Very few modern Hollywood franchises could arrive at their fifth installment and be welcomed with open arms by a general public not completely sick to death of its image. Fortunately, the Mission Impossible franchise has managed to keep reinventing itself ever since the first film was released in the mid-nineties and has therefore remained fresh enough so that showing up with this newest installment is met with a more celebratory reaction rather than groans and sighs.
Fresh off what is widely considered to be the best installment of the series, the plot of Rogue Nation finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and company entangled in yet another series of sticky situations and elaborate set-pieces, this time regarding an international criminal ring merely known as the Syndicate, which Ethan is obsessed with proving the existence of, leading to his being disavowed from the IMF once it is absorbed by the CIA following the events of Ghost Protocol.
After experimenting with different moods and directors for the first couple of entries, it looks as though this series has finally settled on a tone, set up by the third and especially the fourth installments. Having already established this tone and set up the characters over the past couple of films, this one is able to set the ball rolling from scene one and Rogue Nation runs with it like Tom Cruise running for his life in the direction of a sandstorm. This results in a non-stop, set-piece filled thrill ride that at once never lets up but also feels economic in its pacing and has a terrific penchant for building the suspense and the stakes right up until the final moments. It’s really a testament to to skills of the filmmaking team both in front of and behind the camera, given the scale of this one always managed to feel grounded and plausible, no matter how grand or outlandish the proceedings get.
Given that the general mood of this one is essentially borrowed from films three and four, Rogue Nation therefore doesn’t have as distinctive a tone or identity as all the past installments. For better or worse, each had differing styles and feels to them which made each one unique from all the others. As good asRogue Nation is, there’s very little about it that feels all that unexpected or at the very least different from the previous ones. Another detractor, which is at least consistent with all the past films, is the lack of a really strong or memorable villain. At five films into the franchise, the Mission Impossible series could rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the biggest blockbuster franchise with the most forgettable series of antagonists in recent memory. The best we got so far was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s solid but ultimately forgettable turn in the third film, and even that felt like a B-level effort from an otherwise extremely dependable performer. Granted, neither of these aspects come close to ruining the film at all, but having them altered or looked into more could’ve made the film much stronger in the end.
While far from perfect, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation makes a strong case for being the best installment of the franchise so far. It retains all the essential trademarks that have made the series so valued and memorable in the first place, but subverts these tropes well enough and contains enough surprises and smart ideas that it feels singular and fresh in its own right. In other words, a damn good piece of mid-summertime escapist entertainment, and a new bar to set the standard of this otherwise uneven franchise. Mission… accompl – oh, you know how it goes.