All Mission Impossible films are pretty much the same. They’re action and suspense spy films, pitting super agents against nefarious sects that attempt to wreak chaos. There are cool gadgets and elaborate heists and international intrigue and double cross after double cross. Tom Cruise has played the role of Ethan Hunt in five films now spanning the past nineteen years, and it fits him like a glove. So going in, you know what you’re going to get out of a film like this. And Rogue Nation follows the formula very well. That is both to its betterment and detriment.
Rogue Nation features a splinter sect of former spies known as the Syndicate that has secretly been financing acts of terror around the globe. The only agent who believes that they exist is Ethan Hunt, joined by his friend, Benji (Simon Pegg), but with the CIA shutting down their IMF operation, they’re forced to go rogue to take down the Syndicate before it incites a world war.
Boasting clever action sequences and bustling along at a thrill per minute pace, the film knows its audience and knows how to keep them engaged. Fittingly, the role of Benji is used to guide our empathy. Through him, we feel the film as Hunt is kept emotionally distant, and Benji is a conduit for us to see his thinking.
However, there is nothing new in the film. It is painfully full of the same spy tropes, from the one-dimensional villain who wants to change the world to the action scenes (as well made as they are) to the objectifying of the female spy, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), to the double crosses that are pretty predictable. It’s a shame that as well made as the film is, it’s creativity is sorely lacking.
One of the pleasures of the new James Bond films starring Daniel Craig is the emotional journey they have given to Bond. His spy missions take a toll on him. Hunt still seems to be some kind of super human who goes on mission after mission with no personal stake other than national security, and he dusts himself off and gets ready for the next one. So the impossible missions are thrilling, yes, comfortable in their own skin, but they lack depth that brings true emotional engagement.