In the beginning… there was James Bond: suave, dashing, most definitely chauvinistic, a trained killer with a gift for witty bon mots. And British. Bond belonged to the world, but he was above all, British. While Americans helped make Bond a pop-cultural phenomenon, the former colonies had to settle for the meager exploits of the bland Felix Leiter.
It’s somewhat surprising that it took so long for Hollywood to build its own successful superspy franchise, but when they finally did 20 years ago, they hired the right man for the job: Tom Cruise. The Mission: Impossible movies, which Cruise produces, have become his most successful and reliable projects, and he shows no signs of slowing down even at an age — 53 — when Bond producers typically go looking for the next 007.
In Rogue Nation, the fifth Impossible film and the followup to 2011’s franchise-rejuvenating Ghost Protocol, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt finds himself stalking a nefarious stealth organization with ties to British Intelligence, the Syndicate — an anti-IMF dedicated to creating global chaos.
Hunt might be the only man who thinks the Syndicate even exists, and the IMF has been shut down by a CIA suit (Alec Baldwin) after the collateral damage of Ghost Protocol. But the team — Simon Pegg’s comic-relief techie, Jeremy Renner’s Leiter-esque No. 2, and Ving Rhames loyal computer guru — go underground to take down the evildoers, leading to a series of elaborately orchestrated stunts that will impress even those who’ve already seen clips and bits of them in the commercials. The best special effect, however, and one of the film’s finest features is Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen), who plays a mysterious agent with conflicting loyalties but undeniable chemistry with Cruise. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who also worked with Cruise on Jack Reacher and the underappreciated Edge of Tomorrow, “Rogue Nation may not be the best, the tightest, or even the most logically coherent M:I flick,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his B+ review. “But there should be more movies like it: relentlessly thrilling, smart entertainments for folks who can’t tell the difference between Quicksilver and The Flash — and aren’t particularly interested in trying to learn the difference either.”
For more of Nashawaty’s review, and a sampling of other critics’ opinions, scroll below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Director Christopher McQuarrie understands that Cruise’s signature without-a-net show-stopper is what we’re all primed for. And he wastes no time serving it up, opening the film with its biggest money shot, as Cruise sprints and leaps onto the wing of a Russian cargo plane… [A]ll you can do is pick your jaw off your lap and grin at the breathtakingly bananas spectacle you’ve just witnessed. Because, make no mistake about it, even at 53, Cruise is still Hollywood’s hungriest leading man. “
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▲
“With Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, we’re getting the best Bond movie since Casino Royale in 2006. Okay, so Ethan Hunt isn’t James Bond and the Impossible Missions Force isn’t MI6, but the MI films are essentially Bond movies, with a touch of Bourne and a whole lot of Tom Cruise doing what he does best … performing harrowing stunts, engaging in clever banter with his adversaries, and doing it all with just the hint of a smirk…”
Manohla Dargis (New York Times)
“Watching Tom Cruise hurtle through the latest Mission: Impossible, taking one blow after another, you can’t help worrying that he won’t be able to keep this action stuff up. It looks so hard! But here he is, the 53-year-old Tom Terrific, holding onto a plane as it takes off, defying sense and gravity, and making you wonder (not for the first time) if he would actually die for our pleasure.”
Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“Cruise and Hunt are the reasons the Mission: Impossible movies exist; even their names acknowledge they’re the action principle in its purest onscreen form. It’s a giggle and a thrill, and after all these years (and whatever you think of him), Tom Cruise still does it exceptionally well. He’s the living manifestation of destiny. We’re just his mission.”
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“His acting is also an act of will. Cruise brings a conviction to his scenes here that is partly the character’s, but mostly it’s as if he keeps repeating, “I am Tom Cruise, and I am going to fill your mind with this very important thing I am about to say.” And everything he says is important. He has a scene with Simon Pegg in which he’s incredibly intense, and one can hardly imagine why.”
David Edelstein (New York)
“The best reason to see Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation is Rebecca Ferguson, a Swedish-born actress passing easily as a British spy named Ilsa. The character is either a double (good) or triple (bad) agent — but it’s the type of bad that would make most of us want to switch our allegiances in a heartbeat. Actually, Ferguson’s mom is a Brit, which would account for the slight smirk that suggests naughty secrets on an otherwise coolly beautiful face, as well as the kitty-cat purr that makes routine lines sound as insouciant as Emma Peel.”
Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
“A dazzling, auburn-haired Swedish beauty, she embodies the glamour and élan of a modern-day Diana Rigg, or Edge of Tomorrow’s Emily Blunt. Like Blunt, Ferguson manages to be sexy, strong, complicated and enigmatic in a performance that Cruise highlights by way of his own reflected persona. It may not entail hanging off the side of a moving airplane, but it’s a pretty gutsy and admirable stunt nonetheless, free of vanity and brimming with the secure, unfussy confidence of a true star.”
Dana Stevens (Slate)
“Perhaps more than any of the M:I directors so far, McQuarrie understands the unique properties of this singular movie star — his ascetic intensity, his sometimes-scary moral certainty, his always-scary drive to excel. The result of their collaboration is a briskly paced and witty reminder of why we go see summer action movies in the first place…”
A.A. Dowd (The A.V. Club)
“Rather than go full auteur on his formulaic material, McQuarrie instead offers a kind of greatest hits package: Rogue Nation marries the shifting loyalties of Brian De Palma’s original to the kinetic action beats of John Woo’s series nadir and the all-set-piece structure of Brad Bird’s series zenith, adding an omnipotent villain not far removed from the one Philip Seymour Hoffman played in J.J. Abrams’ entry. It’s the least visually or conceptually distinctive of the five movies, leaning on what’s worked before rather than forging its own path.”
Wesley Morris (Grantland)
“I know: Cruise doesn’t hit walls. He smashes through them. But at some point you get tired of looking at the rubble. In Rogue Nation, it isn’t just that he’s sprinting again. It’s that Ferguson and Renner have to be shown running just behind him, in second. … This is where we are with Cruise now. He’ll give you 200 percent, but not without gluing an angel’s wings to every bead of sweat. This is a terrific action movie. But McQuarrie has also committed for Cruise the creepiest, least pleasant kind of self-acknowledgement: consecration camp.”
Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“Nobody wants a campy Mission: Impossible picture, but I don’t think anyone wants to see a grave Mission: Impossible, either. A bolder choice would have been to see this often thrilling entertainment through to the overblown finale it deserved. Instead, Rogue Nation becomes flat and self-important, demanding that we take it at face value. That’s like asking you to treat a Road Runner cartoon as a nature documentary.”
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 75
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 percent
Length: 132 minutes
Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie