Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
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Our reviewer saw Ghost Protocol six times in the theater (her record), but Rogue Nation fell short of her high expectations.
Ghost Protocol, despite my general lack of enthusiasm for the other M:I films, holds my record for most times I’ve ever seen a movie in a theater - six viewings in one week. I loved that movie. Why, you might ask, when I has such a dislike for the others? To put it short, it had a fantastic cast, fun dialogue, stunts that made me cringe in my seat, plenty of angsty moments for those of us who like having a heartfelt excuse to give imaginary hugs to our favorite characters, and a genuine sense of teamwork that allowed the agents to bond. There is nothing negative I can say about that movie.
Rogue Nation, unfortunately, doesn't even come close to Ghost Protocol. Not that it was a bad film; it was certainly entertaining, and exciting, and I laughed quite a bit. Still, I won't be watching it six times in the theaters.
So what went wrong? Mostly what was lacking, as was the issue with the first three films, was the notion of a single, unified team who really trusted one another. Before Ghost Protocol, it was usually “Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) vs. the world!” This latest film went back in that direction despite the fact that this time his team consisted of all familiar faces from the previous films, people which he should’ve had an easy time connecting with as a group. Instead of forming that singular functional unit, however, the other characters simply traded off helping Ethan to accomplish his goals, so while we got to see everyone showcased here and there, there wasn’t that same feeling of the whole team coming together as the little family we loved from Ghost Protocol. It's something like watching a high school reunion where all the besties suddenly remember their past selves and go back to their old shenanigans for a while, but everyone knows that once the party’s over, those friends are all going to drop out of touch again.
An example: Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Ethan yell at each other over how to proceed with the mission, and Brandt just caves. There was a reason behind that in Ghost Protocol, a tension and guilt that Brandt carried with him that left him feeling indebted to Ethan. That was resolved last movie. Ethan should’ve learned from that to have more respect for his teammate’s opinions, and by this point in the timeline, if Brandt is going to argue a point, he no longer has the obligation to submit to Ethan’s reasoning so easily.
Then there was the issue with Brandt himself. In Ghost Protocol, we were introduced to Brandt as nothing more than a highly-skilled analyst. Through the course of events, however, we learned that he was actually a very capable field agent who was suffering a bit of trauma from his last mission, opting to take his desk job because he couldn’t handle the thought of another failure on the field. By the end of the film, he was able to overcome the events of his past and walk away fully ready to return to the world of being a full IMF agent...yet we learn in Rogue Nation that he apparently chose not to do that and to remain an analyst instead. Why? We never find out.
Then there were the small, yet obvious attempts to mimic the successes of Ghost Protocol, but came off as gimmicky the second time around. For instance, opening the film with the big airplane stunt? And the characters questioning Ethan’s whereabouts multiple times while the stunt was being set up? Maybe it would’ve been great if I hadn’t seen the Dubai scene a thousand times, which trumped the plane ride that was too short to allow you to really appreciate the peril of the moment.
Then there was the completely random new gag revolving around the latest M:I girl and her obsession with taking off her shoes. Girl, I watched Jurassic World where the leading lady outran a t-rex in her skinny heels. If you can’t get down from a four foot ledge without ditching your shoes, you might want to go back to superspy school.
And I guess that really is the crux of the problem right there, isn’t it? When we watch movies, we can’t help but make comparisons to our favorites that came before, and my feelings about Rogue Nation are a product of those comparisons. Again, it was not a bad film. It’s just that it couldn’t live up to the expectations that its predecessor set. I get the feeling that if I had seen Rogue Nation first, I might have had far more positive things to say about it; but alas, I can’t go back and rearrange my viewing history. I waited for years to see where Brandt, Benji, Ethan, and the absent Jane would venture off to next, and this just couldn’t live up to my high standards. As much as I love action films, even the ones with very little plot, all I really wanted for Rogue Nation was to have my dysfunctionally functional little family of IMF agents back, and it just didn’t deliver. Give me that, and I’ll go see it five more times.
Read our other review this week: Listen to Me Marlon