Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the very incarnation of what we look for in a summer blockbuster. It’s fast-paced, fun, humorous, thrilling, and a glamorous action spectacle all in one explosive go. Unlike some of the competing blockbusters audiences sit through year after year, Rogue Nation is also a competent film. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, ditching any sort of social message or diatribe, but it doesn’t dumb itself down either. It’s not a movie one has to slap with a guilty pleasure label, meekly justifying it to their friends by muttering, “Just turn your brain off; you’ll enjoy it more.”
Rogue Nation is as entertaining as it is elegantly crafted, a cinematic piece of no-strings-attached summer fun paired with some truly breathtaking sets that make us want to stop buying clothes at JCPenney’s and start perusing the Nordstrom’s catalogue. Does Rogue Nation have flaws? Yes. But it’s so beautiful, too. And it doesn’t talk down to us.
In this latest outing, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) teammates uncover a sinister global criminal organization known as The Syndicate. This organization is elusive, tinkering with governments and officials from the shadows. No one believes it exists, but a rogue Ethan, pursued by a CIA who wants to shut down the IMF for good, aims to finally expose The Syndicate.
The plot is simple, and it’s one viewers have seen more than a dozen times before. The villains, too, carry that cliché demeanor we’re used to. They’re disposable, serving as nothing more than forgettable black-suited cannon fodder to propel the main cast from scene to scene. The only bad guy worth remembering is a tall, lanky fellow, and he’s only memorable because of his villain-tastic name — The Bone Doctor. That said, the cast taking aim at these fiendish foes is on point, and the interplay and banter between the characters are what elevate Rogue Nation.
In this adventure, the IMF team is split into two factions. Ethan leads the attack team with Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), all of whom share a playful energy that works well against each other. Benji brings the quips, Ilsa carries the roguish mystery, and Ethan bears the unbeatable brawn. In the support team, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) spar with an “odd couple” chemistry, and it’s fresh, keeping pace with Ethan’s team as focus bounces back and forth between the two groups. The decision to construct the movie like this keeps Rogue Nation’s humor and excitement amped up, and it flows nicely.
What really adds to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, however, is the set design. In particular, there’s an assassination attempt that takes place at an opera. While this scenario isn’t new, there’s an elegance Director Christopher McQuarrie and his team bring that’s nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The Vienna Opera House scene is one of the few scenes where pacing slows down for a few moments, the camera easing into a glide around the theater. We take in the colors in our flight. We take in the costumes, the architecture, the ornate décor, the statues, and how all the hues mesh so well with each other. This scene is a perfect canvas, teeming with life with belting vocals from Puccini’s Turandot as our villains and protagonists hunt each other. The moment is as magnificent as it is primal, with our characters reduced to instinct in the face of decadence. As an audience, we can’t help but breathe it all in, and when the pace picks up again, gasp in wonder. We’ve seen operas in movies before, but we haven’t seen it handled this gracefully.
And that’s part of the key component behind Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Craftsmanship. McQuarrie is able to deliver intense action scenes without cheating, without jumbling up the camera. He’s able to take us down familiar scenarios, hand us classic setups and still surprise us. We’ve seen motorcycle and car chases before, but we haven’t seen them as masterfully engineered. And with all these familiar moments, we’re given a whole new sequence to talk about for weeks to come, one involving Ethan trapped in a swirling water chamber, struggling to hold onto his breath.
Rogue Nation is what we look for in our summer blockbusters. Though we know what this movie is before we’ve seen it, there’s still creativity and ingenuity behind its many parts. There’s also something to be said of the fact that we’re five movies into the Mission: Impossible franchise, and the latest entry works as hard as ever to wow us.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: B+