“One day you’re going to take it too far”, tech geek and IMG agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) warns unstoppable operative Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation. He may as well be sending a stiff warning to the long-lived franchise as a whole, which has grown well beyond its roots as simply a remake of the hit TV series. While the first film had the team deep in a fairly complex operation involving a number of moving parts, subsequent chapters have centered around Hunt pulling off increasingly insane stunts. And with Cruise pushing his 53-year-old body to the limit for every death-defying spectacle, Mission: Impossible has grown into a true thrill-a-minute event, and fans certainly won’t leave this one disappointed.
Basically, Mission: Impossible is a bunch of insane stunts with an extremely loose plot holding them together, and ‘Rogue Nation’ may be the weakest narrative of the bunch. However, the action is out of this world, and they don’t waste any time getting to the first major set piece with Hunt holding on to a soaring jet plane for dear life. And that’s before the plot properly kicks in when the IMF is disavowed by the government (again!) and a shadowy terrorist unit known as The Syndicate steps in to fill the void with acts of wanton destruction. Hunt, who has been taken down by the Syndicate’s top baddies (Sean Harris), escapes torture with the aid of a gorgeous double-triple-quadruple agent Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who proves to be more than his equal from a physical and mental aspect. If Hunt is always one step ahead of everyone else in the game of espionage chess, Faust is looking forward a few moves, as well.
So what’s the Syndicate’s big master plan? It doesn’t really matter; but it requires Hunt to survive some kind of giant whirlpool Sarlaac Pit thing, prevent the assassination of a high-ranking government official, and tear through the city on a motorcycle, literally shredding until he’s parallel to the street. McQuarrie has written some really good films, from The Usual Suspects to Edge of Tomorrow, but as a director he’s never been known for being flashy. ‘Rogue Nation’ changes that in a big way with slick editing and truly brilliant stunt choreography, aided by beautiful cinematography by Robert Elswit. While the plane and underwater sequences are the kind designed to melt your eyeballs with sheer awesome spectacle it’s in the subtler notes of the opera house fight scene that the film really shines.
It’s been interesting to watch the bond that has formed between Cruise and McQuarrie over the years, but it has been a benefit to both and isn’t likely to end anytime soon. While the screenplay McQuarrie co-wrote gets a little too serious and the final showdown is totally arbitrary, for much of the film he hits the hyper-stylized mark. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation should be a little bit silly and ridiculous; these are people with unimaginable gadgets and weapons and can seemingly do anything under the sun. Pegg, the returning Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, and new addition Alec Baldwin, are basically along for comedic support and most of it works.
Naturally, Cruise is the glue that keeps all of this together. Let’s be honest, no American actor puts their body on the line to entertain his fans more than Cruise does. Period. Remember a couple of years ago when it seemed that Cruise was about to be replaced by Renner? Those rumors went away the moment audiences gawked at Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. There is no Mission: Impossible without Cruise, and he’s really taken this franchise and made it his own. Also making an unforgettable impact in her first major film role is Rebecca Ferguson. She more than holds her own opposite Cruise, showing an acrobatic prowess that is only matched by the striking visual impression she leaves. Female characters don’t typically last long in the Mission: Impossible universe, it’s basically a testosterone party, but Ferguson has carved out a niche for herself unlike any actress the franchise has ever seen.
At this point it’s probably a good idea to start wondering what Cruise will do to top himself in the next Mission: Impossible film, which he says is already in the planning stages. Maybe he’ll skydive from another planet back down to Earth? Swallow a live grenade only to walk away with indigestion? Oh wait, that was in Looney Tunes. Whatever Cruise comes up with it’s bound to be amazing, and like ‘Rogue Nation’ it will have us on the edge of our seats.