Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Christian Movie Review

Kevin Ott - Editor and Writer for Rocking God's House (small)

[Note before you read why Mission Impossible was an amazing spy film: if you’re a fan of U2 or C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy that explores dozens of Lewis books and U2 albums to answer one question: how do we find joy in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances?]

I’ve never seen any actor do what Tom Cruise does in this movie. He performs all of his own stunts in “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” and, frankly, these stunts are certifiably insane — and I mean that as a compliment to Mr. Cruise. I was so awe-struck (and, frankly, afraid for Cruise’s life — what was he thinking?!) that I was immediately prepared to crown Cruise the greatest action star of all time, in any period in movie history, right there in the theater.

And I still am.

And the critics are agreeing with me.

(Fun fact about Tom Cruise: did you know that he was studying to be a Franciscan priest before he got involved in the drama department at his school and decided to pursue acting? I know plenty of people write him off because of the Scientology thing, but I have always believed that Christ still wants to get a hold of his heart in a big way. I am always praying for him. We should always be praying for Hollywood.)

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Christian Movie Review 2 At Rocking Gods HouseIn 2011, the Mission Impossible franchise made a massive comeback to the top of the spy action movie heap with the critically acclaimed box office bell ringer “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” But, honestly, I was skeptical about “Rogue Nation.” It’s extremely difficult to repeat massive success in Hollywood with sequels. And I wasn’t sure about the plot — at least the way the trailer presented it. It seemed a little uninspired, maybe even lazy with its concept.

But trailers are often misleading or untrue to the nuances of a film.

Rogue Nation is, by far, one of the best action movies I’ve seen — certainly one of the best spy movies ever made — and it’s the second best action movie of 2015. (“Mad Max: Fury Road” still has the top spot for this year, in my book — though no actor in Fury Road can top Cruise as an action star.)

All of this, of course, is speaking strictly of the movie’s film craft and entertainment value. I’m not talking about any deeper layers — at least not yet. I’ll explain why the film has rightly earned 90%+ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’ll dive into the film’s worldview to see if it has any powerful themes of redemption or edifying depth beyond just providing an evening of spy action entertainment.

But first, you will see directly below this a question from our forum. If you’d like to get involved in some discussions, you can answer the forum question directly in the box below.

Below the forum, is the parental guidance section, followed by my full review of the film — its entertainment value, worldviews, themes of redemption, etc.

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Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-13 rated filmā€¦

Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: There is actually a scene with very brief partial nudity. A woman removes her swimsuit top, and the audience sees part of her breasts from the side. A woman wraps herself around a male spy in a suggestive way as they slide down a rope, though she doesn’t intentionally try to be suggestive.

Violence/Gore/Scary Content: A man gets stabbed in the heart, and we hear a grotesque crunch sound when it happens. Scores of people are shot and killed in various ways, including a young woman who is shot in the head, though it is not a gory close-up. A few guards get their neck broken during fights. A character drowns. A man is shot in the arm, but he survives. A car blows up and kills people inside of it. A man is struck dead by a large vehicle.

Language: Several s-words and other milder obscenities. No f-words. Jesus’ name is used in vain a couple times, and a character uses God’s name in combination with the d-word.

Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: People are shot with darts that drug them with truth serum.

(Review continues below)

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Entertainment Value and Film Craft

I am concerned about Tom Cruise’s safety. I’m not kidding. That was my sincere response to portions of Rogue Nation. With each new action movie, the stunts that he performs get more outlandish and more dangerous.

But I will admit it. Going into the movie knowing that Mr. Cruise survived the filming and was not harmed, I couldn’t help but be entertained by the sight of a movie star performing his own death-defying stunts. That alone increased the wow factor of Rogue Nation just as it did for Ghost Protocol.

