The “Mission: Impossible” movies, until this point, have all been pretty discreet entities. Notably, the previous four films were all directed by extremely individualistic filmmakers, and you could basically watch, understand, and enjoy any of the previous films without having seen any of the others. “Rogue Nation” is where serialization really starts coming into the picture as Christopher McQuarrie steps up from writer to writer/director on this project. Ethan, Benji, Luther, and Brandt aren’t just “a” team. They are “the” team with history, respect, and love between them. This film also picks up a thread dangling at the end of “Ghost Protocol:” the Syndicate, which is essentially the anti-IMF led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), giving Ethan a Blofeld and SPECTRE that he hadn’t had before.
More than anything, “Rogue Nation” gives us Ilsa Faust, played by the great Rebecca Ferguson. Disavowed by MI6, Ilsa has been tasked to go undercover in the Syndicate as a way to prove her loyalty, not knowing that her superiors in fact created the Syndicate in the first place. You never can fully know what side she’s on, and through her charisma and skills, she makes for the perfect match and foil for Ethan Hunt. When Cruise and Ferguson are on screen together, it’s when the series is at its best, as the two have a crackling chemistry that is truly romantic without ever being explicit in that romanticism in the slightest. She was the missing piece that “Mission: Impossible” needed.
“Rogue Nation” also takes the set pieces to a new level. You have the underwater heist sequence requiring Cruise to hold his breath for minutes on end, the backstage opera fight scene, and Cruise hanging off the side of an A400 plane in the opening scene. Spellbinding Hollywood entertainment.