The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise has got to be one of the more resilient movie franchises out there, just like FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Both have had a rough patch of shit sequels that ranged from forgettable to outright bullshit but thanks to a fuckton of dedication and heavy talent, both titles have reemerged with sequels that make their predecessors look like Amateur Hour. With the way the franchise reboot GHOST PROTOCOL fixed things and made Ethan Hunt and his IMF buddies relevant again, it was up to ROGUE NATION to not only continue the franchise’s good streak but to up the ante. Thankfully, ROGUE NATION does just that even with a couple of bumps along the way.
One thing ROGUE NATION finally brought back that’s been sorely missing since the 1996 original was the team dynamic and the double crossing. For a Spy Franchise, the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies between the first entry and ROGUE NATION had very little spying to do; they were mostly just a collection of stunts and action scenes starring Tom Cruise strung up with some conspiracy going on in the background but actual Spying was left to other franchises like James Bond. Sure, GHOST PROTOCOL managed to bring it back but it was ROGUE NATION that perfected it. Here, Ethan Hunt and the other spies don’t know who to trust and this puts the team’s stability at risk. With how crooked their bosses are and how apathetic their nations are to their plight, these Spies begin to question the worth of their mission and their loyalties, all of which makes for some good character development. ROGUE NATION doesn’t deconstruct or demolish the entire Spy myth with these themes but it at least shows the genre in a more mature and serious light, with the agents shown to be nothing but mere pawns in the game of Global Politics and no longer the Super Soldiers seen in the days of the Cold War Movie.
Ethan Hunt and other familiar names are all back but the one who really shines is Ilsa Faust, Hunt’s female rival with Christ knows how many fucking allegiances. As mentioned earlier, previous MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies didn’t really give a shit about the story since they had maybe 200 tons of explosives per minute to compensate for the lack of an actual plot but in ROGUE NATION, double crossing plays a major role and Ilsa Faust is the embodiment of that. At first glance, she may look like the Obligatory Agent Fanservice who only exists in the Spy Movie to titillate the audience and tempt Agent Alpha Male with her hot legs but now, she’s more than that and the sides she chooses to cooperate with for the mean time have major effects on the story. Not only does she kick serious ass but every one of her decisions proves to be very important to the story thus making her presence in the movie more important than ever, especially since the audience is never given a hint as to which side she’s really with. Throughout the story, you’ll be left guessing who’s with who and just what the fuck each person’s planning and why, all of which are a glorious thing to see unfold in a title usually associated with cool stunts and nothing more. It may have taken three movies after its birth but MISSION IMPOSSIBLE finally gets it right with ROGUE NATION’s narrative proving to be as thrilling as seeing Tom Cruise hanging from the side of a fucking jumbo C-130 plane (no CGI used there, by the way).
The action here is, without a doubt and to no one’s surprise, fucking awesome. From high speed vehicular chases to fistfights that take place on pant-shittingly high locations to more subtle but tense-as-fuck foot chases and gunfights just to name a few, ROGUE NATION continues the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE tradition of showing big death defying stunts for all to savor. Not only are they cool but they’re also in-line with the movie’s story. The worst MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie would be a collection stunts with a joke of a narrative tying events together and thankfully, ROGUE NATION is not even close to that kind of crap. Hell, it’s above and beyond that level shit thanks to its action scenes that drive the story forward at a high speed with the stakes at risk brought up to eleven.
It’s also fucking cool to know that almost all of these stunts were done with real people and practical effects, with the CGI being used to simply enhance the imagery and not serve as a crutch. For a dude who’s almost 50, Tom Cruise runs around like he’s in his early 20’s and does some of the coolest shit you’ll see on the big screen after MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
The problem with ROGUE NATION though is the same thing every other MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie has had since part 2 nearly tanked the franchise: its villains. None of these guys are one bit memorable and they’re mostly interchangeable with one another. Throw one Bio Chemical Powered War Hungry Asshole out and replace him with a Nuclear Missile Powered War Hunger Asshole and you can’t really tell the difference if you put three of them side by side in a police line-up. Maybe their motivations are different but otherwise they’re the same breed of asshole. ROGUE NATION on the other hand decides to change things a bit by eliminating the bullshit about world-ending superweapons and Wannabe World Dominators by instead making a villain that still wants to rule the world by instead doing it from the shadows and manipulating world events to their liking through the use of the world’s best lubricant: money.
