PG-13 for obscured nudity. Okay, not just that. But I've been writing these Mission: Impossible MPAA warnings for a few days now and I just needed to separate Rogue Nation from the other movies that all have mild swearing, some violence, and actiony-goodness. There's a little bit of obscured nudity. If that's the thing that sets you off, there you go. You know it is in this movie. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie
What is Christopher McQuarrie's relationship to Tom Cruise? I was going to go on my repetitive rant about the fact that Christopher McQuarrie is the first director in the Mission: Impossible franchise to direct more than one of the movies in the franchise. But then I realized that I knew him from nothing else specifically. I mean, I recognized his name, but I couldn't put a project to his name. Apparently, he's very good at writing Tom Cruise style dialogue because he has done it a lot. I've never really seen an actor attached to a writer before. I know that directors and actors form relationships, but I haven't really seen a writer do the same thing. Every time I think I'm cool with Tom Cruise, I learn something else about his process that is weird. Today, I think I learned that Tom Cruise made Christopher McQuarrie successful. (What if they are the same dude?)
This one is going to be tough. In my last review, I stressed that Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation kind of bleed together. It was a little easier remembering some of the events of Ghost Protocol because the story is in the title. Rogue Nation is a poor name for this movie. They say the words "Rogue Nation" at one point to describe the Syndicate. I don't really get that term "rogue nation", so I am going to plow through that and see what I can glean out of this review that hasn't been talked about in my other reviews. I normally love the evil version of the good guy, especially if it isn't in the first story. My favorite Quantum Leap episodes were the ones with the Evil Leaper. Moriarty is always the best villain. It's the character that is equally skilled at the job and is equally committed to the job, but is fundamentally philosophically opposed to what the hero stands for. Rogue Nation, after being teased in Ghost Protocol, deals with a new villain organization known as the Syndicate. It's Hydra for S.H.I.E.L.D. It's also SPECTRE for Bond. This isn't a new concept, but I do find it interesting that this organization has been around for a while in the Mission: Impossible universe. I just did some Googling and apparently The Syndicate was in the television show. Now, canonically, my brain is breaking open. I should ask Derek what he thinks about this because he would know more, but the first Mission: Impossible movie is meant to be a continuation of the television series. Jim Phelps was in that one, implying that the first movie was the TV character's last hurrah. Jim Phelps would have gone against the Syndicate, so why is it this big secret in the film universe. Ethan's major problem in terms of getting support is that no one believes that the Syndicate exists. Is this a break in the continuity, implying that the Jim Phelps from the first movie is not the Jim Phelps from the TV show? Man, I love canon so much and this is just letting me down. Don't worry. Bond's relationship with Spectre is even more confusing because a lot of those aren't even functional pre-Casino Royale reboot. But back to my initial statement. I normally love the evil version of the good guys, but The Syndicate kind of feels boring. I wish there were teases beforehand. There really is nothing to make The Syndicate anything more than the bad guy of the week in this one. Ghost Protocol only said the name "The Syndicate" at the end of the movie, so why should I care? On top of that, The Syndicate teases that every missing or disavowed agent works for the Syndicate, but there were no ties to the protagonists. We didn't see people that we thought were dead show up. We just had a bad case of the movie telling us that the bad guys were bad instead of showing us.
