“Every one of the attacks you attributed to the Syndicate, the IMF was there.”
It’s been nearly 20 years since the first time Tom Cruise played IMF agent Ethan Hunt, and after this fifth installment of the franchise there is no sign of him stoping any time soon. Like good wine, these movies seem to get better the older Cruise gets. The weakest link in the series is by far the first sequel directed by John Woo, but J.J. Abrams managed to reinvigorate the franchise in the third Mission Impossible film with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s memorable performance as the main villain and the introduction of Simon Pegg’s character who brought the much needed comic relief. Brad Bird continued what Abrams started with Ghost Protocol and introduced Jeremy Renner to this world, and now it was up to Christopher McQuarrie to continue the hot streak. McQuarrie had previously worked with Cruise in Jack Reacher, a film I seem to have enjoyed more than everybody else. In Rogue Nation he followed what the previous directors brought to the series and continued to build on it with a similar tone during the action sequences that once again took us around the globe. There is a fantastic opening action scene involving Cruise jumping on a plane while it’s about to take off, then it is followed by another wonderful sequence at a Vienna Opera house, and it is topped by another one involving a heist in Morocco that ends with a spectacular motorcycle chase. If there is anything negative I can say about Rogue Nation is that the film opens in such a spectacular fashion and maintains such a steady pace that by the time the bike sequence in Morocco ends the film seems to overstay its welcome. There was just no other way to top those action sequences so the final thirty minutes were a bit of a letdown with the predictable twists that any fan of the franchise could see coming. Other than that this was a fantastic ride which proves once again what a star Tom Cruise really is.
Upon receiving instructions for his latest mission, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), discovers that it has been compromised by a rogue organization that he refers to as the Syndicate. He is captured by its leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). While held captive, right before being tortured a mysterious woman known as Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) helps him escape. Ilsa claims to be a British Intelligence officer who has gone deep undercover to infiltrate Lane’s Syndicate and win his trust. Meanwhile, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), is forced to testify in front of the US Chairmen committee in response to the agency’s latest dealings which haven’t been accounted for. CIA director, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), wants IMF disbanded because he believes Hunt is a liability. The committee decides in Hunley’s favor convinced that the Syndicate doesn’t exist and that Hunt is behind it all. IMF is disbanded so Brandt and Benji (Simon Pegg) are forced to work for the CIA and bring Hunt in. So Ethan is left on his own to try to stop this dangerous organization, but he always finds a way to get his crew back together and accomplish the impossible. Ving Rhames is also back for a fifth time as Luther Stickell as he and Cruise are the only characters who’ve been here from the start.
The screenplay for Rogue Nation which was written by McQuarrie himself hits pretty much the same beats as the previous two films in the franchise. It has a similar tone and it’s surprising how similar these films are to each other considering they’ve been directed by different directors. You know what direction these spy stories are heading, but the ride is what you are here for. Rogue Nation opens with a spectacular first half and ends in a weaker note, but it is still one great experience thanks to those spectacular action sequences and Cruise’s charm. McQuarrie also manages to do two things right: first of all making Sean Harris’s Solomon Lane a threatening villain and second giving Rebecca Ferguson a strong female character with some great choreographed fighting scenes. These two additions provide the franchise with the freshness it needed to go along with the familiarity of what the rest of the cast always brings. Besides the three action sequences that stood out for me in this film, there is a cool moment where Ethan receives instructions for his latest assignment that is perhaps the best in the franchise. Similarly to what many action films are doing now appealing to the past and our sense of nostalgia, Ethan receives his instructions in a vintage record store in what was one of the most memorable scenes in the film and a great way to introduce the villain of the story. The early escape scene is also quite thrilling, but it was spoiled by the trailers. Rogue Nation proves once again that this franchise is very much alive and that Tom Cruise isn’t getting slower despite his age. It doesn't hurt either that the series has one of the best action scores of any franchise.