Mission: Impossible joins the rare company of the Fast & Furious franchise where the best and high watermark of their film series culminates in the fifth cinematic entry, easily blowing away everything that came before it (and likely after it). Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation completely pays off and adheres to the spy and action movie genres in addition to its previous four entries spanning nineteen years. The 53-year-old Tom Cruise—easily the film's greatest special effect—is at his best alongside frequent collaborator, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who has made one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences in recent memory while taking everything M:I to the next level.
Cruise is used for all his famous attributes from practical effects, daredevil stunt work, to his sheer screen presence and electric chemistry with antagonist/ally Isla, played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson. Her character is everything from bad ass to smart, sexy, and powerful with her own mysterious, shadowy motivations, playing all sides at every turn, and an equal to Cruise's Ethan Hunt. Hunt has also met his match, aside from Philip Seymour Hoffman in M:I-3, as Sean Harris' Lane is a worthy opposing force and foil for the Impossible Missions Force (IMF).
The plot, motivations, and execution actually make some actual sense despite the sheer insanity of the events going on. Rogue Nation effectively uses global politics and lone state terrorist actors textually in a sophisticated but digestible fashion. McQuarrie's filming/editing of physical action with cinematographer Robert Elswit is superb and never overdone as short sequences lead seamlessly into others all over the world. McQuarrie, somewhat of a journeyman filmmaker and Oscar-winning screenwriter, doesn't have a distinct visual style like previous directors, Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams (a producer on the film), or Brad Bird, but instead, remixes and combines all their stylistic elements to culminate it all together delightfully.
Simon Pegg continues to evolve his Benji character from sidekick to comedic relief and full-on agent of his own. Even Jeremy Renner's Brandt, alongside franchise stalwart Ving Rhames, gets some meaty material as a key piece to the complicated but exhilaratingly unfolding plot. Alec Baldwin is particularly amusing as Hunt's foil, the CIA director hunting him down. Kudos goes to McQuarrie's labyrinth yet entertaining script (with a co-story writing credit from Drew Pearce) juggling so many intersecting, constantly evolving threads together.
Rogue Nation has impeccable cinematic craftsmanship at every level as it transcends the Mission: Impossible franchise and action/spy movie genres at every corner and on the whole. Every aspect is tight, well-executed, and impossibly entertaining with full, rich character arcs, style, and grace. McQuarrie and Cruise use action as narrative with jaw-dropping sequences of flight, underwater choreography, motorcycle/car chases, and the usual international espionage antics to the fullest effect. It's pure action and drama at its finest from beginning to end (including both sets of credits).
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