rogue_nation_2Year: 2015
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Digital, Color, 131 mins

Synopsis: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF. (Source)

At about 20-years into its run, the Mission: Impossible series is, like it’s resilient star, stronger than ever. The commanding Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the best chapter yet – a showcase for Tom Cruise whose insane stunt work beats anything the best CGI artists could do, replete with a story that confronts the mortality of the series and its characters. Director/writer Christopher McQuarrie knows that reinvention is the true lifeblood of the series and has delivered a film that doesn’t just repeat what came before for empty fan service. Instead, he’s taken our favorite parts of the franchise and spun them into an action/spy hybrid that calls out what makes the series work, packed to the brim with death-defying action, but also a much welcomed mix of humanity. It’s an approach that makes the film feel both classic and modern, giving the insane stakes a newfound weight and making Rogue Nation not just a great M:I film, but one of the most vital spy films of late, full stop.

After the obligatory, yet wholly exhilarating opening scene (the one that features Cruise really hanging off of an ascending A400 plane), the story begins in earnest, with the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) being dissolved thanks to the fallout of their infamous past missions. This leaves legendary agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) on the run and alone as he attempts to track down a secret agency of anti-IMF agents called the Syndicate, an international rogue force toppling governments and influencing world events at their own behest. Thanks to the IMF’s dissolution, the Syndicate is operating unchecked, forcing Ethan to get the band back together to stop their most cunning and manipulative adversary yet. Along the way, they come across the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who could be part of the problem, or the one person that could help them put a stop to the Syndicate once and for all.

The best thing about the story is that it’s the first film to really connect to the previous installments while also standing alone. Though the plot is objectively built around a progressive series of daring stunts, it never feels like just a string of connected action sequences but a way of confronting the abandon of Hunt and his team, most specifically the wild gambles they take to get the job done at all costs. Focusing on the team dynamic and their penchant for danger, the stakes feel more personal, with a villain that plays as Hunt’s inverse, minus a company of people he can trust. It’s a sharp contrast that makes each dangerous moment feel grounded, paid off numerous times with emotionally satisfying team-based antics. Above all though, the film feels like a cumulative M:I film, finally blending the espionage elements of De Palma’s original with the big action set pieces we’ve come to expect.

rogue_nation_4Of course, talking about the film wouldn’t be right without bringing up the synergy of McQuarrie’s breathlessly staged action sequences and Cruise’s outright suicidal performance. The film never repeats any action beat more than once, ranging from the high-flying opener, to a near-silent Hitchcock-ian Opera hunt, vehicular mayhem, underwater acrobatics and a good-old-fashioned foot chase – the film is relentless thanks to McQuarrie’s keen sense of style and Cruise’s willingness to push the boundaries of what we’ve seen any action star do. With Cruise legitimately front and center, the star proves that he’s a dedicated entertainer who is wholly unmatched. Adding to this is the idea that Hunt’s actions have reverberated across the spy community and transformed into myth, only to have McQuarrie contrast his inability to die through clever humanization. Here, Hunt is a superhero but at great cost, forced to catch his breath in between a shootout, narrowly escaping falling scaffolding after a high-flying stunt, staggering to maintain composure after jumping out of a building, and even once requiring to be brought back to life. We finally the cracks of his his mortality and admire him even more for how much he lays on the line for what he feels is right. It’s a nice meta touch that adds humor and levity to the breakneck pace.

Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg (who has an especially great arc) are back to support Curise and his lunacy, and Sean Harris is great as the intelligent, manipulative villain, but the real surprise here is Rebecca Ferguson as the enigmatic double agent Ilsa Faust. Ferguson matches Cruise both in performance, physicality and character. Faust has a completely autonomous storyline and she’s the younger, faster, sexier version of Hunt, keeping us and the cast on their toes and stealing every scene she’s in. She has an undeniable charisma and can be both tough (without sacrificing femininity) and vulnerable. She even gets to occasionally be the character that is steps ahead of everyone else, giving Hunt a run for his money and a new vitality to the series. What’s more, is that though she is Hunt’s equal, the film never stoops to lazily make her a romantic interest, allowing for a more interesting dynamic and a climax that feels more fulfilling. If you ask me, making any more films in the franchise isn’t an option without her. It’s about time that Hunt and Cruise have a worthy female counterpart, and Ferguson’s Faust is that and more.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation proves that the series still has plenty of life left in its adrenaline-filled veins. The climax goes for an almost unheard of intimate setting which resets the team and demands more adventures. If there’s one thing that the film conveys, it’s that nothing is impossible for Cruise and company, who have once again defied the odds to deliver a blockbuster thrill ride of the highest caliber.