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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Theatrical Review

Paramount; 130 minutes

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Written by on July 28, 2015 

Nineteen years in and the Mission: Impossible franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Much of the credit goes to the unbreakable Tom Cruise, a movie star who continues to succeed and persevere where fellow movie star contemporaries (Will Smith, Tom Hanks) have begun to falter. As written and directed by frequent Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation works simultaneously as a direct sequel to Brad Bird’s fourth Mission installment Ghost Protocol, an unabashed highlight reel of Cruise doing ridiculous stunts, and a clever homage to the spy films of lore. This time around Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the gang (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames) are up against The Syndicate, an “anti-I.M.F.” run by a rogue ex-spy named Lane, played with impressive menace by Sean Harris.

Though Hunt is convinced The Syndicate is real (as any of the film’s many trailers will tell you), C.I.A. Director Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) is determined to dissolve the I.M.F., citing the organization’s dated and risky practices. Of course, Hunt is right and he’s left out in the cold to prove as much. This time around, a suspicious double (or triple?) agent named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is on hand to help (or not help?) Hunt in his endeavors. Ferguson shines here from top to bottom. While the Swedish actress has been around for some time, this high-profile turn should catapult her to the next level. She brings a stark vulnerability to her tough spy shell, delivering a living, breathing heroine in a franchise that’s always been lacking in well-rounded female characters.

Along with the casting of Ferguson in the female lead, McQuarrie’s biggest success is the pacing of the film, which feels as brisk as a Mission: Impossible movie has ever been. Necessary exposition is delivered quickly, with all tongues planted firmly in cheeks, and well-placed character moments sneak up on you, never lingering long enough for the viewer to question its relevance to the overall narrative. One sequence in particular, in which Hunt attempts to prevent a political assassination from the back rafters of the Vienna State Opera, feels fresh and inspired. An extended action piece set to “Turandot,” the scene feels like Hitchcock for the 21st century blockbuster set.


Composer Joe Kraemer – a McQuarrie mainstay – does strong work incorporating the opera in the score throughout the rest of the picture. The motif hits beautifully during a scene at a train station late in the film, where Ilsa asks Ethan to come away with her and leave the mission behind. It’s a brief, effective moment in a series built primarily on thrills. We’re reminded that these are not super heroes; they are reluctant heroes. This sentiment is re-stated in a refreshingly human finale that feels thought-out and intelligent. It’s enough to suggest that it’s not so impossible to deliver a well-made piece of big-screen entertainment aimed at adults.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opens nationwide on Friday, July 31st.


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