The only Mission Impossible (MI) movie I have seen is the third one and I hated it. It felt like bad television with petty romance shenanigans, a jokey tone, and kind of boring overall. As far as being a spy film, I did not like it in that regard either. I am a fan of Archer, MGS3: Snake Eater, Secret Warriors, The Activity, and Fury: My War Gone By, but the 007 series and the like do not register with me. A common element of the spy genre is the gradual infiltration into the villain’s ranks and the build-up of it all is so boring. I skip over the femme fatale stuff, glamour shots, and sexuality bits for the gadgets and action set pieces. I tried watching Skyfall not long ago and was hitting fast-forward when Bond was not doing something interesting and when Javier Bardem was not on screen. Was MI: Rogue Nation more boring or have I found a spy movie that is actually good?
While Rogue Nation is certainly more fun than a 007 film, it falls prey to the same issues I have with the genre. Compounding my animosity was the very thing the series is known for. The stunts were so good I wanted to watch the movie at home so I could skip to what I paid money to see.
After the US government dismantles the Impossible Mission Force, Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, goes on the run in pursuit the Syndicate, a terrorist cabal of disavowed spies dedicated to causing chaos worldwide. Ethan enlists the help of his old team while avoiding apprehension by the CIA.
The stunts are what make Rogue Nation and the reason to see it. It opens with its biggest and steadily dolls out the rest on a smaller in scale. While that may sound counter to how a film ought to progress, it works in favor of the story and feels appropriate. From the beginning Ethan is nowhere close the villain, so the stunts are large and complicated. From a fight over the stage of the opera, to a multi-layered car chase, the set pieces are grand. Towards the third act, the trail gets smaller and the action more contained as he closes in. Though the trailers gave away what the stunts are like, I would be doing you a disservice giving away any more detail and you should just see for yourself.
If you decide to see Rogue Nation, however, you must contend with its problem of pacing. It is not so much the story that drags, but the long scenes that go slower than they need to be. Characters stand in frame and take their time getting to the point like it was a Twilight movie. What should have been tension building instead felt like padding. Its 131-minute runtime seemed like twice that as I shifted in my seat in discomfort. Rouge Nation’s story is well plotted, but it needed at least two more sessions in the editing room.
I do not normally talk about music because most movies do not put a lot of effort into their score. Rogue Nation’s music is remarkable not in quality but use. During the action there is no score as the characters are locked in a struggle. In moments where the characters are heroic, the music will kick in to enhance the heroism. The best moment by far was during an opera show where the music was the opera itself and little to no dialog.
I like Tom Cruise just fine as an actor, but when it comes to playing a character beyond doing his own stunts, he is still himself. The real standouts were the supporting cast. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson brought a great physical performance as she also did her own stunts. Simon Pegg had as much screen time as Cruise, playing his usual dopey nerd character that fans will find familiar. Jeremy Renner made the most of his minor role, including Ving Rhames and Alec Baldwin.
At this point I mention any present negatives. Apart from the pacing there really is not much else. I could talk about the use of CG in some of the action scenes, but it is justified and used appropriately. Not all stunts can be totally practical and Rogue Nation is strategic and deliberate to the point it does not feel overwhelming.
While I am still apprehensive toward the spy genre, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation showed it can be fun and enjoyable. I do not know how I will feel about Spectre in November, but I am hoping it will at least try to entertain. If you like action with a variety of stunts and you can stand a slow pace, get a ticket. If you are like me and refuse to see a spy movie regardless, there is plenty of Archer on Netflix.