That was fun!
We can always look at it critically, and find it a bit wanting in terms of plot or characters. But this is a action franchise film, and the fifth one to boot. And from that perspective, it is a wonderful, thrilling action movie that more than deserves a watch in the theatres.
Rogue Nation actually harks back more to the franchise’s roots, all the way back to the first film when everything was more about using their intelligence to complete near impossible tasks. While the stunts are plentiful, they didn’t detract from the overall feeling that this was more espionage than action vehicle. It’s not Ethan just kicking ass as he gets hunted. It’s Ethan trying to achieve an objective with all his skills and his available resources.
This feeling is perfectly characterised by Isla, an agent whose loyalties are unknown, whose desires are murky, and actions baffling. The big baddie behind all of this stays hidden most of the time, always one step ahead, always keeping Ethan at arm’s length. It’s so very reminiscent of James Bond, and evidently they must have gotten some inspiration from Bond because the opera scene harked back to a similar one in Quantum of Solace.
But Rogue Nation kept its Mission Impossible roots as well, with plenty of really fun thrills along the way. For once, the action felt ridiculous but believable, and it was very well-woven into the plot. Only the car chase felt redundant, and the flipping car scene was probably the only one that defies belief. Otherwise, everything else felt real enough (and often it was, especially since we know Tom Cruise really did the opening plane stunt as well as the underwater stunts). The CGI for the underwater scenes may have taken the edge off, but otherwise the realness of the stunts made it all the more believable. Practical (and dangerous) effects FTW!
The plot was simple, linear, and often predictable; but that gives room for the characters to shine. Luther and Brandt didn’t get much time this time around, but that gave more focus to other characters. I never felt Tom Cruise was a great actor, but I respect his dedication to his work. For me, the main draws were Simon Pegg as Benji and Rebecca Ferguson as Isla.
Simon Pegg brings much levity to the film, which is needed for a film with a franchise name as ridiculous as Mission Impossible. It’s a film that needs to laugh and satirise itself, to have a bit of meta-humour. Pegg brings that key element into the movie, and would probably have carried the film if not for Rebecca Ferguson.
Ferguson as Isla brought a true femme fatale to the series, a woman with kickass skills who doesn’t need to use her looks in a single moment in the film. She’s the mysterious ally slash enemy, exactly the kind of spy you’d expect a spy to be. They didn’t waste time on exposition about her background or inventing some stupid sob story. They kept it to Isla the spy in the present, and resisted turning her into some damsel in distress. Kudos.
The big issue for me is probably the predictability of the plot, which kind of ruined any suspense for me. Sure, many gasps were heard in the cinema as supposedly suspenseful moments happened during the film, but knowing how these films usually work, particularly in a franchise, it was pretty obvious how things would unfold depending on where the movie was at.
I would have liked to see some less important good guys die for the plot to really build suspense for more critical viewers, but that’s probably asking too much. It is, after all, not Game of Thrones. But that’s okay, because the light meta-humour hints at self-awareness, which gives the movie much more credibility in my eyes. It’s not Fast & Furious ridiculous that’s for sure.
All in all, I’m not a big fan of the Mission Impossible franchise, but it’s a damn sight better than a lot of other action franchises. Rogue Nation is probably the best after the first Mission Impossible, and I actually look forward to the next instalment.