When broken down to their basest elements, the past three Mission: Impossible films have effectively capitalized on a steadfast exploitation of formula. Grand in scale and pseudo-intelligent in scope, the mold epitomized by the long-standing brand largely excels thanks solely to the sheer inventiveness of the set pieces bookended by explanatory exposition. Rogue Nation capitalizes on this breezily involving framework as it pits Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the recently disbanded IMF against the Syndicate: a terrorist organization intent on scrubbing them from the Planet Earth altogether. With time running out and little to motivate outside of Ethan’s sheer resilience and a world-saving streak of luck, the gang – in tandem with the enigmatic Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) – must pool their sparse remaining resolve and resources to prevent the Syndicate’s next move.
As Ghost Protocol more or less exemplified, the contemporary action sequel need not reinvent the wheel in terms of conventional storytelling. While an inherent sense of engagement via scenario is a base necessity, the who, what, where and why are arbitrarily implemented as a means of justifying the next instance of wanton chaos. Rogue Nation easily benefits from this omnipresent strength as McQuarrie’s one-two punch as writer and director imbues the proceedings with a ceaseless forward momentum that handwaves what minor flaws the film harbors.
From scene to scene, the tension corresponding with endlessly mounting stakes is easily sustained thanks to a sense of sheer restlessness. Deftly belying the aforementioned simplicity of overarching narrative threads and themes, the palpable grandiosity of key sequences is pretty remarkable despite their predictable one-up progression. Both our leads’ laudable physicality and consistently superb staging of what’s on display are to thank for this appeal, and honestly, each individualized chunk of action is almost worth the price of admission alone.
It doesn’t quite surpass its immediate predecessor due to it being somewhat of an apt regurgitation of ideals, however McQuarrie’s effortless emulation of the most successful bits of the franchise formula makes Rogue Nation an exceptional if unavoidably one-note piece of action cinema. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an imitator quite like this slice of real deal genre filmmaking going forward, and thanks to Cruise’s unfailing devotion to his craft, Ethan’s gusto as the IMF’s cornerstone will (hopefully) continue to maintain the set standard. Here’s hoping the recently announced sixth installment continues to capitalize on the nigh-endless possibilities suggested by the appealingly concise one-off nature of these films.