Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: When the IMF is disbanded, rogue agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on his own as he tracks down The Syndicate, an underground network of former spies responsible for a series of deadly terrorist attacks.

REVIEW: You’ve really got to hand it to Tom Cruise. There’s a reason why his super-stardom has endured for over thirty years, as there are seemingly no lengths he won’t go to in order to entertain his audience. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION is yet another superb two hours of fun, second only to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD as far as summer entertainment goes.

Ever since its start the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film franchise has been all about going big, and ROGUE NATION pulls out all the stops. There are more set-pieces loaded into the first half hour than in the entirety of most $100 million plus action movies, and the excitement is so infectious that even at a normally reserved press screening, the journalists in attendance couldn’t help but laugh and cheer along with all the fun.

Director Christopher McQuarrie – who’s been working as one of Cruise’s main writers since they collaborated on VALKYRIE – holds his own compared to former series directors Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J Abrams (who’s back as a producer) and Brad Bird. While it probably would have been impossible to outdo the insanely lavish GHOST PROTOCOL, McQuarrie gives it his best shot and some of the action sequences are absolutely insane. While his last directorial vehicle, JACK REACHER, was an admirably stripped-down action flick, ROGUE NATION is nothing of the kind. This is big with the tempo being perfectly set by the pre-credits teaser, featuring Cruise’s celebrated hang 5000 feet off the ground on the side of an A400M Airbus – no trickery involved.

Despite the scale, ROGUE NATION is relatively light on CGI as far as big-blockbusters go as Cruise himself has gotten to the point where he’s really the only special effect the movie needs. I’m not sure exactly where it happened, but somewhere along the line Cruise must have decided to give Jackie Chan a run for his money as a one-man stunt machine, with the plane bit only being the tip of the iceberg. At fifty-two, Cruise is still fit enough that he’s able to spend his first major action sequence shirtless, and the choreography makes it clear that he’s rarely – if ever – doubled in even the riskiest fight scenes. In two hours time, we see Cruise mix-it-up hand-to-hand with dozens of opponents, pull off acrobatic moves that would be impressive for men half his age, and spend an extended amount of time underwater as part of a virtuoso sequence brilliantly executed by McQuarrie. His directing and handling of the action sequences really is top notch. Although apparently not shot in IMAX format despite the release (I saw it at a conventional screenings) the film is beautifully shot by GHOST PROTOCOL/NIGHTCRAWLER dp Robert Elswit, while the retro spy score by Joe Kraemer suits the edge-of-you-seat vibe perfectly.

Cruise/Hunt’s usual pals are back for another go-round, with Simon Pegg‘s Benji evolving into a full-fledged sidekick for Hunt throughout his adventures. Ving Rhames is also back with a bigger part than last time, which gives the film its only real continuity with the first two installments, while Jeremy Renner winds up mostly sidelined, with Brandt mostly stuck in the office trying to outsmart Alec Baldwin‘s slimy CIA chief.

New to the series is Rebecca Ferguson in what could be a real star-making part. Playing a British double agent who’s loyalties are always in question, the gorgeous Ferguson’s virtually a lady 007. She gets to participate in tons of action sequences, has good chemistry with Cruise and also happens to look absolutely ravishing in an evening gown (or anything else, really).

If ROGUE NATION comes up short at all its – as usual for the series – in the villain department. The third film, which had Cruise square-off against Philip Seymour Hoffman, was really the only exception to this rule. Sean Harris is a terrific, intense actor but he’s a subtle presence and can’t really go toe-to-toe with the larger-than-life Cruise. Another slight issue is that following a remarkable motorcycle chase that – once again – has Cruise doing his own death-defying stunt riding, the movie slows down slightly opting for more intrigue as opposed to mayhem. There’s nothing especially wrong with that but by setting the bar so high so early in the film they likely had a hard time figuring out how to top themselves, although it has a fairly creative conclusion.

Still, those are absolutely minor issues and throughout the 130 minute running time, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION never ceases to entertain. This is a roller-coaster ride from start-to-finish and a film that will likely please even the most jaded action fan.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.