Tom Cruise has had a hell of a career. Few actors have been so consistent over such a long period of time: if you look at his filmography over the last 35 years or so, every couple of years has been punctuated by a critically and commercially successful movie. Even as Cruise has entered his 50s he’s continued to put out stuff that’s interesting, entertaining and relevant. 2014’s Live Die Repeat (a kind of sci-fi Groundhog Day that’s also known as Edge of Tomorrow) was great, and Cruise followed that up a year later with his fifth Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation.
One might have expected the Mission Impossible franchise to have fallen into irrelevance and critical ignominy by now, but 2011’s Ghost Protocol was pretty good, and made an enormous amount of money at the box office. Rogue Nation is another solid entry in the long-running series. Cruise is in fine fettle: not only is he in excellent shape (such as would put to shame most men half his age), but he demonstrates good humour and a self-deprecating streak with visual jokes about his height and so on. Rogue Nation is a high-octane action movie with a great sense of visual spectacle, and once again the MI series comes up with interesting scenarios, locations, and stunning set-pieces that make for a very good two-hour ride. Moreover, the script is written with enough sincerity and emotional intelligence that it doesn’t make you feel particularly bad for watching it, unlike a lot of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood these days. In a lot of ways, Rogue Nation is a refreshingly traditional action film, and a good palette cleanser in this postmodern age of Marvel-style self-referential irony.
On which note, my personal gripe with Rogue Nation is the prominence of Simon Pegg’s character, Ethan Hunt’s sidekick Benji. Pegg has forged a lucrative niche Stateside portraying an American stereotype of the sarcastic, sexless British man-child, but I am really not a fan. Ving Rhames also reprises his increasingly irrelevant role in Hunt’s entourage as the hacker Luther; unlike Cruise, Rhames has not maintained his physique and no longer exudes the menace and masculine charisma he once did. I really hope the next MI film shakes up the supporting cast.
One thing that Rogue Nation does get right is the character of Ilsa Faust, a British intelligence operative played by Rebecca Ferguson. Ilsa’s apparent playing of both sides helps hold interest in the main story, which is otherwise best described as functional. She’s a good foil for Hunt, with a distinctive look and fighting style, and also a much better actor than Ghost Protocol’s Paula Patton. The main villain, by contrast, isn’t given much to work with and is a fairly unthreatening and unmemorable figure with a weird nasal voice. It doesn’t help that he bears more than a passing resemblance to the actor who plays Ilsa’s handler in British intelligence, which is sort of confusing and a bit of a faux pas as far as casting goes.
You really can’t go wrong witch watching Rogue Nation, though. The Mission Impossible franchise has earned a solid reputation for turning out reliably entertaining movies that can appeal to wide audiences, and Rogue Nation is no exception. While I probably preferred Ghost Protocol on the whole, you can’t really go wrong with watching Rogue Nation, whoever you’re with and whatever the situation. It’s a consummate Hollywood action movie, and a perfect vehicle for Cruise’s undeniable and remarkable talents.