Okay, those were my beefs with the movie. Rogue Nation's worst thing is that some parts of the movie are wildly forgettable. But it is a fun Mission: Impossible movie while you are watching it. Tom Cruise once again grabbed attention for the movie by doing one of the most absurd stunts ever. I watch that stunt with the plane at the beginning and I can't believe he's pulling that card. A lot of it is because he can get away with it. There are other ways to film that shot, but McQuarrie is lucky to have a guy like Cruise on set. Yeah, I'd be nervous having to direct Tom Cruise in an insanely intense stunt like that. But Cruise is kind of right to do that sequence. It is 100% effective to have Tom Cruise getting these insane closeups. Perk: it is actually scary watching the real actor do the stunts. It is suspenseful as any action scene could be. Con: It kind of pulls you out of the movie because Ethan Hunt isn't doing the stunt. It is Tom Cruise and all you can think is that that Tom Cruise has a death wish. That's a bit weird. Rogue Nation, however, does have some of the most fun action scenes of the series. That doesn't make it a great movie, but it does make it a fun time. The action sequences in this one are epic. That underwater one, while being kind of a cop out because it feels slightly fake for some reason, is actually pretty great. I don't think it is a perfect sequence and it is absolutely absurd how hard the Mission: Impossible franchise is working to outdo the original Langley break-in. I don't know why hard drives would be kept underwater, but it is cool. Also, I have to give points to McQuarrie for making this work. Having Benji doing his thing simultaneously to Ethan's no oxygen swim is great. I don't know why it works, but it is just the right feel to an action sequence. I feel like Benji is the everyman that we place as our avatar. Ethan Hunt is the unrelatable Mary Sue Superspy. But Benji is how we would act if we were sent on missions with the IMF. That back and forth works really well. The motorcycles and car stuff in this movie does hit some ugly buttons with me. (I'm really tired and words don't work so good right now.) SPOILER: Ethan is legally dead for a few seconds. The movie establishes that his hand-eye coordination is down the tubes at this point. While I like the idea that Ethan has to chase down another vehicle without all of his senses functioning properly, he flips the car. A lot. Way too many times for anyone to survive. But then both Ethan and Benji come out of the car unscathed. This started in Ghost Protocol. Ethan launched his car off the top of a parking structure and just survives like it is fine. I hate this. There need to be some rules about what can and can't kill Ethan Hunt. It's all so arbitrary. Action movies all lose their punch when the protagonist can't be killed by anything. It's not impressive when Ethan just walks away from a car flipping because he shouldn't be able to do that. McQuarrie sacrificed weight in exchange for fun. It is avoidable.
I think I'm torn about Ilsa Faust. Let's first establish that her name is way too on the nose and I want to file a formal complaint about that. A character who is constantly selling her soul for something that she deems is for the greater good? Boo. Boo, Christopher McQuarrie. Benji's last name isn't "Everyman." You can't name a character "Faust." Also, is Ilsa a British name because c'mon. I don't buy it. Ilsa is meant to be the new love interest for Ethan, but the series plays fast and loose with relationships for Ethan. I mean, I got invested in Julia as Ethan's one true love. I don't know if it is my obsession with marriage or just the potential imbued to Julia, but Ilsa being introduced rubs me the wrong way. On top of that, Ilsa is just an archetype. She's a trope and a weak one at that. Which side is Ilsa on? She seems to be on Ethan's side, but she keeps doing evil things. The problem is that Ilsa is clearly in a moral grey area. Other versions of Ilsa have been done so much better. Is it weird that I'm about to cite The Dark Knight Rises as a version of Ilsa that is better? I'm talking about how Ilsa is just a Catwoman. From Ilsa's introduction, she makes the movie easier to complete. Ethan should be dead. Let's put that out there. I love the opening of the movie at the record store. The introduction to Solomon Lane, although ridiculous, is extremely effective. (It's borderline stupid that the head of a terrorist organization would get anywhere near Ethan Hunt. Why provoke him besides the fact that he wants him to work for him?) Ilsa's motivation doesn't really make sense when the big revelation happens. SPOILER: The reason that Ethan is alive and kicking in this movie is because Solomon Lane wants Ethan to get him the Syndicate's money and he needs Ethan's unique skills to complete that task. But that means that Solomon Lane needed Ilsa to betray him just the right amount of times to make the story continue. Regardless, Ilsa isn't as interesting as Julia. Julia could have been great. She could have been growing every moment. But by making Ilsa the relationship, you start with a character who already has all of the skills she needs. If anything, she is nerfed as a character as the franchise continues. She can only become a nicer person the less things that are being held over her head. Unless she is chosen to lead the franchise instead of Tom Cruise, which I don't see happening, she's going to be a liability for Ethan. It's either she is going to get kidnapped or injured or fridged and that's awkward as anything. With Julia, she could only get stronger by discovering Ethan's secret life, but that doesn't really happen, now does it?
I griped a lot about this movie. It's really not that bad. It's a fun time and I really enjoyed it both times I saw it. It's just that the movie is marvelously forgettable, especially when binged next to Ghost Protocol. I don't like that the movies are becoming intertwined because the mythology doesn't always check out like it needs to. It's a problem when the Mission: Impossible movies just become a good time instead of extremely well crafted. This is a good action movie with a few fun twists. Nothing will blow your mind with the exception of Tom Cruise hanging out of a plane, but it is still worth watching.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.