In fact, Rogue Nation has all the elements that made Ghost Protocol so excellent: the same wonderful cast — the comical Simon Pegg, the quality acting of Jeremy Renner who can add weighty believability and realism to any action movie, Mr. Cruise, of course — and the return of Ving Rhames (an exciting addition for Mission Impossible fans); the same exotic globetrotting escape that you’d expect in a spy film, a nuanced plot with unexpected twists and turns, a superb femm
e fatale female spy played by the talented and refined newcomer Rebecca Ferguson, and a well-written villain that you can’t help but despise, exquisitely played by Sean Harris.

And, of course, heart-stopping action scenes and jaw-dropping spectacle, what else? Rogue Nation does all of those things so well — better than 95% of the spy movies that have been made.

Though I still can’t decide if I like Ghost Protocol or Rogue Nation better. They’re both spy action masterpieces. I’m still leaning toward Ghost Protocol. That movie was practically flawless. Rogue Nation had a few (rare) moments in which it felt a little slow, like it was going through the spy movie motions. It’s very hard to decide. I might change my mind by tomorrow morning.

Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, Etc.

“Human nature is my weapon,” says Lane, the frighteningly intelligent villain who seems all-knowing and unbeatable, even by the estimation of super spy Ethan Hunt.

That’s really the underlying theme of this film, in my opinion. It makes a subtle but powerful point: the greatest threat to civilization is not the weapons we create; it’s human nature — our fallen nature, our easy-to-manipulate-and-control nature, to be exact. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Christian Review At Rocking Gods HouseAlthough Rogue Nation never goes in a theological direction, it hits upon the general truth that the self-destructive, weak tendencies of human nature is what we should fear the most. Rogue Nation might very well be an unintentional criticism of certain specific tenants of secular humanism, but taking that much further would be reading too much into a movie that really is about one thing: really cool spy intrigue.

But in the midst of all that enthralling tech and geopolitical intrigue, we do receive a subtle message about human nature. It might even prompt people subconsciously to examine their natures and ask questions in the back of their minds like, “Am I my own worst enemy? Is my human nature a weapon? And if so, have I or has some other force ever used it to hurt someone else?”

Granted, those are deep questions that the average moviegoer isn’t going to consciously ponder as they exit the theater, but the film impresses a subtle, unspoken awareness of these questions in the background of one’s mental traffic.

[SPOILER ALERT FOR THE REMAINING PARAGRAPHS]

In addition, we see — as we often do with these Mission Impossible films — the character Ethan Hunt refusing to serve himself. For example, there’s a powerful and emotionally persuasive moment in the film in which Hunt has an opportunity to get away from the danger, drop the mission, and choose a new path for himself in which he could just live a normal life, pursue happiness, and mind his own business.

He says no. He runs toward the danger instead. Why? Because innocent people are in the line of fire, and he doesn’t when them to get hurt or killed. It’s as simple as that. Ethan Hunt has a selfless heart — a very protective person who lives to keep others safe. Personally, I think the Ethan Hunt character is an inspiring role model — by far the most edifying one (i.e. Hunt is not an alcoholic, cynical womanizer like the recent James Bond incarnations) in the spy genre.

We see the same selflessness in Hunt’s colleagues. They’re willing to die for each other and to die protecting innocent people.

Conclusion: Rogue Nation Hits the Mark

Despite some of the PG-13 material (which was tame in comparison to many other PG-13 action movies), Rogue Nation is one of the best spy/action movies ever made. It will, quite literally, cause your jaw to drop. It will also lead you through an addictive what’s-gonna-happen-next plot line that brings the thrill ride to a very satisfying, well-crafted ending.

And it also makes some good points about human nature and selflessness.

Just pray for Tom Cruise. If he plans on making another Mission Impossible film, he’s going to need all the prayer he can get. Wow.

My rating for “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”: [usr 9]

[If you’re a fan of U2 or C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy that explores dozens of Lewis books and U2 albums to answer one question: how do we find joy in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances?]

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Note about my ratings, which only rate the movie’s film craft and entertainment value:

1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes

2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between (but not always — as is the case with “Spy”) 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes

4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).

7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).

10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).

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