mi5 posterMission: Impossible – Rogue Nation continues on the (sometimes literal) heights reached by the last entry, Ghost Protocol, to achieve a thrilling, intense ride that marks it as not only one of the better entries in the series but as the best summer effort of 2015 as well. Christopher McQuarrie, who last directed 2012’s Jack Reacher (also starring Tom Cruise), confidently takes the helm from Protocol‘s Brad Bird, building and expanding on its predecessor’s strengths and ultimately solidifying the series with what it lacked most – a strong sense of continuity and character-building amidst the series’ signature stunts and action.

Picking up where Ghost Protocol left off, IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is on the track of the Syndicate, a terrifying “rogue nation” that has been staging accidents and assassinations throughout the world. As Hunt tries to decipher the evil plot, he finds himself on the run from the CIA which, headed by director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), has disbanded the IMF and declared Hunt a delusional rogue agent that needs to be put down. Hunt is soon joined by familiar allies (Renner, Pegg, and Rhames) as they embark on what may be their final mission together culminating in several spectacular set-pieces including a nail-biting underwater security hack, a death-defying, out-the-door airplane ride, and a high-speed car chase that evolves into what may be the best motorcycle action scene in the last decade (or more).

Since its debut in 1996, the Mission: Impossible series has been schizophrenic in tone, quality, and even genre from film to film. Part of this is due to each outing being helmed by different directors bringing their unique sensibilities to each and every film. While this has kept the series fresh to a degree, it has had the side effect of creating a glaring inconsistency to the franchise as a whole. It’s hard to imagine that the John Woo slow-mo gunfights amidst explosions and backlit doves of Mission: Impossible II belongs in the same series as Brian De Palma’s action-light techno-thriller original or the shaky-cam revenge drama of J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III. The only consistency between the original three films were limited to a sole focus on Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise hanging from wires, Tom Cruise becoming disavowed or going after someone who has been disavowed, and Ving Rhames.  The working-machine teams and camaraderie that the television show was known for became as much background filler to Cruise’s antics as a bar after last call would be to James Bond.

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The light at the end of the tunnel was Ghost Protocol, a soft-reboot of the series taking it closer to the original show while maintaining the high-octane Bondian elements expected in a spy series – sans dramatic slow-motion doves. Now Cruise was saddled with a team of memorable characters, each with their own story-arcs. The most significant aftereffect of this move beyond hearkening back to the spirit of the show was that now the character of Ethan Hunt had other interesting characters to react to and the more he interacted with said characters, the more he finally began to morph from Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise to a fully rendered Ethan Hunt. It is this element, along with the a lighter, yet more suspenseful tone, that McQuarrie has kept in line with Rogue Nation bequeathing the series with continuity and garnering some of the biggest laughs from the character’s synergy.

mi5 3The stand-outs here, apart from Tom Cruise’s bold desire to one-up Jackie Chan in the stunt department, are an impressive series debut of Rebecca Ferguson playing a dubious double-agent who displays a perfect blend of confidence, vulnerability, and sex appeal and a much beefier role for Simon Pegg. In fact, there are times when the film almost feels like a buddy comedy between Cruise and Pegg and rather than suffering any apparent cliche of such a pairing, it not only succeeds brilliantly but it helps heighten their more dramatic moments later in the picture. Only Jeremy Renner‘s role as William Brandt (once touted to be Cruise’s eventual replacement in the series) feels stifled with less to do although this does admittedly improve a bit as the film reaches its third act.

Overall, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation succeeds at repaying the good faith earned by Ghost Protocol – with interest. With word that Mission: Impossible 6 is already set to film next year, it can honestly be said that the only impossible mission would be waiting that long for the next installment.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

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