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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation review: New board, old moves

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

Naming a movie is important – not just the name itself, but the thought process that goes with it. There’s an art to it. It’s also deeply representative of the movie; sometimes intentionally, sometimes subconsciously.

But I’ll get to that in a minute. What you really want to know is if Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is any good. And it is. It’s an inoffensive and unambitious, but entertaining, summer action flick. The stunts are great, the people are pretty, and the action is shot well – amazingly so.

The fifth movie in the Tom Cruise (Magnolia, All the Right Moves) franchise sticks to the recent MI formula introduced with J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III. It’s a formula that works, and one that will likely earn the new entry several hundred million dollars. And good on it. Mission: Impossible is a strong franchise, better than most.

With Rogue Nation, you have a mission that is… improbable, a bunch of insane action scenes, and a story that takes a team of wildly talented people to exotic locations around the world. Check, check, and check. Mix in some good explosions, and you have a successful summer hit.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

It doesn’t push any boundaries. It doesn’t even get near any boundaries to push, but it offers a refreshing, even therapeutic two hours of mindlessness.

If that’s all you wanted to know, cool. Thanks for stopping by. If you want to know why that name, Rogue Nation, is so important to this film and possibly the series, keep reading.

Rogue Nation begins with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) reporting for the Impossible Mission Force’s (IMF) next mission, only to have it all go tits up. Once again Hunt finds himself blacklisted as a new organization called the “Syndicate” threatens the world.

Hunt goes off the grid to track the organization, which is frequently referred to as an “anti-IMF.” His only clues are a man he knows is involved (The Borgias’ Sean Harris), several presumed dead covert operatives that are very much alive and evil, and a mysterious woman (The White Queen’s Rebecca Ferguson) who may or may not be on Hunt’s side.

Hunt turns to his friends, including Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to find the Syndicate and clear the IMF’s name.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

It’s a neat idea – the IMF versus an anti-IMF. It really doesn’t amount to much more than lip-service though. The Syndicate is a nefarious organization hat does evil things for vague reasons. There is supposed to be a deeply philosophical divide between the two sides, but it’s never really explored because it would get in the way of the action.

Director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher) offers an entirely visceral experience that presents itself like a video game. The protagonists are given a mission, they spend a good chunk of time completing that mission in an adrenaline-fueled manner, and once that mission is complete the characters are given just enough information to justify the next stage/action scene.

There is little-to-no character development, and the promising cat-and-mouse game against two brilliant organizations comes down to which side can punch the other side harder.

I know it sounds like I am tearing down Rogue Nation, but I really did enjoy it. I’ll probably forget about it in a few days, but I like it. It isn’t as smart as it pretends to be, but the cast is well chosen.

Cruise is as likable as ever, and Pegg adds a good mix of humor along with the everyman flavor. Renner and Rhames are underused, but Ferguson and Harris steal every scene they are in. Considering how little real development either of them have (especially Harris), what they do with the roles is almost award-worthy.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

Now, about that subtitle “Rogue Nation.” It makes zero sense. There are a few mentions of how the Syndicate is like a rogue nation, but it isn’t. Not in any way. The script seems to force it in there and it feels very much like someone chose the name because it sounded cool and then forced it into the script. The last Mission: Impossible film, Ghost Protocol, did the same thing, but it’s even more of a stretch in this one.

It might as well be called Mission: Impossible – Quantum Ferrari, or Mission: Impossible – Atomic Revolution.

It doesn’t really matter, but it does inform some of the thinking behind this film. It’s meant to be cool first, and make sense second.

Again, despite my many points seemingly to the contrary, I liked the movie. I really did. It is a very safe film though, offering enough to keep people engaged, but not much more.

In one important way, Rogue Nation is a huge success though. It leaves you looking forward to what may happen in the next film.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Review conclusion

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation review

I may be in the minority of people that still thinks the first Mission: Impossible, Brian De Palma’s thriller with an action coating, was the best of the series (maybe I’m not, but the films keep moving away from that as profits go up). It was a smart film. Rogue Nation is a distant echo of that, touching on it without truly matching or surpassing it.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a fun action film that will entertain for a good two hours. It will then exit your mind completely until it arrives on home media, where you can enjoy it all over again before forgetting it once more.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is rated PG-13, with a running time of 2 hours and 12 minutes. 

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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