Mission Impossible

Succumbing to the hype, I saw Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the new action movie based upon the 1966-1973 American television series created by Bruce Geller.

In this fifth installment of the franchise, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must reassemble the Impossible Mission Force, which consists of William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), to dismantle the Syndicate, a mysterious organization of presumably deceased agents. Their efforts are aided by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who might or might not be part of this rogue organization. 

This summer movie has been embraced by audiences and critics alike. For instance, 92% of viewers (n=47,083), according to the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, recommend this movie, a percentage that increases to 93% of critics (n=203) and even 95% of most reputable critics (n=38). Many consider it to be an especially engaging sequel in this series of movies that originated almost twenty years ago.

I, however, was less excited about it. It might have mastered what J. R. Jones, in the Chicago Reader, calls the “M:I formula,” which consists of “a simple spy story, passable character comedy, and extremely long, impressively sustained action sequences,” and it might be intended to be a mindless summer movie although Calvin Wilson, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, suggests that it proves that summer movies can be as “smart” as they are “exciting.”

I couldn’t see much smart in it, though. As a narrative, it lacks substantial character development. Faust’s character has potential, but it functions more as a vehicle for the plot, which stops short of substantial engagement in its central question about the relation of globalized entities with state-specific origins to nation-states. What is, or should be, the relation between nation-states, which are still the political organizing principle, and these supra-national organizations (e.g., the actual IMF)?

Although I think we should ask for more even from mindless summer movies, I suspect, considering the $55.5 million box office opening, Cruise et al. are relatively unconcerned. The question is whether we are.

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