In an age where many blockbusters are mainly concerned with building cinematic universes and sounding important, it’s good to know that Mission: Impossible hasn’t lost track of what makes a great summer action movie. Filmmakers really only need to follow two necessary steps:
1) Make your characters likeable and identifiable.
2) Put them in the middle of several inventive action set pieces.
A good story would also be appreciated, but sometimes putting too much focus on the plot distracts from what the audience really cares about. After all, do you remember the stories in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, or any of the other best recent action pictures? The same can be said about the Mission: Impossible movies, which, like the Fast & Furious movies, have only gotten better over time by keeping things simple and fun. Having J.J. Abrams as a producer doesn’t hurt either.
The plot, for what it is, once again follows Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the franchise’s fifth entry. After the mysterious Syndicate targets the IMF, Ethan is forced to disappear off the grid and find out who’s behind this rogue organization. It doesn’t help that the IMF is stripped of its authority and absorbed by the CIA. Alec Baldwin plays the smarmy CIA chief who vows to track Ethan down and incarcerate him for his heroically reckless ways. If Ethan’s proven anything over the years, however, it’s that he can outrun anybody.
Cruise knows this role like the back of his hand and delivers another great performance as Ethan Hunt. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is truly a buddy movie at its heart, though, as Ethan teams up with Simon Pegg’s Benji to take the Syndicate down. Pegg made a cameo in Mission: Impossible III, had an expanded role in Ghost Protocol, and is essentially a co-lead here. This could have backfired, but Pegg never comes off as an annoying comedic sidekick. He’s genuinely funny and acts as a wonderful foil for Cruise. Like Felicity Smoak in Arrow and Chloe O’Brian in 24, Benji demonstrates that tech characters are really stealing the show from action heroes nowadays.
There’s also another compelling buddy subplot between Jeremy Renner’s William and Ving Rhames’ Luther, who wish to find Ethan before the CIA does. Romance also blossoms between Ethan and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa, who switches sides more times than a Bond girl. All of these actors show how Mission: Impossible has grown as an ensemble piece with every passing film where the series was once solely carried by Cruise’s star power.
In addition to strong characters, Director Christopher McQuarrie, who previously worked with Cruise in Jack Reacher, Valkyrie, and the underrated Edge of Tomorrow, pumps the film with exceptional action. The highlight is an intense, brilliantly shot underwater sequence that will literally take your breath away. Nothing quite tops the extravagant Burj Khalifa stunt from the previous picture, but Rogue Nation certainly gives that sequences a run for its money on several occasions. The film is witty, exciting, and even offers some solid twists throughout. You might think that ridiculous mask trick can’t possibly fool you again after so many movies, but prepare to be surprised. That’s a true testament to this franchise’s longevity.