Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 31, 2015

Tom Cruise stars in 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'
Tom Cruise stars in 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'  (Source:Paramount Pictures)

This, the fifth installment in the "Mission: Impossible" movie franchise, follows up on the events of 2011's installment, "Ghost Protocol," but only in a tangential way. The main thrust of "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" has to do with a super-secret cabal of former intelligence agents who operate under the name The Syndicate.

"Ghost Protocol" comes back to haunt the IMF team -- led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), and including maverick computer specialists Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), as well as the much more hidebound William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) -- when a Congressional panel shuts down their agency at the urging of CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin).

The bad news comes at an awkward moment for Hunt, who is in London trying to gather tangible evidence for The Syndicate, whose movements have been so shadowy, and yet their actions so bold, that Hunley believes the new organization doesn't even exist -- while Hunt is convinced they are planning something huge, and diabolical.

What The Syndicate's larger goal might be is never made clear. Instead, the film focuses on the rivalry between Hunt -- who finds himself the subject of a manhunt by the CIA -- and the mysterious leader of The Syndicate, a brutal killer whose familiarity with the IMF's methods enables him to create a warped mirror image of the group. Ethan and his cohort of super-spies may have met their match.

Ethan is also evenly matched by a potential recruit for The Syndicate, a disavowed agent from British Intelligence name dills (Rebecca Ferguson). She's beautiful, brilliant, and lethal; Hunt and Ilsa's flirtations are powered not just by her classy dress sense, but also but the question mark hanging over her. Just whose side is she really on? Even the bloodless, unflappable leader of The Syndicate vacillates between wanting to kiss her and kill her. Lisa handles him the same way she seems to handle men in general: Tossing a gun at him, she invites him to place either his trust or a few rounds in her, but to make up his mind one way or the other.

This is rote stuff, as are the various daring hijinks Hunt and his guys get up to in an effort to clear the IMF's disgraced name, prove the existence of The Syndicate, evade Hunley's forces, and outwit their mysterious new nemesis. But that's not to say the movie isn't fast-paced and fun; if nothing else, "Rogue Nation" has the sense to stick with what the "Mission: Impossible" movies do best, blending outrageous action, globe-spanning intrigue, brothers-in-arms camaraderie, a whiff of sex, and a sprinkling of laughs (many of them, naturally, belonging to the Pegg who is, after all, a comedian). Whereas "Ghost Protocol" attempted to be a comedy, "Rogue Nation" plays its absurdities straight and lets the humor well up naturally, fed by the ground springs of the genre's own testosterone-driven macho fantasies.

The ever-youthful Cruise is less boyish than he used to be, but he's far from running low on energy. Neither is the "Mission: Impossible" franchise. Christopher McQuarrie, who both writes and directs, displays confidence and skill in crafting the story and keeping it broadly logical, but packed with enough thrills to divert attention from the basic questions it never addresses: Just what does The Syndicate want to achieve? How has it seduced so many top-level agents from so many intelligence agencies around the world? In any other kind of movie, this information would be rather important to the plot. Not here. You roll your eyes -- but you also roll with it.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.