Rogue Nation Scores Rave First Reviews

The fifth film in the “Mission: Impossible” series, ‘Rogue Nation,’ had its world premiere in Vienna earlier this week ahead of a global launch late next week.

The series has had a rocky history though there’s no question that the John Woo-directed second film is seen as an outright dud. Whether Brian DePalma’s espionage-oriented first film or J.J. Abrams action-driven third film is better depends upon whom you talk to though both seem to be pretty close.

What is clear is that Brad Bird’s fourth film, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” was a winner both with audiences and critics – garnering good reviews and way more box-office than any of the previous entries, revitalising the brand.

The good news is reviews for ‘Rogue Nation’ so far indicate writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has continued the uptick in quality and has delivered something at least on par – and quite a few are saying better. The action set pieces are being fairly universally acclaimed across the board with rarely a complaint and often astonishment over what’s being shown. Many say the film has the best action of any film this Summer, aside from maybe “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

McQuarrie’s directing and the Turandot-inspired score also get singled out for praise. The story and characters is where there’s more of a divide – some saying it has the best script of the franchise and a more introspective tone than previous entries. The villain is also singled out as an improvement.

Others are less enthusiastic, saying it’s cobbled together and mostly just signposting for the next set piece. Where it will ultimately land is unsure but judging by the first dozen or so reviews, it looks like it will be the best received entry in the series yet. Here’s a sampling of the reviews:

“If the robust commercial performance of 2011’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” made a follow-up inevitable, then luck turns out to be very much on the side of this unusually spry and satisfying fifth entry, which finds the surviving members of the Impossible Missions Force trying to neutralize an insidious global threat, while struggling to convince their skeptical overlords that there is such a threat to begin with. The result is an existential quandary that writer-director Christopher McQuarrie negotiates with characteristic cleverness and a sly respect for the sheer durability of genre; at once questioning and reaffirming the pleasures of cinematic espionage, this is the rare sequel that leaves its franchise feeling not exhausted but surprisingly resurgent at 19 years and counting…” Justin Chang, Variety

“If writer-director McQuarrie was daunted by the prospect of following Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird’s franchise reviver, it’s not showing. Rogue Nation carries the scorch marks of Bird’s work and Brian de Palma’s original, but its key influences are the campy spy cinema of Roger Moore-era James Bond and Sydney Newman’s 1960s TV series, The Avengers… Also unusual is Ferguson’s role, which threatens to match Cruise’s in terms of screen-time. Her character is given agency and motivation. She’s neither love interest nor foil. Sometimes you wonder, as with Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year, if the star is the star at all…” Henry Barnes, The Guardian

“That said, even the most rote sequence is exciting, thanks in large part to Cruise himself. Ethan Hunt is reckless and risk-taking; he rarely comes away from a fight without a few bruises, cuts, bullet wounds, or various near-death experiences. There’s an air of levity interspersed between the scuffles – a self-awareness that made Brad Bird’s entry (2011’s Ghost Protocol) so compelling – which carries over for the most part here. Cruise nails these moments, projecting at times both confidence and incredulity that he survived yet another precarious situation…” Ross Miller, The Verge

“Rogue Nation is a ride. It accepts the gauntlet thrown down by Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol, staging hugely impressive set pieces while furthering a stronger story that makes better use of Ethan Hunt’s entire MIF team… it’s incredibly fun. It annoys me that I have to phrase it this way, but the fact that the Mission sequels continue to improve film after film – from M:I 3 to Ghost Protocol to this – is impossible. And yet, it’s happening, so why not enjoy the experience?…” Sean O’Connell, Cinema Blend

“Latest director Christopher McQuarrie has decided the only way forward for the unflagging spy franchise is the direct pleasures of old-fashioned genre entertainment. Resisting the vogue for narrative sprawl, and the bad habits of former Missions, this is a thriller that aspires only to be a great thriller. Set up the dilemma, throw in the characters and watch them try to figure it out. No need for backstories, real-world relevance or, worse still, irony…” Ian Nathan, Empire

“The first three offerings all boasted filmmakers with their own stylistic flourishes that made these intriguing (if not always entirely successful) spy thrillers with a clear identity. Rogue Nation is very much a facsimile of 2011’s Ghost Protocol, a woah-look-Cruise-is-really-doing-that-stuff affair. Story innovation and character development fall by the wayside here, idly filing time until the next IMAX-boosted set piece arrives…” Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy

“Although Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the fifth film in this long-running series, it is also the first unequivocally great one. Christopher McQuarrie’s entry may not amount to much more than popcorn entertainment, but it is fantastic popcorn entertainment because it finally gets the balance just right… And it is a solid foundation on which to build a film that repeatedly screws with its heroes, and screws them up good. McQuarrie’s screenplay can’t let a moment go by without finding some new way to make Ethan Hunt’s life harder…” William Bibbiani, Crave Online

“If you’re looking for the Mission Impossible series to evolve or use the team it set up at the end of Ghost Protocol, then this feels more like a detour. One which toys with the idea of exploring the psychology of Ethan Hunt, the man who doesn’t know how to give up, and the anachronism that is the IMF, but really all it wants to do is celebrate that by strapping him to a plane. The movie that emerges is a lot fun, with silly, suspenseful missions, espionage fantasy, and enough humour to poke fun at itself. Rogue Nation was perhaps an opportunity to advance the series, but nothing much changes for Ethan. It’s a ride, an often exhilarating one, but ultimately like most rides it ends exactly where it began…” Daniel Krupa, IGN

“Expertly building on the renewed energy injected into the Mission: Impossible franchise with 2011’s Ghost Protocol, this fifth episode roars along like a sleek, well-oiled machine. Sure, it’s much the same recipe as before… But under director Christopher McQuarrie’s keen eye and casual aplomb, which adds enormous likeability to the seamless events no matter how outlandish, Rogue Nation keeps the pulse pounding and the plot machinations breakneck without sacrificing laughs or nonstop excitement…” Alan Jones, Radio Times

Paramount has also released two new clips from the film today, including one which makes fun of the blockbuster trope of women pulling off fast action scenes in high heels.

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