Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)

The mission, which I have chosen to accept is to review the Mission: Impossible franchise. A sixth installment, Mission: Impossible- Fallout opens at the end of this month. With that in mind, I’ll examine this franchise that has spanned 22 years and six Missions.  Now, I finally look at the film that took this series into a more sequential arena. So, let’s open the IMF file on Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation!

I remember when the trailers for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)  first dropped. To no one’s surprise, I was excited because I’m a huge fan of this franchise. As you no doubt discerned if you’ve been keeping up with this column. Rogue Nation looked as exciting, as a proper Mission should. However, I did wonder if this fifth entry would be on-par with its direct predecessor, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011).

Admittedly, part of my reserved anticipation for Rogue Nation was due to its director/co-writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). Don’t get me wrong, McQuarrie is a talented individual; but he didn’t have that much genre experience. Plus, I’ve found his filmography to be a mixed bag in general. But, it made sense that he took the reins on this Mission after offered it by Tom Cruise (American Made). If you look at the actor’s CV, you won’t spot too many frequent collaborators.

However, the opposite is the case with Cruise and McQuarrie. By 2015, the pair had collaborated on Valkyrie (2008), Jack Reacher (2012), and Edge of Tomorrow: Live. Die. Repeat. (2014). Thus, it’s clear that these two gentlemen work well together. Of course, it helped that McQuarrie had gained action genre experience; having directed Jack Reacher. Not to mention, that uncredited story development McQuarrie assisted with on Ghost Protocol.
I must admit that I regret having doubted the writer/director. In doing research, I found that McQuarrie went whole-hog on Rogue Nation. He made an effort to incorporate the history of not only the previous installments in this franchise; but also elements of the Mission: Impossible TV series. Most all though, McQuarrie brought something new to this franchise. In that, the film in review is an actual sequel to Ghost Protocol.
Picking up directly after the events of that previous entry, the IMF is disbanded at the behest of CIA chief Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin). The said shutdown is due to the collateral damage The Impossible Mission Force has caused over the years. Despite all this, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team go rogue to hunt down nearly untraceable and villainous organization known as The Syndicate. For this Mission, Ethan’s team includes returning members: William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickwell (Ving Rhames). However, they require the help of former British intelligence agent, Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson); who’s currently undercover in The Syndicate.
The Syndicate mentioned above is one of the aspects of this film that I dig. And I love the fact that McQuarrie pulled the group of villains right from the original TV show. The writer/director’s choice to do so is an incredibly refreshing one. Not only does The Syndicate finally give the M:i film franchise the equivalent of SPECTRE from the world of 007, it also expands the Impossible world’s potential. Most importantly of all though, finally giving this series an organization of big-baddies sets the franchise up to become sequential. And, to me, that seems to be the whole purpose of this picture. Therefore, not only does Rogue Nation serve as this franchise first direct sequel; it also represents the franchise now clearly having an ongoing storyline and mythos.
Now, just because the movie in review represents a franchise more blatantly embracing espionage genre elements (and arguably ones straight out of Bond) doesn’t mean the franchise is losing steam. On the contrary, this entry is Mission: Impossible’s way of putting its stamp on those spy tropes. All the while, kicking-up the action. In my estimation, Rogue Nation features some of the most intense action in any Mission; including a set-piece of Tom Cruise hanging from a plane in midair! Though, I should say the action sequences presented here are quite extended. Therefore, some of the action sequences can become tiring at times, though not boring in the least.

Better than the action though, is the fact that Rogue Nation doesn’t forget its characters. Unlike previous entries in the series, this fifth Mission uses a team and thereby a cast that’s mostly the same. Therefore allowing we, the audience to build upon an already established emotional investment. It helps that this cast is at the top of their game from Cruise on down the line to the welcome and the refreshing addition of Rebecca Ferguson (The Greatest Showman). Although, I should say that the character of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the leader of The Syndicate doesn’t get much to do in the flick. Instead, he serves as a catalyst for the events that unfold. Beyond the characters, I do not enjoy the plot of Rogue Nation as much as I did that of the previous Mission. Frankly, I didn’t find the story here to be as fun. However, it is undoubtedly less generic.
By its very execution, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a Franchise Expansion. More so than any of its predecessors, this picture leans into being part of an ongoing franchise. Not only is it a direct sequel; Rogue Nation also ups the ante on everything. As such, it is a more intense and even more team-oriented film. More than anything though, Rogue Nation embraces all of Mission Impossible film history (okay, not M:i-2) with pride.

Can that pride in being part of beloved film franchise help build it further? Find out soon when I review the movie that this column has been building up to, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT!

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