It’s a different and more realistic take on the Spy Movie Bad Guy but overall they’re not much of a threat. They may have a nice little driving philosophy and their agents are said to be some of the deadliest the world has seen but they’re still a bunch of dumbasses that act bigger than they really are. In the movie, the Syndicate is implied to have reaches and influences everywhere but when events unfold in ROGUE NATION, they seem pretty fucking shorthanded with only ten random schmoes in their employ and with no command structure to speak of. Their overall leader, the mysterious Solomon Lane, is said to be the Dark Counterpart of Ethan Hunt and for the better part of his depiction it works. He doesn’t go out and do crazy stunts or engage in fistfights but he’s always two steps ahead of an impulsive Hunt who just does shit when his adrenaline gauge is at full power. Instead of relying on a team of specialists, Lane IS his own fucking team, basically controlling all the Syndicate’s moves from behind the shadows. Thing is, his people are fucking stupid because for a bunch of elite ex-spies, they’re pretty fucking incompetent and Lane himself is still the kind of Spy Movie Idiot that plays with his food instead of solving everything with a simple bullet to the face. He may be a smarter and deeper villain than previous franchise entries but he’s still a Wannabe World Dominator, albeit with a better motivation.
Another antagonist/nuisance who’s a waste of space is Alec Baldwin as CIA Director Hunley who’s out on a witch hunt for anyone related to the IMF. His personal vendetta against the IMF is an interesting political dynamic a real world spy division would have to face but the motivations behind his desire to lynch the only spies that actually get shit done in the movie’s universe are shallow and close to non-existent. He claims that it’s because the IMF has caused more collateral damage than good and the CIA wants to make sure someone pays but this coming from the director of an organization that set fire to half of Asia during the Cold War all in the name of freedom sounds fucking stupid and hypocritical at best. He just hates Hunt for some ungodly reason that’s never explained and this further proves how much of a waste he is. At least Jeremy Renner’s beef with Hunt made sense thanks to some excess baggage on his back that was resolved by GHOST PROTOCOL’s end but here, Hunley just sounds like that Dumb Fuck Armchair Activist who read one biased news article about government corruption and thinks they know everything there is to know about running a fucking country. And then whatever tension there could’ve been is easily resolved by the movie’s end because, fuck it, the good guys always win and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 6 is currently being written.
Considering how well written and acted the main characters of ROGUE NATION are, it’s a bitch when their competition is mostly made up of twits and idiots who just don’t know better. The IMF agents may be the best at their job but when the world is populated by enemy agents that can waste an entire clip of AK-47 ammo in a narrow hallway and STILL miss their fucking target that’s literally a few feet away form their guns’ barrels, that isn’t saying much. Maybe the reason why Ethan Hunt engages in all these sweet gravity defying stunts that shit on the Grim Reaper’s face is because he got bored of dealing with morons that can’t tell left from right even if they had a fucking tutorial narrated by Dora the Explorer playing in their earpiece. At least he gets a kick out of jumping into massive water turbines rather than punching the nth Bearded Idiot with a gun under the Syndicate’s payroll.
Maybe when a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie finally makes a threatening villain who’s really worth the price of admission, maybe that’s the time I’ll really fall for anything with Ethan Hunt in it. I’m not a big fan of the franchise but that isn’t going to stop me from praising ROGUE NATION and saying that it was a fun blast to watch on the big screen. It’s not the perfect Spy Thriller I’ve been dreaming of but it’s still one of the best in the Action genre and it’s definitely the best of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise since the original. Whenever the next mission comes along, sign me the fuck up.