While still spectacular, is too much self-awareness creeping into the franchise?
After a CIA honcho (Alex Baldwin) lobbies a congressional committee to dissolve the IMF due to perceived ineptitude, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes rogue to gather intelligence on a suspected international organization of agents believed killed or dead – an entity no one else thinks actually exists. With the help of a few trusted associates, Hunt manages to piece together clues to not only proof of their existence but also why no trace of them exists. Yes, that’s a bad thing.
From the original 1960s TV series, Writer’s Strike-inspired 1988 television reboot, and most recently the film franchise, Mission Impossible has seen many incarnations. The appearance of lone-star Cruise made the first two films (especially the second) feel more like Tom’s own personal James Bond franchise. This ended on the eventual third film in 2006 (ten years after Cruise’s first M:I film) when director J.J. Abrams brought Simon Pegg in as a techie yearning for field work and restored the team dynamic…not to mention injecting a bit of humor into the situation. The fourth film Ghost Protocol gave The Incredibles director Brad Bird the chance to shine and the chance for Rogue Nation to exist. About the worst thing you can say about the new film contains an inherit self-awareness that skirts dangerously close to spoof, but it still delivers the goods. Stunts, intrigue, spy stuff, all here; it’s really just a matter of whether or not you enjoy watching Tom Cruise do what he does.
Ghost Protocol may have been the more memorable movie of the last two, possibly due to elaborate Mission Impossible plans going awry and Agent Hunt stepping up with a crazy solution. In contrast, Rogue Nation has a post cold war feeling similar to what the new Daniel Craig Bond films are doing, a world that pretends they don’t need government-sanctioned covert vigilantes anymore…until they do. Seriously, folks: the in-story idea of all these secret agents being disavowed and going rogue at the start of EVERY movie is getting tired. Who wouldn’t implicitly trust guys like James Bond and Ethan Hunt by now? How many times do their divisions have to be shut down and a new super villain appear before we just line-item these things in the classified budget? These folks clearly had another agenda all those times they SAVED THE WORLD. Also, enough of the old good guys becoming the new bad guys – another trope that surprises exactly no one anymore.
Yes, these are nitpicks; that’s because Rogue Nation is a solid film, but it accomplishes this by taking zero chances with the story; this year’s Furious Seven isn’t any less far-fetched. Where are the fresh ideas? Hints have been given regarding Ethan Hunt’s drive/background, but these have yet to be explored. Why does he never give up? Why point it out if we’re never going to find out about it? The original Mission Impossible told us nothing about the agents; they were ghosts, appearing from nowhere and disappearing afterward. If hints about motivations are going to be dropped, we’re going to need an extra helping of back story to serve that at the dinner table. Until then, we’ll wait patiently for the inevitable sixth installment in a few summers from now; in the meantime, this review – should you choose to accept it – will self-destruct in three… two… one…
(a three skull recommendation out of four)