It’s the middle of summer, and you want to go to the movies. Most moviegoers just want to see a fun action movie, which is why films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World have done so well this summer despite their lack of coherent story and developed characters. But if you’re like me, that won’t cut it for you. You want the characters to engage you in the film’s narrative so you care about the action better.
This is where Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation comes in. The story is pretty simple. In fact, it’s exactly the same as all the other Mission: Impossible movies. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes rogue from the CIA to find and defeat more rogue agents and arms dealers. He runs a lot, rides a motorcycle, and does some manner of insane stunts. The two people who definitely won’t be back for the next film are the female lead (Rebecca Ferguson) and the director (Christopher McQuarrie), and the villain doesn’t leave much of an impression. If you like the other Mission: Impossible movies, chances are you might like this one.
But you guys want to read a full review from me, so I won’t waste any more of your time because the movie certainly doesn’t. Remember that shot at the end of every trailer? The one with Tom Cruise hanging off the side of an airplane as it’s taking off? Yeah, I know this isn’t a spoiler or anything, but that’s three minutes into the movie! Trust me, I counted! They got him on that airplane very quickly, and just as quickly got him off.
The rest of the action doesn’t disappoint either, in fact there’s two standout action scenes later in the movie. The first is a fight between Hunt and an assassin in the backstage of an opera in Vienna, and I am a sucker for any fight scene having anything to do with an opera. But it plays a game I like to call, “How Many Assassins Does It Take to Assassinate Someone?” (I know that’s a long title, but you should see some of the other games I played as a kid). The other big action scene takes place in a water tank underneath a power plant in Casablanca (I love what they’ve done with the place, but I do miss Rick’s), during which the cinematography is at its best.
Both of these scenes and the rest of the movie do one thing that any action scene should. They kept me guessing the entire time. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting anxiously to see what was going to happen next. Rebecca Ferguson’s character Ilsa Faust, who is appropriately named after both the female lead in Casablanca and a fictional character of German lore who sold his soul to the Devil. Her character appears to change allegiances several times throughout the movie between Hunt and the villainous Syndicate, led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
But while Hunt and Faust are very compelling characters, Lane is not. I never bought into his character for several reasons. If you’re going to have this uber-intelligent and manipulative villain in a summer action movie, there must be an unmistakable presence that shows you this guy is in charge, and I never got that from Lane. The writing is to blame for most of that, but I give the screenwriters props for focusing more on the protagonists instead. But it’s Sean Harris who takes most of the blame for this character and his voice. He sounds like a kid trying to do his best impression of Vito Corleone for his middle school’s stage adaptation of The Godfather.
But let’s get back to the good stuff, shall we? Simon Pegg returns as Benji Dunn, and he gets many of the best lines in the movie. My favorites of his are before and after a motorcycle chase in Casablanca. I won’t give them away, but I was laughing out loud while also acknowledging their brilliance in the script. Pegg’s delivery of said lines was also a major element of how they worked. Other returning cast members include Jeremy Renner as William Brandt and Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, and both of them are solid in their roles.
Overall, your enjoyment of this movie depends on how much fun you have while watching it, and I loved it. It’s action-packed, but not totally devoid of the stuff that makes great cinema like story and character. See it on the biggest screen possible because it’s the action set pieces that make this movie, and one of the reasons they work so well is because we as audience members have grown to like and care for the characters that the action is happening to.
Quality: 4 ½ stars
Age: Yellow (action and violence, brief partial nudity)
Sensory: Yellow (loud noises from car crashes and explosions)