I’ve never been particularly into the Mission Impossible film franchise. Nothing against it, I stress, it just never really got me. Between tech that relies so heavily on “Because we say so,” that it might as well be magic and a lead character so unkillable that Wolverine would be calling BS, my interest just sort of waned. I never even saw part 4, and don’t have any immediate plans to rectify that
However, as I opined on twitter nearly a month ago, this summer has been overall pretty weak, and Rogue Nation has a pretty awesome trailer, so I was definitely open to being surprised. Plus Tom Cruise’s previous summer’s movie, Edge of Tomorrow, was pretty damned good overall. So maybe there’s some hope this movie can be good and jump in to save the summer at the last moment.
The plot, adapted from the famous…theme song of the same name (seriously, does anyone remember anything from the show aside from the theme?) is devoted, as always, to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who works for the Impossible Missions Force. After a mission, Hunt is captured by a mysterious group called the Syndicate and only manages to escape with the help of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
Unfortunately for Ethan, after IMF agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner) has been dragged in front of the Senate Oversight Committee by the CIA Director Huntley (Alec Badwin) and the IMF has been disbanded, so he’s disavowed and on his own. Six months later, Hunt is still on the trail of the Syndicate, with the help of his friend Benji (Simon Pegg), while Brandt is desperately trying to track him down alongside his other friend (Hunt only has 3 friends) Luther (Ving Rhames) to help him, before the CIA finds him.
That’s not really a very complicated or deep plot, and the movie isn’t particularly interested in injecting much in the way of depth or character into it. Maybe certain beats or character moments would feel richer if I’d seen part 4 (or could remember anything of 3 that wasn’t Phillip Seymour Hoffman) but I haven’t, and I don’t really feel like I’m missing much in the way of plot.
The movie’s only real attempt at depth involves some musing on how heartless the spy game the characters are in is, but its a theme that gets so little time outside the very beginning and the very end that when it shows up it feels abrupt. Part of this is the pacing, which doesn’t feel like it needs to slow down enough to establish much in the way of character relationship, jumping from scene to scene at a moment’s notice.
Of course, part of that issue might be the script, which I feel might be weaker than it appears at first glance. Not that it appears very strong, but it definitely appears better than it might otherwise due to a mostly great cast. The big standout is Simon Pegg, who I suspect might be annoying on paper. But he makes it work, elevating what might be otherwise lame attempts at humor or tension breaking with fantastic delivery and perfect timing.
Close behind him is Jeremy Renner. He doesn’t get a ton of screentime (in fact he spends most of the first and second act offscreen) but when he’s there, his killer timing and resigned “Fed up with everyone’s bulls**t,” persona do a lot to make him an entertaining screen presence. Cruise is also reasonably solid as the action lead (he’s been doing this for a while, he knows how to make it work) and while Ving Rhames isn’t in the movie much, he’s funny when he is and it’s always nice to see him.
The weak points in the cast are pretty crucial ones, but never bad enough to be deal breakers. Rebecca Fergurson never gives me much in the way of a handle on her character, and the camera treats her far too much like a prop (although the first part could be because the movie keeps trying to play coy with her allegiance for no reason). Also disappointing is Sean Harris as the villain, as he’s a completely boring villain; We never get much in the way of motivation or backstory for him, or even where he gets his funding and resources, so he can’t help but be dull.
But, you’ll be happy to know, the movie does deliver where it counts. Most of the action beats are quite enjoyable and well put together. Director Christopher McQuarrie hasn’t done much in the directing field that was good or memorable (although he was a writer on both Edge of Tomorrow and The Usual Suspects) but he definitely steps up his game here. The late second act heist and chase are both a ton of fun, as is the solid assassination foiling at the end of the first act, and the action on the whole is well directed and inventive.
Of course there are still some hiccups in that area. For example, the film gets what is easily its best visual out of the way in the cold opening (the scene with the plane taking off with Cruise outside, that’s been in all the trailers) and as a result, everything feels like a bit of a step down. In addition, while the first and second act all have good escalation, the big finale is a bit of a letdown. This combines with a bunch of thudding exposition in the third act and an over 2 hour runtime to make the movie feel overlong and stretched thin.
Still, those are mostly minor quibbles, or things that I’m able, or willing at least, to overlook. Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation is not a great movie, but its a good enough to be going on with. In a summer where all the other major sequels and remakes (aside from Mad Max) have me rolling my eyes and sighing through my teeth, I guess that’s enough.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’s decided that the CIA Director is Jack Donaghy after leaving the private sector.
– good action
– great cast
– pretty funny at times (thank you Simon Pegg)
– feels a little too long
– lame villain
– pacing and structure are awkward