The Mission Impossible series has become a variation on a theme. The plots of each film are largely the same, even going so far as to hit some of the same narrative beats over and over. So is there any reason to show up for the newest film in the series, Rogue Nation? The simple answer is yes, but the reasons are a bit more complicated. Tom Cruise is back and brings his usual professionalism to the role, even bringing along old mission-mates like Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg. What’s different, and ultimately the reason to keep seeing these movies, is director Christopher McQuarrie. What the Mission Impossible series has done is make each film a director’s showcase, and McQuarrie brings his unique sensibilities to this new installment.
Ethan Hunt is back and this time the team is blacklisted and disavowed by the government. Again. But don’t worry because the team has a plan that will involve immense set pieces and white knuckle action throughout. Let’s be honest. You can probably tell me the structure of the plot right now without having seen it. There’s really no reason to dwell on the subject.
Joining Cruise and company is Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson who is a revelation as Ilsa Faust. Alec Baldwin also pops his head in from time to time, but as always, the real star is the action set pieces. Here we get everything from jumping on planes to underwater thieving with a sidestep into an homage to The Man Who Knew Too Much. The action is blistering to be sure even if it doesn’t quite match the grandeur of the Burj Khalifa set piece from Ghost Protocol.
The biggest difference between Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol and McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation is a sense of grittiness. Bird highlighted the lightness of the franchise with sharp visuals and clean editing, while McQuarrie doubles down on the shadows. The grittiness is extended all the way to the film itself with McQuarrie using a lower resolution than I’ve seen in a film in quite some time. It’s those subtle nuances that make this film unique and worth checking out. Hard to believe, but five movies in and there’s still something to see. Grade: B-