"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is the fifth instalment in the long-running "Mission: Impossible" series. It shows the obvious influence of the even-longer-running Bond series. All the films in these two franchises involve Our Hero, named either James Bond or Ethan Hunt, travelling around the world with a glamorous female sidekick to various exotic foreign locations, performing various feats of improbable (not to say impossible) derring-do in an attempt to thwart the evil schemes of some dastardly individual or organisation.
"Rogue Nation" fits this template more or less exactly. Hunt, accompanied by his glamorous female sidekick Ilsa Faust, travels to Minsk, Vienna, Havana, Morocco and London, performing various feats of derring-do along the way, in an attempt to thwart the evil schemes of the Syndicate, a mysterious terrorist group. Those schemes include the assassination of various world leaders, including the Austrian Chancellor and the British Prime Minister. As the "Mission Impossible" franchise is an American one, London counts as an exotic foreign location in a way in which it does not in the Bond series.
In some respects "Rogue Nation" parallels recent developments in the Bond cycle. In early Bonds it was generally easy to tell who was on what side- Bond, his MI6 colleagues and the lovely Bond Girl were all on the side of right and justice whereas the villains (Dr No, Blofeld, Goldfinger, etc.) and their henchmen were first into bat for Satan's kingdom. Occasionally, as with Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger", the Bond Girl started off working for the baddies, but inevitably changed sides (aided by Bond's powers of seduction) when she realised just what a bastard her employer really was.
In more recent episodes, however, Bond has had to cope with inter-service rivalry between MI5 and MI6, former British agents going over to the dark side and colleagues who prove untrustworthy. So it proves in "Rogue Nation". Hunt has to do battle not only against the Syndicate but also against the CIA, who want to shut down the IMF whose agents are regarded as unreliable. (In this context "IMF" stands not for "International Monetary Fund" but "Impossible Mission Force"). The head of the Syndicate, Solomon Lane, turns out to be a rogue British agent (just like the characters played by Sean Bean in "Goldeneye" and Javier Bardem in "Skyfall"). And Hunt never knows whom he can trust- not even the lovely Ilsa and his friend colleague Benji Dunn. (Ilsa, despite her German-sounding name, is also an MI6 agent).
One difference between the "Mission: Impossible" series and the Bonds is that, although the series has been going for over twenty years, the main character has been played by the same actor throughout. Tom Cruise was 53 when "Rogue Nation" was made and I understand that he will return in a sixth instalment later this year, making him, at 56, older than either Sean Connery or Roger Moore when they made their final Bonds. In 2015, however, Cruise still looked youthful enough to be plausible as the hero of an action thriller, and I doubt if the intervening three years will have made much difference in this respect when "Mission: Impossible" emerges. Rebecca Ferguson makes a lovely heroine and there is a good cameo from Alec Baldwin as the CIA boss, although Sean Harris as Lane never seems very threatening, more like a provincial bank manager than a rogue spy or international terrorist.
As a thriller, in fact, "Rogue Nation" is quite a decent one with some good special effects and well-handled action scenes. It does, however, have two problems, which it shares with a number of recent spy films involving betrayal or double-dealing. The first is that the plot at times becomes so complex it can be difficult to understand. The second is that plots of this nature are starting to become over-familiar; increasing complexity seems to increase, rather than decrease, the feeling of "seen-it-all=before". Perhaps it is time for a rethink of the modern spy genre. 6/10
A goof. The Austrian Chancellor is referred to as a "European head of state". In fact, the Austrian Chancellor, like the British Prime Minister, is Head of Government but not Head of State. The Head of Sate of Austria is the President.