“Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation” is the latest (and arguably greatest) chapter in the 50-year-old Mission: Impossible franchise. While many franchises grow stale with time, this one has stayed fresh by shifting its focus from psychological mystery to non-stop action thrills. I do love the tone of the original 1996 film, but this shifted focus has allowed the Mission: Impossible series to evolve and stay relevant throughout several generations. This film builds on the momentum created by “Ghost Protocol” as the story travels to new exotic locations, introduces new gadgets, and continues to incorporate the classic mind games that define this brand of spy film. I worried that another Ethan-Hunt-must-take-down-the-bad-guys-to-prove-his-innocence concept would fall flat due to its similarity to other films in the series, but the real focus of this story is the changing perspective of whether Ilsa, a mysterious British agent, is a hero or a villain. The character is very well-written and Rebecca Ferguson embraces the depth of her conflicting motivations. Another interesting twist is that, rather than battle a terrorist, Ethan must take down an entire crime organization headed by the mastermind Solomon Lane. Lane is played by Sean Harris, who uses a quiet approach that somehow exudes an intimidating sense of power. Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner reprise their roles to create continuity with “Ghost Protocol.” One of my biggest issues with these films is that each one feels like a new world without connection to previous films, but this one truly felt like a continuation of the previous story. Once you add in Ving Rhames (whose presence was really missing in the last film) and carefully cast insignificant roles with actors who leave a strong impression (like Hermione Corfield as the record shop girl), it helps to make the far-fetched plot more believable. One of my biggest complaints is that, like other films in the series, the characters endure far too much physical damage to still be on their feet. I suppose this is just something that you have to accept with an action film. “Rogue Nation” will probably be most remembered for its high-speed motorcycle chase. I don’t think I blinked or took a single breath until it was over. I was a bit disappointed that the highly-advertised stunt in which Tom Cruise actually hangs off of the wing of a plane as it takes off occurred in the first 3 minutes of the film; however, all was redeemed with the opera sequence in Vienna. It was genius to craft the scene around a gunshot to be fired during the high A in Turandot’s “Nessun Dorma,” one of the most famous notes in all of opera. I adored the stylistic shot in which they showed the note circled in the libretto, a clue that allows the musicians in the audience to anticipate the climax of the scene. If that wasn’t enough to thrill me, composer Joe Kraemer brings the story full-circle by blending “Nessun Dorma” with the main theme during one of the film’s most dramatic moments toward the end. These details will make it easy to rewatch the film, even once you know its twists. Just when you thought that it couldn’t get any better, “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation” shows that there is a lot left to be told in the story of Ethan Hunt. I can’t wait to see where they go next.
[Pictured: Cruise actually did this stunt. And it might not even be the most impressive scene in the film! How can the Mission: Impossible series possibly get any better? Hopefully, we don't have to wait too long to find out.]