Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Warning: The following is a spoiler-filled reaction to Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. If you haven’t seen it, you mission (if you choose to accept it) is to find a copy and watch. This post will not self-destruct.

I recently read a comment that the Mission: Impossible series is doing Bond better than the Bond series is. While I don't entirely agree with that statement, I can see their point. Growing up and watching the Roger Moore movies on cable, I never was bothered by seeing only portions of a movie at a time. In fact, I would rarely see them all the way through. I jumped in and jump out. The overall story didn't matter as much as a series of fun sequences and locations. The Brosnan era only improved things so much, but the Craig era has created some of the franchise’s best films. 

While the Bonds franchise has gotten a little more grown up, the Mission: Impossible series is working to perfect the art. There's usually some sort of mcguffin to chase or steel, with crazy gadgets to aid the mission. We end up in a number of locations, and it doesn't seem to be a problem that the I.M.F. is always on the verge of imploding. Heck, this time we practically got a defected James Bond as our villain. In a time where it feels like a lot of our franchises are recycling action scenes and abusing callbacks to earlier in the franchises, such callbacks feel at home in a Mission: Impossible movie. So when a chase or a knife fight reminds me of M:I-2, the credit sequences are inspired by the original, I smile at the word "protocol", or I'm intrigued by our rabbit’s foot hanging on the handcuff key; I recognize that these fun elements shape the tone of the movie. While it strikes me as odd as the leadership goes continues to change, I've accepted that is the norm. Ethan Hunt has never really answered anyone anyway, Who cares if he has a new boss? What was a little strange is that after Ghost Protocol seemed to be trying to inject Jeremy Renner as a possible heir to Tom Cruise, he was only given administrative duty in this movie. I'm not complaining; it worked. I’m just happy that he and Ving Rhymes were included.

Speaking of the cast, there were a number pleasant surprises from the actors. Tom Cruise is a known commodity, and all the hard work he seems to put into this franchise shows. These movies continue to do well, but people seem underestimate them. These aren't overly expected blockbusters, and so they tend to outperform expectations. If only people would recognize that Tom does a similarly good job in a number of his other movies like the terribly named Edge of Tomorrow.

There was much to appreciate from the rest of the cast. I enjoyed how Simon Pegg has become a stand-in for the audience and oftentimes acts as the heart of this movie. While his specialty is still the comic relief, it's much less overt than before. Of course, the real surprise from this movie is Rebecca Ferguson. The combination of her character and her performance add a lot to this movie, as she appears to be Ethan Hunt’s equal. We’ve seen how well Ethan can push himself and think on his feet, but she is no slouch. I doubt that he'd win a one-on-one fight. Moreover, Ferguson’s portrayal as a potential is double agent keeps us guessing through the whole movie. It's not at all contrived, and it doesn't seem obvious who she's really working for. So far, the women in this franchise don't tend to return, but I hope that we'll see her again.

I have to say they're really appreciated Christopher McQuarrie's direction. Many of the action sequences feel like three-dimensional puzzles that are sliding into place. Multiple elements continue to shift and move in different directions, and somehow we see it all happening at once. This skill adds to the comedy in the opening sequence in which our are reintroduced to the cast one at a time; each adding to the conversation like a high-stakes improv game. The mastery of the meticulous is a specially evident in the opera sequence. That sequence involves a lot of walking and looking, yet feels quickly paced and intricate. I felt like I was one of the agents in the building, putting the pieces together and learning what was happening in the shadows.

All in all, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation is a lot of fun and great part of the series. It's one of the best action movies of 2015, and would stand out even more if it wasn't released in the same summer as Mad Max: Fury Road. I'm glad that it seems like it won't be too long until we see what happens next for Ethan Hunt. I'm sure we can expect a few familiar faces, a number of exciting locations, inventive action sequences, and perhaps a few changes in management. Sure, we’ll get a new director, as usual; but right now I'm curious if Alec Baldwin gets to keep his job.