The Mission: Impossible franchise always seemed like James Bond’s louder, bigger, and more explosive brother. It has always been a series bent on pushing the limit of spy related action, opting for thrilling action over nuanced story and characters. Though if you are going into Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation for Oscar worthy dramatics and characters then you need to reassess your movie going experiences. That being said, the question is with already three major action blockbusters (Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World, and Ant-Man) does Rouge Nation stand out? Yes and no. While the movie brings a healthy amount of laughs and action, there is really nothing special about it.
The series has always attempted a sense of continuity, even if other installments and relationships are simply hinted at. Enter Rogue Nation, a movie very much about the sins of the past, specifically everything IMF (Impossible Mission Force) has done. Was it all for the greater good? It’s an interesting idea, given the sometimes awe inspiring level of destruction Cruise and his team cause. CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) spear heads the charge to try and successfully, dismantle IMF. This spurs protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to continue his pursuit of The Syndicate, a rogue collection of former spies bent on crippling the world. Hunley is bent on capturing Hunt and his now AWOL team of William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther Stickell (Ving Rames), and the always hilarious Benji (Simon Pegg); as he is convinced there is no Syndicate. This makes for a slightly more interesting story, as it’s no longer just bad versus good.
Yet, the idea of the CIA joining the fray is sadly underused throughout the middle portion of the film. They really only seem to exist when the plot calls for it and come off as forced into the story. At a certain point, I would have believed the CIA just gave up on chasing Ethan all together. Hunley is never explored in any depth and comes off as a one note antagonist throughout the entire film. It’s a shame, given the incredibly intriguing notion of a three way convergence between Ethan, the CIA, and the Syndicate. And yet we are given a very simplistic version of that dynamic, Rogue Nation coming off as afraid of any complexities. This concept goes on for the rest of the story, as nothing comes off with any sense of depth. Everything Rogue Nation has to say is at face value. You wont be coming out of this with any burning questions or truly memorable moments. Which is a shame given how amazing their last installment Ghost Protocol was.
That isn’t to say Rogue Nation is bad, just incredibly by the books. As it’s clear the film is refusing to budge in any other direction, preferring the safety of its action blockbuster blanket instead. Speaking of action, their are certainly enough fun moments to keep viewers on the edge of their seats; specifically an underwater heist and an excellent car chase sequence. No shaky camera movements here, thank god, as everything is filmed competently. However, for a movie about an Anti-IMF the villains are pretty bland to say the least. In fact, they are by far the worst thing about this movie.
Main baddie Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) couldn’t be more boring if he tried. Each piece of dialogue he just chews through without any charm, menace, or power. Lane is a terrible villain, who while he does provide a formidable challenge for Hunt, never seems to match him in anything else but intelligence. This goes for everyone one of the evil spies, losing any sense of dynamic that they might have had. With cool nicknames like “The Bone Doctor” you’d expect more interesting villains, instead of just another thug with a cool nickname. Rogue Nation seems to never want to elaborate on anything about its antagonists besides that “They are bad people who do bad stuff.” The protagonists however, preform far more competently this time around. Pegg steals the show this time around, delivering hilarious comments and jokes throughout. New comer Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) stood out as the deepest character, offering a wealth of interesting character moments and controversy throughout. Finally, despite what you may think of Tom “Lord and Savior of Scientology” Cruise, the man is one of the best action stars in the business. Just as good as always, Cruise still proves himself as an interesting lead.
In the end, I walked away from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation entertained. It offered big bangs, great fist fights, and some amusing moments. Sure, it lacks the depth and message that Mad Max: Fury Road might have or even the set pieces of Ghost Protocol; but it proves a fun distraction. Recommended for any action fan or someone still trying to wash away the bitter taste of Pixels or The Vatican Tapes. This is a mission you should choose to accept.
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.