Mission Impossible Keeps raising the stakes in Rogue Nation (M:I:5)
Note: this article is on Mission: Impossible 5 (2015) – part of a 6-part series on all the movies in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Read the whole series on Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), Mission: Impossible 3 (2006) and Mission: Impossible 4 (2011).
In 2015 the Mission Impossible franchise was back. After the huge critical and commercial success of Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011) audiences were hungry to see Ethan Hunt and the other members of the Impossible Missions Force in more adventures. In 2013 Paramount Pictures commenced pre-production on the next film, a release date of Christmas 2015 was laid out and cast announcements were made. What was clear from the outset was that there would be a mixture of old and new, we would see the return of Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner but there would be new additions to the franchise such as Alec Baldwin. This casting this was echoed by the fact that J.J Abrams would be returning to produce but it was once again time for a new director, Christopher McQuarrie. This is part of tradition of the franchise and these contrasts would really be an indicator that this new addition would bring a mix of the what the franchise had established and something new.
Another change with this new addition would be that the stakes were higher than ever. Ethan has been on the run from the CIA, the IMF is disbanded and the company believe that Hunt has fabricated a criminal enterprise called the syndicate to cover his chaotic operations. It’s up to Hunt to prove them wrong , expose and dismantle the syndicate.
A Brave New World
After a truly heart stopping opening sequence where we see Tom Cruise literally hang off an Airbus A400M Atlas we are introduced to the larger plot of the film. This centers on the syndicate which was introduced at the end of Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011). For the first time there is an overarching mythology to the series of movies, this is very much in keeping with Hollywood trends in action movies and by the time late 2013 comes around with the release of the film audiences most definitely wanted huge narratives and the highest stakes in their movies.
An interesting thing about this movie taking influence from the success of other big action movie franchises is that a change happens. Mission Impossible was in many ways the innovative gold standard for action movies but what happened in this installment is that the innovator has turned into the follower. There are several moments in the movie where the viewer might think that they have seen that action beat or heard that bit of dialogue in another movie. There are definitely shades of movie franchises that were inspired by the success of Mission Impossible that have strangely mutated back into it. That is not to say that the film suffers for it.
The insanely high level of quality is still present in the movie and it’s still hugely entertaining but there is a tone to the movie which seems to be cynically unoriginal. Even in the early stages of pre-production Drew Pearce was involved in devising the plot, Pearce was celebrating the success of Iron Man 3 which he co wrote when he joined the writers room for this movie. This goes some way to suggesting that a movie much more in keeping with current action movie trends was required by the makers of the movie.
A Lighter Tone
The Mission Impossible franchise always had hugely funny comedic elements right from the start but the tone of the movies was always one of paranoia, jeopardy, high stakes and intensity. There is a combination of action of the highest standard, Hunt always up against two enemies, the foe of the film and his own moral integrity, sexual chemistry and a whole lot of espionage thrown in for good measure. The style of these films has tended towards the shady and murky. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation gives the audience a very different style, yes the combination just mentioned is still there but presented in a different way, comedy and light heartedness are more in the forefront.
This has a lot to do with Simon Pegg being far more central to the movie. This makes perfect sense as Pegg is not just an extremely talented comic but also a gifted actor. Some of his scenes are brilliant and the interplay with Cruise is especially special. Pegg gives the audience a completely successful performance as the everyman propelled into this spiral of action.
Jeremy Renner’s role also takes a more comedic turn in this movie which works very well, especially up against straight man Alec Baldwin who feels like he is playing an older Jack Ryan from The Hunt For Red October (1990). Let’s not forget that Tom Cruise is also a hugely gifted comedian as well and never takes himself too seriously.
Many other comedic elements are thrown into the movie and in feel we have something much more like the Roger Moore era of 007 James Bond movies than a dark techno thriller like entries into the Mission Impossible saga.
For Every Angel A Devil
One of the most interesting elements of this movie is not just that it opens up a wider mythology but also the introduction of Ethan Hunt’s nemesis Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris, who appears to be the leader of the syndicate. He seems to be in every way, a true match for Hunt. Some of the best actors of the century have played Hunt and the IMF’s adversaries, so it would make sense for Hunt and his team to come across their true threat.
The greatest illustration of the conflict between Hunt and Lane is not fought with weapons but battled with words, that fight is for the soul of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who plays the femme fatale. This is an effective and original idea for the franchise and it’s a battle the outcome of which isn’t revealed to the audience until the last second.
The conflict between hero and monster is a compelling one with some very cool twists and turns along the way but there is one snag. The performances of Harris and Fergusson are somewhat flat, this is a disappointment when you think of the amazing legacy this franchise has when it comes to the movies’ cast.
To The Future
Mission Impossible Rogue Nation is just as much of an entertaining thrill ride as all the other movies. It has awesome action and thrilling locations. Casablanca especially is shot beautifully and harks back to old school Hollywood. It was a massive success both critically and at the box office, the second highest grossing movie of 2015 and does many things that previous entries haven’t done.
What’s tantalising is at the time of writing this article is that action movie fans are a few days out from the release of Mission Impossible Fallout, the 6th installment and the trailers look incredible. Early critical response has been positive. It is a great time for the action movie and will remain so while we have the Mission Impossible movies.