Cards on the table; I’m a sucker for the Mission: Impossible films, so this may be a biased article. They’re over the top, lavish in the IMF’s seemingly endless budget, but effortlessly cool and fun. They’re heist movies with spies. They never take themselves too seriously but they’re never lazy. Tom Cruise aims for thrills and each instalment is a roller coaster ride, pushing the envelope and adding value every time.
Rogue Nation is so fun and thrilling to watch, it did not disappoint. Tom Cruise seem to have identified that it’s not about better gadgets or grander locations each time; it’s about pushing himself, and it works. M:I had the iconic server room hack, in M:I-2 it was the excellent John Woo motorcycle showdown (and somewhat my favourite, as I was 13 years old in 2000), M:I-3 had him leap from a Shanghai skyscraper, M:I-4 has the terrifying (and series defining) Burj Khalifa acrobatics, and now M:I-5 has Cruise clinging on to the side of plane. Each instalment pushes the envelope for Cruise and the Russian doll gets bigger every time.
Some of the charm was missing in Rogue Nation. More screen time has been allocated to the IMF team and it seems somewhat less about Ethan Hunt. Whether this is an intentional decision to keep any ego-inflation anxieties in check, I’m not sure. I sat there afterwards thinking (to many people’s surprise, I’m sure); needs more Tom Cruise! There’s no doubt that his name can still sell movies alone. However, the laughs seemed throwaway and peppered in to the script and there was some lazy exposition too. Rebecca Ferguson was fantastic as the double-agent Ilsa Faust; she kept the audience guessing of her allegiance at every turn. The opera house assassination scene is a romantic nod to any classic Euro-spy thriller, and it was refreshing to see something different to a rudimentary bomb disposal that we’ve been accustomed to in films post 9/11. It was good to see a film looking inwards at its own world too; in Rogue Nation the IMF is a risk, rather than the world being held to ransom.
Along with a thrilling, frantic and brutal motorcycle chase along a Moroccan highway, I feel that Rogue Nation perfectly balances a classic European assassination thriller with the fun action that viewers expect. The villains still need to have more of an impact though; aside from the first film, we never seem to have their motivations clearly explained. The dialogue and script isn’t perfect either (to me, the MacGuffin wasn’t compelling enough in building tension) but Christopher McQuarrie has made a great Mission: Impossible film.