To be frank, I’ve always had a bit mixed feelings about the Mission: Impossible movies. I have memories of watching the TV show as an adolescent child, but I don’t really hold any nostalgia for series in any way. I actually have fonder memories regarding the 8-bit NES game, on those rare instances where I recall that it even exists. But anyway, I don’t hold the original M:I TV series on any type of pedestal nor bear any type of inherent qualms towards how the movies have adapted M:I to the big screen, is what I’m saying. I genuinely like the first movie. I remember watching it in theaters when it came up, and in my opinion it still holds up. And that really is why I’ve always felt they should have just left it there rather than make sequel after sequel, where the quality is questionable. The second one was honestly pretty terrible, from what I remember and the third one was only a slight improvement, even with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the bad guy. Ghost Protocol was actually pretty decent, but it still didn’t convince me that we needed all these sequels.
And so, we come to Rogue Nation. After seeing the initial trailer, I honestly was a bit on the fence whether or not even bother seeing the movie because it looked like a complete bore. It seemed to mostly ride on the success of the previous movie and offered very little anything new or different. I mean, if you’ve seen one “good guy on the run, trying to expose a secret conspiracy” flick you’ve seen them all and this didn’t even seem to have a great hook in terms of a cinematic set piece. In the end I did find myself seeing it with a mate, and well, it wasn’t that bad actually. It does feel slightly like a step backwards in originality, but it’s otherwise an entirely competently executed summer flick, especially compared to the number of flops this summer had to offer, Fury Road being the only notable exception which actually surpasses Rogue Nation. I could still live without the movie ever existing but for disposable entertainment it’s entirely adequate.
There’s plenty of good material here. I really liked the section taking place in the opera, and the entire cold opening. It was all suitably exciting and cloak and dagger-y as well as visually impressive. Tom Cruise delivered another great performance as Ethan Hunt, proving once again that age has not slowed him down at all as an action star. Even Simon Pegg’s character has started to grow on me. I rather liked everyone in the core cast, and Rebecca Ferguson certainly came off to me as an actress whose future work I ought to pay attention to. The big plot heavy dont-breath-for-three-minutes gimmick set piece was very col, but it didn’t quite live up to the same level of excitement as Ghost Protocol’s scene of Ethan climbing the Burj Khalifa and the final fight in the giant car park. Primarily because the underwater thrill factor hinged just on Ethan holding his breath for a long period time and you knew exactly what kinds of tricks and trouble they were going to throw into the mic in order to create the illusion of tension.
The only major problem I had with the movie is that while the bad guy played by Sean Harris seemed like a promising rogue agent for Ethan and his IMF chums to fight against, his character fails to deliver the goods as a cinematic villain in the end and he’s ultimately a bit disappointing. They build him up well enough as a mysterious and dangerous adversary but once it’s time to let him take a more active role in the story, he ends up losing much of his initial appeal and coolness factor due to how fallible he truly is due to the plot demands. Especially the ending confrontation makes him look a bit too incompetent and easy to fool.
There is still one thing I need to mention, though this is more of a personal tick. I found Alec Baldwin’s character to be pretty superfluous. He made sense as a minor antagonist who wanted to hunt Ethan down because he thought Ethan had gone rogue, but setting him up as the new head honcho of the Impossible Missions Force at the end was weird. He doesn’t strike me as much of an addition to the character roster and while it was certainly an amusing gag, reversing the opening set up of the movie on its head, it was pretty meaningless note to end the movie on and felt a bit of a retread of the conclusion of Renner’s subplot from the previous movie. It didn’t particularly add anything story or character wise, nor did it have any emotional punch to it. If anything, it felt as if they needed to justify casting Alec Baldwin in the role and decided to give him, a bit arbitrarily, a faux sense of importance. Maybe his role just annoyed me because for majority of Alec’s screen time he was just being mad at Ethan and being fooled by him at every turn, so his character didn’t really do anything interesting and making him an ally in the end felt cheap. Like I said, it’s one of those inane complaints you sometimes just have.