For the 5th film in any franchise, the fact that it’s good is amazing, it’s even better, then, that Rogue Nation, the 5th film in an action franchise that just will not die (in a good way), is, in fact, great. It’s an incredible ratio as well. Whilst most franchises can attribute a 50/50 ratio in quality (X-Men, Fast and Furious for example) it’s frankly a happy shock that with each new instalment, the Mission: Impossible films just keep getting better.
Well, for some people. Critics have called this the best yet, and whilst I do think it’s great, I think the best one was the last one, Ghost Protocol, directed by one of my favourite directors Brad Bird. Yet I can’t help but marvel at a franchise that has produced a really solid FIFTH film in an action franchise whilst Terminator: Genisys was recently a failure of a 5th film and A good day to Die Hard was god awful a couple of years ago.
With Rogue Nation, Director Christopher McQuarrie has made a film that does exactly what you expect it to. This is a fun film, with a hint of dumb and a surprising amount of character and another forgettable but silly plot. Tom Cruise is frankly, as much a charismatic screen presence as he’s always been, bringing a rough backbreaking bravery to his daring do whilst providing a winning smile and showing just enough drama behind the eyes to make him more than just a flat action hero. The fact that he does the stunts himself is commendable and at 53 he is showing no signs whatsoever of stopping.
Other than him, the cast is doing fine work. Simon Pegg continues to have a lot of fun as tech guy Benji Dunn, getting more dramatic acting to do in this than in his previous two appearances. Ving Rhames, back for more as Luther Stickell, the only person other than Tom Cruise to appear in all 5 films. He and Jeremey Renner (reprising his role from Ghost Protocol) have a great double act halfway through the film with Renner getting to bounce off Alec Baldwins CIA boss as well and proving to be great as the newest sarcastic sidekick.
In the end, it’s down to newcomer Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, who plays a fantastic femme fatal sort of character who manages to outwit and match Ethan Hunt every step of the way, to give the film its spark. She’s reminiscent of Vesper Lynd from ‘Casino Royale’, posing as the smart, strong and electric foil to Hunt and giving the film a surprisingly strong female character who isn’t just about kicking ass, but hiding genuine pain and fear underneath her exterior. I’d say that she carries the film in a similar way, but far less, like Furiosa in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.
Best of all, there’s no forced romantic story between these two leads. There’s a connection and an attraction but time isn’t wasted with her being reduced to an unnecessary love interest. The film succeeds because it aims for more dramatic depth than previous films and gets a lot right. Whilst there’s still, essentially, a come and go plot, there is a sense of real stakes as the action barrels along. The friendship between Hunt and Dunn is extended to genuine emotion, a specific moment just after the water scene, feels like the franchise showing us that it can do these things when it wants to. Ethan, on more than one occasion, appears genuinely rattled by the things that happen to him, and whilst he survives without a scratch, there’s never not a sense that it doesn’t affect him emotionally.
The action set pieces are maybe not as memorable or snappy as in the previous adventure, but it makes up for it in the way it’s presented. A rather wonderfully played scene set in an opera house, involving fighting in the wings, snipers and Nessun Dorma, ratchets up the excitement, whilst the films final scene, set in London, scales back on the action and gives the final fight of the film to Ilsa, which was really fantastic.
The villain/s isn’t particularly memorable, but the main bad guy gets a wonderful justice in the final confrontation that shows the writers, Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pearce, making smart decisions instead of just going for explosions. The music is sadly no longer composed by the superb Michael Giacchino and therefore didn’t stick with me, yet the cinematography was really well done and occasionally beautiful, especially when the film moved to dark and eerie night time London.
Overall, I’d say the film is a lot of fun. It wasn’t quite as good as 4 (Ghost Protocol) or 3 (JJ Abrams directed) but is way better than the rubbish No.2 and, though the first is good, it was better than that too. 4 out of 5 ain’t bad for a 19 year old franchise and so I’m perfectly joyous with the prospect of more films if they can sustain this level of quality.
I’d definitely say that’s possible.
Rating: B 7/10