Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - Review

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Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt in another installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
After the surprisingly refreshing Ghost Protocol by director Brad Bird the cards have been mixed and the IMF team happens to find itself in a rather new state of play. With Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg now having been introduced as the newest consistent members of the team, it's understandable that movie goers are excited to see how Ethan and co. are now supposedly tackling their evil equal - an anti-IMF.
With a team of ex-spies that are equally as skilled as our heroes, there is much potential of how intense Rogue Nation could play out its story and its stunts, raising the bar considerably if done well.
Question is if director Christopher McQuarrie is capable of further leading the franchise into new directions...

 



The plot:
Ethan (Tom Cruise) and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF. .
Source: IMDb



After the unexpected big hit that was Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol by director Brad Bird which gave the franchise a breath a fresh air with a newly assembled team, expectations for the fifth Ethan Hunt adventure were expectedly high.
Yet instead of raising the stakes considerably with a further evolving story of Ethan Hunt and his crew, a more villainous antagonist and especially even more dangerous stunts, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation relies too much on what we already expect from Mission: Impossible without offering something new.
The result is an average action flick that, despite being perfectly servicable, plays it just way too save and should've hit way harder considering the great premise. Without enough memorable moments or scenes in the movie, Rogue Nation unfortunately shows that the franchise might've run out of ideas -at least at this point.  

Go rogue...again.

Even though the premise of Rogue Nation might at first sound pretty similar to Ghost Protocol's with Ethan Hunt and his IMF team once again being disbanded or disavowed and therefore once again operating without official permission by the government, Rogue Nation offers plenty of promising ideas with its new villain: the Syndicate (or Rogue Nation) - an "anti-IMF". Being a team of presumed dead agents who practically vowed revenge against the system or government that "betrayed" and abandoned them, the premise leaves doors very wide open for many story ideas that might easily go into the same territory like Skyfall's villain Silva.
Sadly though Rogue Nation holds back a whole lot when it comes to utilizing the full potential of the Syndicate. Whereas the movie starts off very fast with a powerful and threatening introduction of the Syndicate and its main leader Solomon Lane, it slowly and steadily shows that the movie's entire story doesn't really offer that many surprises or unpredictable twists. The story is progressing in a very straightforward manner and doesn't really offer that much in terms of substance or intensity, which could've been delivered if the Syndicate and especially its leader would've been fleshed out more. With that said, Rogue Nation's story quickly starts to feel like an underdeveloped story idea that is only loosely kept intact with the help of the movie's set-piece moments and stunts.

"So ehm...when is the next action scene starting again?"

Rarely any true light is shed onto the supposedly highly capable and menacing terrorist organisation, Syndicate. Thus, while it is made perfectly clear what the goal of the Syndicate is, the movie never really tells us exactly why or through what motivation that goal came to be. Always only hinted at a seemingly interesting backstory of Solomon Lane, the movie seems to only hint at a bigger motivation of why the Syndicate wants to take out key politicians of the world without directly telling us. It's almost like the writers were too focussed on the action instead of a good story. Therefore, it's a no-brainer to say that Rogue Nation therefore sadly misses the chance of evolving the franchise forward which had been accomplished with the previous MI-movies (well maybe except MI2).
Rogue Nation simply misses the chance of standing out in an action movie franchise of already 5 movies, by working too closely with the exact same formula of the previous movie, yet even without offering any truely memorable moments.

We really needed more insight into Lane's backstory.

Certainly a big reason for that is the movie's ill-advised new approach it takes on focussing almost entirely on Ethan Hunt and Simon Pegg throughout about 75% of the movie. Resultingly, the team dynamic which was present in most other MI-movies is mostly absent here. This comes over as really baffling since the newly introduced team of Ethan Hunt, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and "interchangable female lead" previously turned out as a great group of likable protagonists in Ghost Protocol - so why change it?
Especially seeing how Rogue Nation brings back Ving Rhames as Luther to the team, yet nevertheless gives him almost nothing to do, is truely a shame. Surely, this doesn't mean that Tom Cruise or Simon Pegg are incapable of holding the movie together on their shoulders. They of course do a good job with the action and comedy, yet the too tight focus on them somewhat robs the movie its variety and consequent interactions between the team members that made the previous movie so fun to begin with.

Why the hell did you cast these guys if you're not going to use them?!

