When you think fifth installments of successful film franchises it’s not unreasonable for your mind to wander to the examples of horrid fifth entries. “A Good Day to Die Hard”, “Friday the 13th Part V”, “Scary Movie 5”, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” are just examples of just how bad a series can get by the fifth film (this is of course not a hard and fast rule). “Mission Impossible” however has only been getting better and better. M:I-2 represents the lowest point in the series but M:I-3 got the series back on the track. The series highest moments only arriving four years ago with “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”. Unlike the majority of fifth installments, “Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation” even tops the last movie cementing itself as the best of the increasingly improving and upper echelon spy series.
With the IMF’s recent record of reckless actions in the field, the Impossible Mission Force has been shut down and absorbed into the CIA. Ethan Hunt had been tracking an organization known as the Syndicate for months and won’t compromise his mission. Hunt goes Rouge and on the run as William Brandt tries to keep the CIA off his back. Hunt and Benji continue to track this terror organization that always seems one step ahead of them.
“Rouge Nation” blends terrific fun summer blockbuster mayhem with smart scripting and storytelling. You could make the argument that some films in the series prefer to let story take a back seat to instead focus on its awe inspiring action (“Mission Impossible 2” is hugely guilty of weak story telling). “Rouge Nation” is actually really smart. No, it’s not “The Godfather” and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team going Rouge from the government is nothing new to the series. But this film is able to introduce new elements to familiar ones and keep things moving at a pitch perfect pace.
There is a blending together of many different elements throughout the film. Of course this still feels very much like a “Mission Impossible” film but writer/director Christopher McQuarrie brings in shades of other similar theme properties. There are certain characters that feel like they would be able to fit right into a Bond film (believe it or not I’m not talking about the villain) and then there is other moments that will remind you of Sherlock Holmes stories. Ethan Hunt’s relationship with the chief villain plays out like a Sherlock Holmes versus Professor Moriarty. Hunt meets his equal. With the antagonist being able to stay a step ahead of him matching wits and hatching plans that trip Hunt and his team. Whether or not McQuarrie meant to have this play out this way is unclear. But it all works under the context of “Mission Impossible” film.
The “Mission Impossible” franchise has had a history of weak villains. While there was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character in M:I-3, the rest of the series have been devoid of compelling villains. As much as I liked “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” the weakest aspect of that film was the villain. “Rouge Nation” though makes up for that in a big way.
Sean Harris plays Solomon Lane. A methodic and calculated former special agent gone rouge with the rest of the organization known as the Syndicate. Soft spoken but unsettling, Harris is arguably as good as Hoffman’s character in M:I-3. The Syndicate could be this series Spectre (the arch nemesis of James Bond), if the series continues on with them. Hopefully the franchise will at the very least learn from this film and Harris’s character (who actually has written in some good motivation for his actions) and provide more bad guys like him.
No “Mission Impossible” film would be complete without a group of big action and suspense pieces. And “Rouge Nation” has no shortage of them. Everyone remembers the Dubai sequence from “Ghost Protocol” (where Cruise actually hangs out of the world’s biggest tower), “Rouge Nation” has about 3 or 4 sequences that’ll be locked into your mind. There is of course the opening where Tom Cruise performs another crazy stunt by strapping himself to the side of a giant military airplane as it takes off (but that’s not even the most impressive).
There is a tense Opera sequence that director Christopher McQuarrie calmly, slowly and expertly ratchets up the tension level to heights that’ll make your heart beat and your face sweat. McQuarrie is able to compliment that scene with great hand to hand combat fights and a car chase that turns into a thrilling motorcycle chase. Not to mention the incredible underwater sequence and the thoughtful and well thought out finale. This has enough big moments in here to fill two movies with.
The biggest newcomer to the cast is Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson plays the Syndicate agent (that may or not be on their side) IIsa. Ferguson is beautiful but cunning. She is a badass and you buy her as one as well. This will be her breakout performance in the action realm, she fits right alongside with Tom Cruise and even, in some moments, out shines him. She is the best Bond girl that was never a Bond girl. That’s the highest form of compliment I can really bestow upon her.
Returning of course is the face of the franchise Tom Cruise. Cruise once again excels doing incredible stunts and staying very consistent with his character. He keeps the super spy grounded and never becoming a caricature of the type of role he is suppose to be playing. He may be getting old but he is honestly becoming better as he becomes older and older (must be that scientology juice). He can’t play this role forever, that would be impossible (see what I did there?). But hopefully he can put in a few more of these before handing the reigns off to someone else (Jeremy Renner perhaps?) .
Returning is the wonderfully talented Simon Pegg. He has become a new staple to the franchise these past 3 films and I really hope he continues. Pegg is his best ever in this film with sharp and comedic one liners but is also able to be more than just the comic relief. He is believable as a field agent and is great in the heavier dramatic moments.
“Rouge Nation” also brings back Jeremy Renner from “Ghost Protocol”. Smartly McQuarrie weaves together different roles for him on both the action front and also the CIA office fronts. I wish Renner was utilized a bit more but I suppose his smaller but still significant role was due to “Avengers” filming and hopefully Renner’s role with the series only grows from here. Ving Rhames also comes back in a much bigger role then his small one scene in “Ghost Protocol”.
This is without a doubt the best in the franchise thus far. When you look to see what summer blockbusters are capable of being, “Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation” is the answer you should be looking for. Fun, thrilling, action packed, smartly written and directed; everything that “Rouge Nation” is and what “Mission Impossible” should be. Tom Cruise is already talking that “Mission Impossible 6” is under development and will be coming to us soon. Part of me wants them to wait and take their time but I selfishly want to see the next one very soon after what is one of the best films of the summer.