The Competition

Rogue Nation lands in theaters at a time when lovers of big-budget action are spoiled for choice. Mission: Impossible lacks the history of the James Bond franchise, the freshness of the Fast and Furious films, the nostalgic draw of the Terminator and Jurassic movies, and the devoted fandom of the Marvel and DC adaptations.

But Mission: Impossible does have an insane commitment to practical stunt work, which is no small thing in an era so reliant on greenscreen and CG. It would almost seem churlish to dislike Rogue Nation when Cruise is out there risking death for our amusement. Fortunately, McQuarrie makes sure Cruise’s real-life daring translates into the most thrilling action scenes this side of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Mission: Impossible also benefits in some ways from a lack of serialization. While there are plenty of callbacks to other films, Rogue Nation is entirely self-contained. It feels odd to call Rogue Nation tight when it runs over two hours long, contains half a dozen major set pieces, and throws in more plot twists than are worth keeping track of. But it feels no obligation to pay off earlier films or set up future ones, and as a result it’s free of that dreaded franchise bloat.


The Conclusion

On the other hand, Rogue Nation is also free of what makes a lot of great films click. It’s not terribly concerned with complex character development or emotional resonance, for example, and it doesn’t even try to offer deep sociopolitical commentary or moral lessons. Moreover, despite the looming threats of the Syndicate, the stakes never feel all that high. Rogue Nation‘s overall tone is so light, even by Mission: Impossible standards, that an unhappy ending is unimaginable.

The result is a film so airy, its memory begins to dissipate the second the credits roll. Two days later, I found I hadn’t thought about Rogue Nation at all, even though I’d enjoyed every minute of it in the theater. There just wasn’t that much to think about.

Then again, there’s something to be said for a film that gives up its pleasures so easily. Rogue Nation is the epitome of a popcorn movie. Its only real aim is to entertain in the moment, and on that front it succeeds with flying colors. Each dazzling action sequence is followed by another, the laughs come easily and frequently, and though it’s hardly a snap at 130 minutes, it’s all over before it gets a chance to wear out its welcome. So what if Rogue Nation doesn’t make for an interesting memory? It’s a hell of an experience, and sometimes, that’s enough.

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