I used to love Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow). He’s always been a capable actor, but I think people are reluctant to elevate him to the upper echelon of Hollywood elite when it comes to talent. Make no mistake, he’s an undeniable superstar – but that just means he’s popular and his movies do well. I think he’s talented, but his thespian skillset is overshadowed by the perception of him as action star. I credit him with a knack for self-deprecation and an overwhelming commitment to his craft, evidenced by the fact that he’s long performed his own stunts. Action movies are in his wheelhouse, so I was excited to see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (aka Mission Impossible 5).
The franchise began with an emphasis on espionage and has since become more reliant on action. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be much consistency with characters from one movie to the next, other than Cruise as steadfast superspy Ethan Hunt. This time around the IMF (Hunt’s covert employer) is on thin ice, with its leader William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, Avengers: Age of Ultron) clashing with CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin, Aloha) after a mission to recover a nuclear weapon is unsuccessful. The film’s opening sequence details Hunt’s attempt to stop a moving plane from absconding with the deadly missile. Intel reveals that a rogue “nation” known as The Syndicate has stolen the weapon in order to execute terror attacks against Western allies. Complicating matters even further is the fact that the head of The Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris, Prometheus) has ties to British Intelligence and the IMF, utilizing disavowed agents from both agencies.
One such agent is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), formerly of British Intelligence. She and Ethan both want to stop Lane, but we aren’t sure if she’s friend or foe. One minute she’s helping Ethan escape The Syndicate, the next minute it looks like she’s doing their bidding in an assassination attempt against the Austrian Prime Minister. In one of the movie’s better scenes, Ethan foils the assassination attempt at the opera; deftly battling spies atop a catwalk while the audience watches the performance, completely unaware. That scene reflected all that’s great about the franchise (action, clever plot development, suspense), but unfortunately that level of tension was not maintained throughout the film.
I thought the movie suffered in its third act, when it got a little too smart for its own good. There was one twist and turn too many, and little things just didn’t add up for me. I know that a good spy movie should keep you guessing, but the plot quickly went from simple to complicated, which wasn’t necessary. Ethan Hunt felt like a poor man’s Jason Bourne, and although the action scenes were top notch – I still found myself bored as the movie wore on. The interplay between Ethan and Ilsa was fun to watch, but for me the movie was a bit of a mixed bag. I wasn’t disappointed, but it wasn’t quite as good as I thought it would be. Grade: B