The Mission: Impossible franchise has followed one common thread throughout its near two decade existence: star Tom Cruise has allowed the directors to put their unique spin on each entry. Brian De Palma with the original. John Woo with the follow-up. JJ Abrams with part three and Brad Bird with the fourth. That approach is somewhat abandoned in #5, Rogue Nation. New director Christopher McQuarrie seems content to borrow here and there from what we’ve seen before and let the formula stand without a more personalized approach to the material. While that may lead to a small degree of disappointment, don’t be too dismayed. The formula is the formula is the formula and Mr. Cruise has got it under control.
Rogue Nation finds the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) in a dire position as the CIA (headed by a welcome Alec Baldwin) has folded it to their oversight. This doesn’t sit well with super agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) who’s in the midst of a mission to take down the shadowy Syndicate, an international crime ring. He may not have the support he’s used to stateside, but Ethan does have his usual suspects around. That includes techie Simon Pegg (who shines with the most screen time he’s had in the series thus far), Jeremy Renner’s field ops head, and Luther (Ving Rhames), who always turns up to help his old buddy. The new face is Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), an MI6 agent whose allegiance is constantly in question. It is unknown if Ilsa ever worked with James Bond, but let’s assume so for the coolness factor.
If you know those pictures, you know plot is secondary and the grandly conceived action sequences are the real focus. Cruise does his own stunts (as he incessantly loves to remind us) and this finds him jumping on departing aircrafts, having to hold his breath underwater for lengthy periods of time, and showing off his motorcycle skills on twisty roads. Per usual, we hopscotch from Paris to Vienna to London to Morocco. We get those nifty masks we first saw in 1996.
The fifth go round feels familiar but Cruise brings enormous energy to the series he keeps returning to. Renner sort of gets the short shrift (especially compared to Pegg) and it’s the second franchise along with Avengers where he’s not particularly given anything of substance to do. At least we don’t get a boring and out of left field family backstory like we did in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ferguson is a welcome presence as she gives her British spy her all.
Even though McQuarrie doesn’t give a unique spin on Ethan and company like Bird accomplished last time with Ghost Protocol, the series is such a well oiled machine that the results are still a lot of fun. And it still mostly shines.
*** (out of four)