Mission Impossible has always been a fun series and I was looking forward to this film. It was one of the few films that I thought had a chance to dethrone Pixels. It turns out that this wasn’t a very tough feat at all, but the film did not disappoint. Aside from Age of Ultron, this one’s easily the best film that I’ve seen in theaters this year from the live action titles. Off the top of my head it manages to dethrone MI 4 and the original film as the definitive best title, but it has been quite a while since I’ve seen those.
Ethan Hunt has been helping the IMF for quite a while, but it cannot be denied that there is typically a lot of collateral damage. As such, the organization is disbanded and the CIA claims its assets. Ethan goes off the grid to try and learn more about a shadow organization that has been committing acts of terrorism across the globe. Months later, Ethan has finally gotten a solid link on the adversaries and calls in one of his old partners, Benji, to help him with this fight. Together along with a member of the Syndicate (Shadow Organization) who claims to not be loyal to the cause, the three heroes embark on this perilous journey.
Naturally, this is the kind of film where you don’t really want to trust anyone. The characters could turn on each other at any minute and what’s a Mission Impossible film without a few twists and obstacles? That being said, if you believe in the Hollywood style enough, you should be able to see through most of the film’s deceptions. Now, why was this film a cut above the rest? It all goes down to a few elements.
For starters, the writing is good in this movie. As it’s essentially a battle of wits between Ethan and Solomon, the writing needed to be good or things could have gotten pretty dicey. Both characters try to stay one step ahead of the other, although it’s a much tougher task for Ethan since he has no resources for most of the adventure and has to make do with what he’s got. Solomon also has an entire organization to back him up.
The action scenes are pretty fun. There’s a motorcycle race between Ethan and the villains as they all cruise along at top speeds. Ethan has experience in all speeding vehicles so he’s definitely prepared for such a challenge. It’s definitely the best action sequence in the film and does a good job of showing Ethan’s skills as an agent. There’s also a car chase and then the stunt scenes like Ethan going underwater or hanging onto an airplane. Those were all fairly well done and holding one’s breath for so long is a good feat.
The hand to hand battles are also nice and fast paced. They’re a little more violent than the older films as the heroes literally break their opponents a lot of time. For current fight scenes, the trend is to hear the bones breaking and put a lot of emphasis on when the heroes pull a General Zod moment, but it never gets too over the top and you can still appreciate how skilled Ethan is when he’s fighting off the opponents.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m definitely a big fan of the character. Ethan’s been a consistently solid agent since the first film and his skills have improved. He’s not portrayed as being invincible in hand to hand combat as a random thug was overpowering him in a fair fight, but he makes up for that with his other skills. Like James Bond, Ethan has a license to kill and he gives it a real workout here. He’s essentially a legal assassin so you shouldn’t expect him to take any prisoners. It’s simply not his way. That being said, compared to other secret agents who do whatever they want in the process of completing the mission like James Bond or even Jason Bourne, Ethan is simply better at the job. He’s far more professional than James Bond and I’d say that he’s smarter than Bourne.
That being said, the film probably does rub our nose in it a little too much. I don’t believe that Ethan could successfully follow the Syndicate around the world for months without his government status. He somehow manages to also stay one step ahead of the CIA along the way and makes himself a base filled with lots of high tech equipment. I definitely think that it’s a stretch, but Mission Impossible is all about doing the impossible so it’s not something to think about too much. Plot hax is always around if you know where to look.
While Ethan is easily my favorite character in the film, I also like Brandt. He’s the connection on the government side of things and he almost could have been the main character if not for Ethan always stealing the spotlight. He acts like a leader and he’s quite skilled although he’s no Ethan Hunt. Without Brandt helping with the legal aspects of the situation, Ethan would have likely been doomed. Benji is a big player in this film, but I can’t say that I’m a fan. He’s not a bad character, but I feel like he doesn’t really add anything to the film except to be there for when Ethan needs an extra man. I would have preferred Brandt to have been the co-star, but he was definitely needed in the CIA plot.
