In the original Mission: Impossible television series, one of the recurring antagonists outside of the Not-Soviets was the Syndicate, a mysterious criminal organization that was something of a mix of the Mafia and SPECTRE. In the conclusion of Ghost Protocol (which I previously reviewed), Ethan was sent on new mission, to take on the Syndicate. In this film, we finally get that confrontation.
So, as is par for the course for the Mission Impossible series, with perhaps the sole exception of Mission: Impossible II, once again Ethan Hunt is on the run while trying to hunt down a sinister organization. The IMF has been dissolved due to the events of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and while Hunt is in the middle of hunting down the Syndicate. Hunt is, as per usual, on the run from the CIA, while also trying to bring down the Syndicate. On the course of the mission, once again he brings on Benji (Simon Pegg), with Brandt (Jeremy Renner) bringing Luther (Ving Rhames) onboard as well. In addition, Ethan has to figure out the loyalties of a spy within the Syndicate – Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).
After the last film was a straight up save-the-world plot, Rogue Nation’s premise is a much more grounded spy story, one which has a lot of callbacks to earlier films, both in terms of bringing Luther back in a more prominent role, as well as call-backs to earlier films both in terms of set-pieces and plot points, complete with the McGuffin basically being a list, though of a different kind of list.
With the exception of the opening action sequence, which was featured prominently in the trailers and featured Tom Cruise hanging from the door of a plane, the film’s action sequences are generally very grounded. The series is by no means going full Bourne, but it does narratively fit better with the concepts of the franchise. It’s still not quite as low-body count as series itself tended to be (the fundamental premise of the series was that IMF teams were able to get in, get out, and accomplish their mission without firing a shot).
The scenes are incredibly well staged, and the writing has some great moments of humor. In particular, Cruise and Pegg have tremendous on-screen chemistry, with Pegg really bringing out Cruise’s strengths as an actor, and helping to humanize the character of Ethan Hunt.
While the film’s female cast is rather small, Ferguson, as Ilsa, has some great character material, and the relationship between Ilsa and Ethan stays on the professional/friendly level. Further, she, not Ethan, gets the big fight with the film’s heavy, and she’s generally written as someone who can absolutely work at the same level as Ethan and his team.
In all, I really enjoyed this film – the Mission Impossible series definitely appears to still be going strong, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series.