3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Screenwriter-director Christopher McQuarrie said of Mission: Impossible – Fallout that it was the more emotional, heavy of his two MI franchise entries, and that while he felt his previous film Rogue Nation was a well intentioned follow up to Ghost Protocol, in which “the franchise found its feet” according to the director, it was in Fallout where it truly became what it should always have been; at least in his eyes.
It’s hard to argue against him. Fallout is immaculate action movie filmmaking. Tom Cruise, as series protagonist Ethan Hunt, drives hellicopters, hangs from them, climbs rope between cargo and hellicopter and breaks his ankle between rooftops, and this is all real; no CGI needed. The reality of the stunt work makes for a heart-racing MI entry if ever there was one, and the film’s return to Hunt’s desire to save every good person, no matter how significant or insignificant they may seem, comes to the fore to create a strong emotional anchor for the piece.
In Fallout, the Mission: Impossible franchise did beging to become a little nostalgic and self-reflective however, and while this worked to increase the stakes of every major moment, it may not stand the test of time (and the release of sequels) quite like the next entries on our list.
Recommended for you: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) Review
2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Despite the bankability of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Sony’s box office powerhouse has often been a place for up-and-coming directors to find their feet in the world of big-budget extravaganza, and with the franchise’s fourth instalment coming courtesy of first-time live-action director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant; The Incredibles; Ratatouille), they found a gem; a man who re-established the very best aspects of the franchise in an undoubted critical and audience hit filled to the brim with the same tension-building goodness of Brian De Palma’s original and some of the very best action ever put to screen.
The most memorable moment of Ghost Protocol is without a doubt the Burj Khalifa climbing sequence in which Tom Cruise hangs from the side of the world’s tallest building in a number of vertigo-inducing shots – swinging from the side of the building and running down it while 130 metres above the ground – but the truth is that this sequence is only the cherry on top of a film filled with Hitchockian “bomb under the table” moments of anticipation and tension, while also including some of the best comic relief in the entire franchise and a palpable goodness to each of the characters’ motivations that, possibly for the first time, outweighed the arguably smug intelligence of the franchise’s usual narrative twist.
In Ghost Protocol, the Mission: Impossible franchise offered everything one could expect from an spy-action film while showing us things we’d never seen before, and it created one of the most fun cinematic experiences of the decade; igniting new interest in the franchise as a world-leading action powerhouse and asserting itself as one of the most thrilling series of movies currently on the market.
1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the fifth film in the series, tops our billing of MI franchise entries as it offered another high stakes, incredibly inventive action film with memorable and distinct action set-pieces just as its predecessor Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol did, only it expanded upon the Brad Bird directed film by also successfully returning to the narrative twists and espionage focus that had been a staple of the franchise’s earlier entries and had been put on the back burner for number 4.
In Rogue Nation, the IMF is disbanded as a “Rogue Nation” of former government agents from around the world begins a plot to redistribute power and wealth (mostly to themselves), Cruise’s Ethan Hunt ousted from the conveniences of his government-backed operation and into a life on the run as a standalone barrier between the evil Syndicate and world domination; only Hunt is a little older and, well… a little more susceptible to death.
Introducing franchise favourite Ilsa Faust, played magnificently by Rebecca Ferguson, the true power of this series entry comes in two forms: the first being the relationship between Faust and Hunt (and the set pieces built around them), and the second being the cat-and-mouse game played between Hunt and lead antagonist Solomon Lane. The latter, around which the entire structure of the narrative is built, plays out like an incredibly high stakes poker game, with Hunt pushed to his very limits mentally, physically (he dies, remember…) and emotionally as he’s forced work through his guilt at losing his team in the first Mission: Impossible film with an impossible mission to save his friends.
The stakes have never been higher in this franchise than in Rogue Nation, the very real possibility that the film’s revisiting of past Ethan Hunt trauma could spell the end for Cruise’s run in the role playing very strongly upon its release and still holding weight to this day. Sure, the original Mission: Impossible probably did tension just a little better and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol probably had the slightly more spectacular set piece, but so far as a combination of both goes, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the one; the most thrilling, riveting and rewatchable entry in the franchise.
Recommended for you: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) Review
With stunt work to make the mind boggle, intelligent but accessible narrative twists and turns to keep even the most hardened action movie veteran interested, a real sense of stakes and a gret deal of creativity, the Mission: Impossible franchise has become a mainstay of contemporary blockbuster season, its no twenty-plus year run speaking to the commitment of star-turned-producer Tom Cruise and the crew around him that Paramount build time and time again.
But what do you think? Agree with our order? Think your favourite should have been placed elsewhere? Let us know in the comments!