3 Stars – Challenging
Weave together the thrills of an action film with the plot twists of a mystery, the intrigue of espionage and the sexual tension of unexplored attraction and you have the exciting genre we know as a Mission Impossible film! This fifth film in the series, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, is arguably one of the best of the genre, although the values portrayed are roughly equivalent to those of a video game.
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this is only the third film McQuarrie has directed, but he is known for his excellent skills in writing such films as The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie. Playing the audience along with the villains, this typical Mission Impossible tale shows the team coming up against impossible situations with an overpowering villain and yet showing themselves to not only be creative and courageous but also ingenious as they once again bring a master villain to justice.
The unparalleled MIF agent in all the films is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). However, he is not a James Bond who works alone, but rather he has a loyal and diverse team. His handler is William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) the head of MIF and his sidekicks who are electronic experts are the diminutive Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and the powerhouse Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames).
The villain of the tale is Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Lane is the head of a global syndicate who has gathered together rogue agents from all the various nations and spy networks to usher in a new future. Brilliant and ruthless, Lane has bested Hunt and is a genius at manipulating human beings to force them to do his will. In his stable of agents is the equally unparalleled agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Predictably, Hunt and Faust create the romantic interest and unfulfilled sexual tension which are staples for virtually all films of this genre.
The overarching moral and social themes are also predictable. The governments of the world are seen as pawns in the games of ruthless spies while the villainous Lane has no moral values or limits as he kills capriciously as well as strategically for his own gain. The head of the CIA, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), is also an unwitting pawn in Hunt’s plans even as Hunley works to get Congress to disband the Mission Impossible team.
In terms of values in government, we’re not sure that what goes on in Mission Impossible comes anywhere close to creating justice and honesty in our society. If anything, we think it creates an acceptance of one of the worst justifications of governmental behavior, where citizens just "look the other way" and don't really want to know how our government keeps us safe. Citizens often just want to know that someone out there is going to make them "feel" safe. In the past, this indifference justified slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, Nazi Germany, bad police behavior in black neighborhoods, and other forms of legal and illegal injustice.
But this is a summer blockbuster film of action and suspense and it delivers. As is true of all Mission Impossible films, good wins, evil is defeated, and loyalty though questioned is nevertheless found to be true. To accomplish such a feat may require impossible skills and unlikely victories, but it is an ending with which we can all live – at least until the next installment in the franchise.
- When we first meet Hunley as head of the CIA, he brings the tension of working to disband the Mission Impossible team into the tale. At the end of the film, he is welcomed into the family of the MIF team though he had no other choice. Do you now see him as a part of the team? Do you think the next chapter in the film series will keep this forced alliance with the CIA?
- The sexual tension between Hunt and Faust reaches its pinnacle when she invites him to run away with her. Do you believe that was part of the scheme or a sincere desire to fulfill their love? Why do you answer as you do? Why didn’t they go off into the sunset together when Lane was defeated?
- It isn’t hard to imagine an international team of rogue agents similar to soldiers of fortune. Do you think such a team exists in real life? Why do you answer as you do?
- What do you believe about our government’s responsibility to use moral and ethical means to keep our citizens safe? Or do you believe that the means justify the end and that public safety should be maintained no matter what the cost? Why do you answer as you do?