Much like the thin story that doesn't evolve the franchise into any new direction, this goes sort of hand in hand with the character of Ethan Hunt in Rogue Nation. Whereas Rogue Nation surprisingly enough does a respectably good job of directly adressing the events of Ghost Protocol and therefore doesn't feel like an unaffected standalone entry in the franchise, Rogue Nation's story and consequences in the movie should've changed the entire franchise and characters a whole lot more. Looking back at entries like MI3 that introduced us to the private life of Ethan Hunt and the devastating consequences his job can have on his beloved ones, or Ghost Protocol which showed how the team had to act when going rogue and acting with gear that is not entirely approved for use (here's looking at the malfunctioning climbing gloves), Rogue Nation's story doesn't really show us anything new from the characters or any new situation they haven't more or less already been put in. With the team "once again" going rogue, this surely makes for some cool action scenes yet without even taking advantage of showing of how skilled of an enemy the Syndicate really is, Rogue Nation sort of delivers more of the same while keeping the franchise at the exact same state we left it in Ghost Protocol.

Tom Cruise apparently really really likes his job.

Looking one more time at the main antagonist of the movie, Solomon Lane, even despite not being fleshed out enough, actor Sean Harris certainly looks the part and does a good job of acting as if there is much more interesting material to explore about this leader of a terrorist organisation. The precisely calculating way he acts and his nasty rough voice really remind one of the franchise's yet-to-beat villain Owen Davian from MI3 played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here's hoping that Solomon Lane maybe returns again in another MI-installment as the villain. Then at least things could get much more personal between him and Ethan Hunt.

Aside from Simon Pegg who does his usual likable comedic relief geek character and the largely underused Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames, we get our new sort-of addition to the team in the form of Ilsa Faust played by Rebecca Ferguson. Ilsa plays a double agent whose motivations (*big surprise*) are also kept very mysterious throughout most of the movie. Switching sides constantly between Ethan Hunt's team and the Syndicate, you never really figure out what side she truely stands on. Very obviously her character is introduced in the movie to give the story a certain edge and element of suspense. Never knowing whether she is trustworthy or not, she represents a constant danger that nevertheless is a necessary evil for Ethan to cooperate with in order to hopefully take out the Syndicate. And while Rebecca Ferguson does an okay job of portraying the character, Ilsa is still written a bit too dull. Especially once her main motivations are revealed towards the final act of the movie her character rapidly loses that certain element of surprise (even though her acts of sudden betrayal are already quite predictable from the get-go). Just like the unmemorable story in Rogue Nation, Ilsa Faust also happens to be a character or "walking plot device" that is just as forgettable, which is somewhat of a shame seeing how heavily involved she is in the development of the plot.
  
Femme fatale double agent 1.0.1.

Actionwise, Rogue Nation is a solid to average action movie even though its stunt (although still quite entertaining) are way more tame than what we are used to from the franchise. Action scenes in Rogue Nation are played out way more low-key and try to work much more with suspense and tension rather than full on crazy stunts. And while this focus on building up tension is to be respected, one cannot deny that the expectations for jaw-dropping action scenes in a Mission: Impossible movie are always high and that tense scenes have also been pulled off way better in the past (for example the iconic rope break in scene from the very first MI).
Sadly though, there are only very few key scenes that stick in one's mind after seeing Rogue Nation. With that said, while the "diving breach" into an underwater vault system and especially the highway bike chase through Morocco are the undeniable highlights in the movie, they still come off a bit too short and held back in comparison to the other movies in the series. Once again, Rogue Nation is far more focussed on keep things a bit calmer as it seems. Therefore don't be surprised when Rogue Nation's showdown isn't really the full-on intense final battle that you've originally come to expect from an MI-movie. It's honestly even quite anti-climactic.
Once again, even with some awesome stunt work and some admittedly cool moments thrown in here and there, the action scenes in Rogue Nation remain largely unmemorable. Yet still, Tom Cruise has to be given credit for once again doing most of these stunts himself - impressive, Mr. Cruise.

The highway chase - pretty short but sweet.

All in all, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is by no means a bad movie but without any doubt the most unmemorable entry in the franchise yet.
By relying too much on the same "going rogue"-premise of the previous movie, not fleshing out its new antagonist organisation enough, a rather thin inconsequential story and no true standout action scenes that raise the bar, Rogue Nation is a perfectably servicable yet somewhat painfully average action movie and nothing more.
Sure enough, Mission: Impossible will still reign at the box office, meaning that we will still keep getting sequel after sequel, yet this doesn't mean that the series should rely on an old formula but rather keep evolving into new directions just like Ghost Protocol showed us. Rogue Nation simply plays it too safe for its own good and thus offers little new or original which we wouldn't already get in any other action or spy movie. With accordingly cranked down expectations, Rogue Nation can surely still be an entertaining watch, yet with so little substance one cannot deny that its simply stretched a bit too long seeing how few highlights its experience offers.

The Mission: Impossible franchise should keep evolving and not lingering around in the same old state as Rogue Nation does. And especially when looking at how many spy movies are coming out this year, Mission: Impossible really should look out for its competition.



Final Verdict: 5 out of 10

 

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