It takes a certain amount of bravado to open a film with the centrepiece action sequence that has been teased throughout all the marketing material. It is that same air of confidence that permeates throughout Rogue Nation, the latest edition of the espionage based Mission: Impossible franchise. The swagger is a little more relaxed this time around as the series no longer needs to reinvent itself. Finally comfortable in its own skin, the film gleefully embraces the parameters of the world it establishes.
Similar to the Fast & Furious franchise, it took Mission: Impossible four films to figure out what it truly wanted to be. Ghost Protocol breathed new life into the series by bringing back the sense of team based fun that the other films were missing. While the previous films stroked Tom Cruise’s star status the way one delicately caresses a prized cat, Ghost Protocol realized that audiences have more fun when others are allowed to play in Cruise’s over-the-top action sandbox.
It is this same sensibility that director Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote the underrated Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, has brought to Rogue Nation. While the sight of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging off of a jet plane is an effective way to get audiences into the cinema, it is actually the supporting players, most notably Rebecca Ferguson, who will keep them there.
In a summer where Mad Max became a beacon of hope for strong cinematic heroines, it is fitting that Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust single-handedly steals Rogue Nation out from under the seemingly ageless Cruise. Faust is the heart and soul of this action packed film. She not only saves Hunt far more often than he saves her; but also proves to be just as efficient in combat as her male counterparts. Furthermore, Faust perfectly encapsulates the complex nature of loyalty and duty within a world where even the best spies can become disposable commodities.
If the themes of secret agents being used and ruthlessly thrown aside by their governments sounds vaguely reminiscent to Skyfall, it is clearly no fluke. Instead of trying to break away from the classic tropes of the James Bond franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation embraces its inspiration and subsequently solidifies its own place within the spy genre.
The premise this time around involves Ethan Hunt embarking on a quest to uncover a secret terrorist organization known as the Syndicate. Responsible for numerous mass murders, and the recent economic down turn, the organization has been lurking in the shadows under the rule of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). The Syndicate has been so effective in their operations that not even the top brass of the C.I.A., including Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), believe they actually exist. Tired of the reckless global destruction that Hunt’s IMF team has regularly caused, Hunley makes it his mission to deactivated IMF and bring in Hunt by any means necessary.
Determined to expose the Syndicate, a rogue Hunt travels the globe searching for clues that will lead him to the mysterious organization. It is only when Hunt encounters Faust, a former British agent who is now working with the Syndicate, does he truly begin to understand Lane’s true intentions.
Filled with more than its fair share of action set pieces, Rogue Nation is everything audiences look for in a summer blockbuster. Regardless of whether displaying an elaborate underwater break-in or a high octane car chase through the streets of Morocco, McQuarrie ensures that an adequate amount of humour is frequently injected into these moments. This sense of ease not only helps to make the outlandish stunts easy to digest, but is also provides a refreshing sense of fun to a genre that has taken itself far too seriously in recent years.
Following the path that Brad Bird laid out in Ghost Protocol, Christopher McQuarrie evokes plenty of style to go along with the breezy fun. He immerses the viewer into the colourful and cultured world of double-crosses and near death situations in an engaging way. Despite being the fifth film in the series, Rogue Nation’s greatest accomplishment is its ability to make the murky world of governmental espionage exciting once again. While it may not offer any sort of deep commentary on the current state of global terrorism, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation succeeds in giving audiences the sense of fun and adventure they want from the franchise.