The Mission Impossible franchise has been getting better with age, but it has still struggled to find its voice. By changing directors with every installment – Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) takes the reigns this time around – the series hasn’t established itself as a substantial film series outside of some good old-fashioned spy fun.
Rogue Nation, the latest effort, does a fine job of building on the foundation laid by the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, and is brimming with spectacular action sequences. But despite tight cinematography and good supporting characters, the plot is inconsistent and the pace is dodgy, resulting in an uneven, albeit enjoyable film.
The problem isn’t the characters. Tom Cruise is charismatic as ever as Ethan Hunt, but he’s not the best part of the film by a mile. Whereas his other leading roles he tends to do most of the heavy lifting, such as Edge of Tomorrow or Oblivion, Rogue Nation feels less like a one-man show as any of the other previous films in the series. His crewmates Benji (Simon Pegg), IMF executives Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Hunley (Alec Baldwin) all match Cruise in charm and have their fair share of fun lines. But its new addition Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the elusive Ilsa Faust, who runs the show this time. There’s no forced romance, but there remains natural chemistry between her and Hunt. Their mutual admiration for each other allows them to get the job done and the writing still makes time to flesh out her character.
The plot of Rogue Nation is a bit uneven, with a forgettable villain who plans to create an “Anti-IMF” legion of terrorists. Hunt must prove to IMF that the Syndicate is real, all while going on the lam. I never get too invested in the plots of the MI films, I’m not exactly sure what it is. Spy thrillers usually grab me instantly, but Rogue Nation spends the first thirty minutes getting the promotional stunt out of the way and reacquainting us with the gang. This would be fine except for the fact that there’s nothing of interest nary any plot development until a terrific opera house scene ⅓ of the way in. While the action is rock solid with some outstanding choreography and sense of place, the pacing leaves much to be desired.
And damn are the stunts good. We’ve all seen the plane stunt many times in the trailer, but that isn’t even the best in the film. A beautiful highway chase sequence that could rival Mad Max and a stunning heist that involves a water chamber are just two of the many great sequences in Rogue Nation. Maybe that’s how we should be reading these films. They’re not tense espionage thrillers like Bond but rather fun bits of escapism to beat the summer heat. The plot may not sing, but the performances to do and the breezy action will keep your heart beating.