A new Mission: Impossible movie came out this weekend, and you know what that means: It’s time to put aside (most) negative feelings about Tom Cruise and admit that there’s a damn good reason he’s been a movie star for so long. It may not have the snazz of the MCU, but Mission: Impossible has been one of the most reliably solid franchises of the past 20 years.
So how is Rogue Nation? The phrase “damn good” applies. Plot-wise, it has about what you’d expect from an M:I movie: Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Missions Force crew get disavowed, have to unravel a baddie’s evil plot, then get reavowed. (Er… spoiler? C’mon, you knew they had to get re-avowed, so they could get re-disavowed in the next movie.) Rebecca Ferguson stuns as a new addition to the mix, a British agent named Ilsa who spends half the movie’s running time showing Ethan Hunt up. She’s the Furiosa to his Mad Max. It’s glorious.
Really, though, it’s more of the same: Car chases, disguises, daring infiltrations of top-secret hideaways. Which is not at all a criticism, because damn, director Christopher McQuarrie pulls it off. Rogue Nation is fun. I’d rank it among the top action movies of the top five years, in fact.
But how does it compare to its fellow recent action champions? Let’s take a look…
Furious Seven (2015)
All apologies to Mr. The Rock, but I think Rogue Nation delivers better on the action front than Furious 7, which I loved. The reason is this: Furious Seven had two amazing action sequences–the mountainside car chase in Azerbaijan and the Abu Dhabi flying car sequence–but they were both midway through the film. The big third act set piece, with Dom and his
friends family playing keep-away with Nathalie Emmanuel, just couldn’t compare. After Paul Walker drives a car through not one but two skyscrapers, even Furious 7′s sweet, sweet The Rock machine gun action was kind of tepid.
Rogue Nation, however, kept its pacing consistent: The tension escalated from the first scene to the last, and while there were some standout sequences (ie the water tank scene, holy sh*t), the action as a whole was a lot less disjointed. Sorry, Vin. I still love you. Have a Corona on me next time we meet for drinks and D&D, because we are secret BFFs.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
I don’t even want to compare these two movies. They both have Tom Cruise. They both have a lead actress who steals the show, and whom I want to see play Captain Marvel. In fact, can we cast both Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson as Captain Marvel, and they just alternate scenes? And maybe Gwendoline Christie can step in to cover for them if they want to take an extended lunch break or something? Edge of Tomorrow gets the slight edge here, for several reasons. One: I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, which made it a pleasant surprise, as opposed to Rogue Nation, which was a pleasant not-surprise. Two: All other factors being equal, I will always choose the movie with time travel. Three: Emily Blunt’s arms.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
I actually preferred Rogue Nation’s action scenes to Ghost Protocol‘s, though the latter’s Burj Khalifa scene was flipping insane. As a whole, however, Ghost Protocol is a better film, if not by much. Rogue Nation‘s 2+ hour’s running time can feel like a slog near the middle, where Ghost Protocol felt more breezy and energetic, even though it’s two minutes longer. The main improvement, though, is that Jeremy Renner’s Brandt character actually had a point in Ghost, which was his first movie in the franchise. On the other hand, you get the feeling in Rogue Nation that McQuarrie (who also wrote the script) didn’t really know what to do with him, and would gladly have written him out if Renner hadn’t signed a multiple-film contract.
Renner, who’s been Hollywood’s Next Big Thing for years, has no fewer than three big franchises going (M:I, the MCU, Bourne), and he’s an also-ran in all of them. He’s a good actor, but some part of the formula just isn’t working. He’s like an Oscar-nominated Taylor Kitsch.
The Raid 2 (2014)
The best Rogue Nation fight scene: Tom Cruise vs a giant tank of water. The best The Raid 2 scene: The mysterious Hammer Girl vs a subway car full of minions. Hammer Girl wins every time. Actually, screw it, let’s put actress Julie Estelle on the imaginary Captain Marvel rotation, too.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The more I think about it, there are a lot of similarities between Rogue Nation and Fury Road. Both are parts of a preexisting franchise that don’t deviate from their franchise’s established formula all that much. There’s not a ton that’s original in terms of plot. Fury Road is a chase movie. Rogue Nation is American James Bond. Each movie knows what it is, and it does it well. There’s the aforementioned Furiosa/Ilsa connection: A female lead who drives the plot, is über-competent, and doesn’t engage in a romantic relationship with the hero, who–for all that he is the main character–really functions within the movie as more like the head of her support team. I demand a buddy comedy, or a web comic or something. Tumblr, get on that.
That said, Fury Road may not have been anything too new, but it felt new, perhaps because the gap between it and its most recent predecessor was longer than four years.
Nothing beats Fury Road. WITNESS ME.