‘Rogue Nation’ is a ‘Mission’ Worth Accepting (FILM REVIEW)

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Typically, the longer a movie franchise goes the worse the series gets. I think this accounts for the rise of the trilogy as a cultural powerhouse over the last decade. Somewhere along the line, the studios figured out that the law of diminishing returns tends to kick in around entry number four as that’s usually about where you can pinpoint the decline in both profits and quality for a given series. I mean really, when was the last time you saw anything past a “part 4” and thought to yourself, “Wow that was pretty good?” By that point, the series has fallen into a state of self-parody, having used up all its good ideas and dried up all its good will to become the palest of imitations of its former self.

Which is why the Mission: Impossible series continues to baffle me. Somehow, this is a series that defies all logic and all expectations about how a series should unfold, laughing in the face of preconceptions as it gets better and better with every subsequent offering. I don’t understand the hows or the whys of it all, but Rogue Nation isn’t just good for a fifth movie, it’s straight up awesome for any movie.

It must have something to do with the series’s penchant for bringing new blood into the director’s chair and writing table with every outing. This influx of new ideas allows for constant flow of fresh air that keeps things from getting stale. This latest effort comes from the mind of Christopher McQuarrie, who launched his career over two decades ago with The Usual Suspects. Since that time, McQuarrie has built a career around creating taut, effective works that tend to transcend their genre. This dynamic is absolutely in play in Rogue Nation.

What’s really amazing is that this is achieved not by breaking any formula but by sticking ardently to it. As with any Mission: Impossible movie, Rogue Nation can be easily distilled into the singular description “Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is a globetrotting superspy doing all of the things you’d expect a globetrotting superspy to do.” Sure, it’s reductive, but it’s also accurate. It doesn’t matter what earth shattering villainy he’s attempting to thwart, Ethan Hunt should always and only be a globetrotting superspy doing globetrotting superspy shit. These are the parameters inside which every Mission: Impossible must sit. Anything else is fair game. It may sound limiting, but there’s a world of ideas to be explored within these limitations, and by sticking so steadfastly to the formula McQuarrie is able to push the series in bold new directions.

For this go around, Hunt finds himself acting against the entire world. Thanks to the events of Ghost Protocol, his agency has lost both funding and support and is folded into the CIA umbrella, leaving Hunt alone in the field against the nefarious The Syndicate, an organization in which no one but he believes. This puts Hunt both on the case and on the run, as he attempts to hide from his former cohorts while unraveling the mystery of an organization responsible for a series of devastating terrorist attacks around the globe.

You can tell just how much fun Cruise has as Ethan Hunt, a character as essential and iconic to his career as Maverick ever was. Of course, what other role would allow the actor to hang on for dear life on the outside of a plane as it takes off, speed through mountainous terrain on a motorcycle, and drive impressive automobiles as recklessly as possible? It’s not hard to see why Cruise insists on doing his own stunts for these movies; who in their right mind (well, maybe that’s not the correct term) would want anyone else to have all of this excitement while they sit idly by and watch?

Rogue Nation features some other familiar faces from the franchise. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner all reprise their roles as Hunt’s support team and are used beautifully. Pegg, especially, is given a large role that exceeds mere comic relief (though there’s plenty of that) as Hunt’s right hand man. Added to this roster is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, a shadowy foil/ally/foil/well, you get the idea. Her loyalties are murky and you never know just what side of the fence she’s on, nor do you know just what her ultimate goals may be.

Sean Harris gives a stellar performance as Syndicate head Lane. He is, in all ways, the perfect antagonist for Hunt, equally skilled and cunning as Hunt, Lane acts as a sort of puppet master, manipulating events and people with ease in an effort to actualize his plans, which are complex and unpredictable. While he’s far from the scariest villain the in Mission: Impossible series (I’m not sure Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davian from Mission: Impossible 3 will ever be surpassed) he might be the most cunning, and Harris plays him perfectly.

Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation is an absolute thrill ride that never insults your intelligence and never plays to the lowest common denominator. If you’re a fan of the series, there’s a high probability that this will become your favorite entry. If you’re not a fan of the series, there’s a high probability you’re going to have a good time anyway. It’s the perfect summer popcorn flick that absolutely destroys those mid-season doldrums and delivers in every conceivable way. Simply put, this is one Mission you should choose to accept.

Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation is in theaters now.

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