Another one of Ethan’s friends, Luther shows up during the film. After the opening scene, he essentially vanished until the halfway point or maybe even later. He’s good and his computer skills are top notch. He doesn’t get much to do compared to the other members, but he helps out when the team is in a pinch. The leader of the CIA was a fairly likable character and you couldn’t help, but root for him at times. He always meant well and looking at things from his perspective, it’s hard to deny that he made some good calls. Destroying the IMF? It’s probably a good idea, but he would need to have a backup squad ready ASAP before the villains got any ideas.
As for the villains, let’s start off with Solomon. He’s actually a good villain who thinks things through and did a good job of outsmarting the heroes for a while. He has one “intimidation” scene that will make you wince and/or roll your eyes, but that was the only scene where he wasn’t impressive. I like how he turned the whole “Should you accept it” speech around on Ethan. He did it twice, but the first time was certainly the best moment. It really came out of nowhere and while we knew that the villain would make a move, it’s safe to say that nobody expected it to be so epic. It made the wait for the rematch that much more epic.
There were other villains like the “Bone Doctor” who gave the film some fights. Beyond them, the other big character would be the heroine, Ilsa. Throughout the film, you have to decide if you will trust her or not. I give the film some major props for not trying to turn her into a love interest for Ethan. That would have been pretty terrible and most films make that mistake, but not this one. Ilsa is used for some slight fanservice in one or two scenes, but it’s slight at least and not played up. (As it would certainly be in a lesser film) Ilsa’s a good character, but at the same time, she doesn’t think about her current situation enough. She takes a whole lot of risks for her country, but it goes into dicey territory with how unnecessary a lot of them are. She should realize that she’s just being used and act accordingly. Ilsa also came close to destroying Ethan on several occasions and you have to wonder if she meant to or not since depending on the answer, it does make her look bad. On the bright side, while it was at the expense of the British, the American Government looks nice and fair by comparison this time.
Rogue Nation has a lot of intense action scenes, but it’s also a lot of fun throughout and has a similar upbeat tone to that of The Avengers. People in the audience cracked up when the M16 chief got shot because of his extremely mild/dazed response. The film also has a good amount of witty banter about it. It never turns into full on comedy mode, but has enough light moments to keep you entertained throughout the film. It’s only around 2 hours, but the film really crams in a ton of content so the movie is always going.
I have to note that the film also uses a retro effect that I haven’t seen some time. Remember a few decades ago when the opening credits of a film would show scenes from the actual film that hadn’t happened yet? This one does that as the credits were rolling and it’s interesting. I’m actually not a huge fan of this since it’s showing you scenes that are about to happen, but I suppose that it could be a good way to generate hype. I dunno, I’m still against it, but it’s worth noting.
One thing that I liked about the ending was who the new recruit to the IMF was. It’s the perfect situation since as long as this person remains in the shadows, the IMF can do whatever they want. Of course, with no one to check on them, the IMF has to be very careful that they don’t go down a similar path like the Syndicate. As mentioned several times, Ethan is a gambler and the IMF takes a lot of huge risks. They will fail sometimes, but at least they still save lives whenever they enter the field.
Finally, I can’t forget to mention that the soundtrack is really good. The opening theme that played sounded an awful lot like a Terminator remix and then we also got the classic MI theme a few times during the film. It was a great selection of themes to be sure and they helped to make the film even more fun than it could have been. It’s safe to say that no other live action film this year will be able to defeat this film except for possibly Star Wars and even that only has a really slim shot. Mission Impossible is just too fun a franchise and can hold its own with any big title.
Overall, Rogue Nation is another win for the Mission Impossible series. On the record, I believe that it is the best MI title to date, but the series has had a good track record of aging well so it’s possible that the older titles will age slower than this one and overtake it. We shall see, but I don’t see myself lowering this score anytime soon so they will have to catch up to it. With fun fight scenes and an epic soundtrack, this film had all the tools needed to be a winner. There are a lot of things that can happen in the next film since it’s essentially a clean slate right now. If you want to check out an action film, this is the perfect one for you.