There once was a spy on the front
Who could save the whole world with a stunt.
He often was hunted
But did as he wanted,
For no one could match Ethan Hunt.
MPAA rating: PG-13
At this point, I’m not surprised that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is yet another great addition to this series. What distinguishes it, though, is how it finally recognizes the value of continuity, something I put great value on in both TV show and film franchise. From the very first scene, we get Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) bantering with Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) in three different locations, only for all three to be dumbfounded at Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt’s latest death-defying stunt to save the day. It’s a perfect combination of this series’ strengths, and for once, the audience already knows everyone involved, like catching up with old friends.
That only continues when Brandt is called by the FBI director (Alec Baldwin) to answer for the IMF’s riskier plays in Ghost Protocol, followed by Ethan being ambushed by the mysterious organization known as the Syndicate (namedropped at the end of the previous movie). Beyond the refreshing continuity, it’s also nice to make new friends, and the film quickly charts its own course with the introduction of Rebecca Ferguson as a mysterious agent undercover in the Syndicate. With Ethan wanted by both the Syndicate and the FBI, he must rely on his usual daring and teamwork to outsmart the Syndicate’s Moriarty-like mastermind (Sean Harris).
Rogue Nation really shines through its stars. Cruise is as cleverly fearless as ever, while Ferguson maintains an arm’s-length chemistry with him as her allegiances constantly seem to shift. Meanwhile, Pegg, Rhames, and Renner are ideal companions for Cruise, particularly Renner’s second guessing of one of Cruise’s risky decisions (which seemed ripped right out of the second National Treasure, by the way). When they cite their loyalty and friendship, it means something since we’ve gotten to see it develop over two-plus movies, and Christopher McQuarrie’s script and direction highlight how well they all work together.
My VC liked Rogue Nation better than Ghost Protocol, placing it just shy of the third film, while I tend to view the last three movies as tied, just for different reasons. The third film had the best villain and the most emotional stakes, the fourth film had the best plot and some of the coolest action scenes, and Rogue Nation has the best mixture of everything this series does well and possibly the best script, including some outstanding “gotcha” moments that felt so good.
That being said, I do feel that this one is just a little more generic than the others. The best and most original action scene is Tom Cruise’s minutes-long foray into an underwater data tank, but much of the rest consists of foot chases, car chases, motorcycle chases, and fistfights, which are all executed masterfully but can’t quite escape that feeling of déjà vu. Likewise, a tense scene in an opera kept me guessing all the way through, but also reminded me of a similar scene in Quantum of Solace. Writing this review a couple weeks after watching it, I already feel like this will be the entry that remains in my memory the least.
I hate to sound so negative, because Rogue Nation is still a great movie. It’s just that, with three great entries in a row now, I’m starting to have to nitpick to figure out where they rank in this series. I’m happy to group it in with its two predecessors, and I’m more excited than ever to finally see Fallout, now that I’ve completed my catch-up marathon of prior films. I’m especially glad to see that the villain’s open ending in Rogue Nation will get a continuation in Fallout, but I’m also rather disappointed that Jeremy Renner is nowhere to be found in the cast list. Based on its glowing reviews, though, I still hope that Fallout will be the finale to this marathon for which I’ve been hoping.
Best line: (Benji, sarcastically) “Join the IMF! See the world! On a monitor. In a closet.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining the previous two)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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