In 2015, it feels like more movies are part of a franchise than not. Actors sign on for multi year, multi movie deals to play the same character again and again. And Marvel can announce its upcoming movies for the next half dozen years. It’s made sequels seem a little less cash grabby and cynical, and more ambitious. For some reason, studios being open in advance about plans to milk us for years’ worth of cash from the same characters seems more OK than the old days, when a movie would be a surprise hit, then they’d slap together a sequel to get some more of our cash. But now, that old system of ad hoc sequels seems almost charming. It’s taken 20 years, five directors, and seemingly no plan, but the Mission: Impossible series remains the throwback franchise exception to the modern day franchise rule. And that continues with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
Picking up directly after the events of 2011’s Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF spy colleagues are on the trail of the Syndicate, the shadowy organisation of bad guys discovered in the last movie. After an amazing stunt with Cruise on the outside of a plane that deserves all the hype it got in the lead up to this movie’s release, IMF comes under the investigation of the US government and CIA Chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). It seems IMF’s missions have become a little too loose and Hunley thinks they should be more heavily regulated, or even better, disbanded completely.
While IMF boss William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) deals with that, Hunt goes in for the standard , “this is your mission, should you choose to accept it” moment that must happen in every film in this series. Only this time, the mission is delivered by The Syndicate. They’ve infiltrated the US government and IMF, and they plan on using Hunt and the IMF to do their dirty work for them. So now, Hunt, Brandt and their crew, rounded out by the communications nerds, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell and Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, are battling the bad guys, with their own government doing their best to get in the way at the same time.
I’m generally a fan of the Marvel movies, but I tend to like them despite their convoluted connected universe, rather than because of it. The intertwining stories and characters are entertaining, but they’re also the reason why those movies are typically so bloated in length and overloaded in plot. Its the stand alone nature of the Mission: Impossible movies that made me be able to enjoy Rogue Nation so much. I saw the original Mission: Impossible back in 1996 and thought it was fine. I think I saw the second one a few years after its release on DVD. I’ve never seen a second of Part III or Ghost Protocol, but none of that mattered.
From what I know, the series has never relied on specifics from previous installments to fully inform then next one. Anyone can jump in on this series anytime and not feel out to sea. Even with Rogue Nation being a direct continuation of the events of Ghost Protocol, I never felt like I was out of the loop or missing anything. It makes enough little references to the previous movie for someone like me to be brought into the loop, while never over explaining anything in a way to frustrate people who have seen the last movie.
And most importantly, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is just a really solid action flick. The car chases are thrilling, the stunts are amazing, the action sequences are inventive and the plot is a perfectly fine reason to string these car chases, stunts and action sequences together. Pegg, Baldwin and even Renner are all there to inject just enough comic relief and the movie knows what it is and what it’s trying to do. I’ll probably never watch Rogue Nation ever again, but watching it once is enough to make me want to see the next installment five or six years from now, when Tom Cruise picks some new, random director for another installment.