out that her own agency plans on hanging her out to dry.

With international authorities hot on their trail and the Syndicate's terrorist actions escalating, Hunt and his team must expose the organization as a legitimate threat as well as do what they can to stop Lane despite being disowned by their own country.

Supposedly, there wasn't really a plot when Rogue Nation went into production, but rather a set of action scenes in mind that they decided to tie together.  Despite the fact they ultimately came up with a good plot to hang them on, this is still quite apparent.  In the end, when you have Cruise himself hanging off the door of an airplane, a tense underwater sequence and a director like Christopher McQuarrie who knows how to the keep the action going, this can be excused.

It is also nice to see the team coming together a bit better, lessening the idea of Hunt as a super hero and presenting the IMF more as a unit.  It was the full team effort that lead to success in the original series, and it is nice to see this element return.  I also quite like the climax, as it does rely largely on trickery rather than a typical action scene.

Despite its lackluster beginnings I can definitely say that the Mission: Impossible franchise has become one of the better modern action series, so much that they are trying to stretch the Jason Bourne movies even further in response.  Action films themselves have been on the wane in recent decades unless you like CGI-ridden messes or the car fantasies of Fast and Furious, and it is nice to see a series that is providing thrills and intelligence once again.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
Time: 131 minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

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