The Cast and Characters

While Rogue Nation loves its big moments, it pays attention to the little ones, too. After the action, the main appeal of Rogue Nation lies in its characters, starting with its still-spry leading man. That long chestnut mane looks a bit less convincing with every passing year, but otherwise his mind and body show no signs of showing down.

Still, even this Tom Cruise vehicle wouldn’t be half as fun without the supporting cast. McQuarrie brings in some of the best from past films. Luther is the blunt force who’ll call others on their bullshit, Brandt is the straight man with a deadpan sense of humor, and Benji’s the overgrown geek who’s still a bit starstruck by Ethan. After multiple installments, the cast knows their characters inside and out, and the easy chemistry they’ve developed serves Rogue Nation well.

Outside of Ethan’s inner circle, Baldwin gets some truly spectacular line readings as the apoplectic, out-of-his-element Hunley. (The crazed expression on his face as he spits, “Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny!” is priceless.) And Harris is chilling as the coldly brilliant Lane. But the real standout here is Ilsa, whom we’ll get to in the next section.


The Female Lead

As written by McQuarrie and Pearce and performed by Ferguson, Ilsa is equal parts hero, antihero, and femme fatale. When we first meet her, she’s a questionable figure who’s already a step ahead of Ethan. As we get to know her better, we realize she’s every bit Ethan’s equal in terms of strength, smarts, and skills. Finally, she reveals herself as something even better: a fully formed female character with motivations, an arc, and a personality all her own.

The relatively unknown Ferguson puts in a star-making performance as Ilsa. Her cool elegance and dry wit make Ilsa an immediately appealing presence — always a plus when one’s job requires quadruple-crossing trained spies and killers. She’s got a commanding physicality as well, resulting in a distinct fighting style that’s more brutally efficient than pretty.

McQuarrie’s eye also goes a long way toward shaping this badass character. In one early scene, Ilsa extends a bare leg from a sexy dress while getting into position for a kill. The moment could’ve been played as pure eye candy — here’s a beautiful woman flashing skin — but his camera treats it more like a shirtless scene from a superhero movie. Yes, it’s sexy, but it’s also an effective reminder of how powerful and capable that body is.

In fact, at times Ilsa feels like the true lead of the movie. For a long stretch of the middle, it’s Ilsa’s actions that drive the plot, as Ethan hops from country to country in pursuit of her. It’s almost akin to the way Furiosa is the protagonist of Mad Max: Fury Road, with Max just along for the ride. Mission: Impossible doesn’t go quite that far, but it did enough to leave me dreaming of a spinoff with Ilsa at the center.


On the last page: How Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation fits into our current movie landscape, and what makes the film so satisfying.

Continue Reading ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ Review >>

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