I'll be honest; I'm not really a die-hard fan of this franchise. Never saw the TV show; liked-but-not loved the first entry; thought the second went stupid (confirmed in a recent re-watch); and never even got round to MI: 3 until after I'd already seen Ghost Protocol (both great incidentally). So seeing Rogue Nation in the theatre wasn't a priority for me.
But see it in the theatre I did, and... LOVED it! Rogue Nation is possibly my favourite in the series (based on an admittedly overenthusiastic first watch) and absolutely among the best blockbusters I've seen this year. For me it gets everything right: good story (lots of twisty-turnyness), breathless action scenes, hair-raising espionage, enjoyable characters, Bond-esque villain network (very 'Quantum/ Spectre'), and one hell of a female protagonist. Much as Charlize Theron's Furiosa equalled (if not surpassed) Max in Fury Road; Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa almost steals the show from Ethan Hunt. The film treats her character just like any male super agent and that goes some way towards redressing the balance of Thandie Newton's character in MI:2 being little more than a bit of skirt for the men to fight over. She gets dirty and fights hard, yet never sacrificing her femininity; she's a proper 21st century femme fatale, and in the hands of Rebecca Ferguson someone whose loyalties are never entirely clear. I was glued to her whenever she was on screen. Cruise is on his usual excellent form; at 52 showing no signs of slowing down, taking action film after action film in his stride. Jeremy Renner's character gets a decent arc of his own alongside Alec Baldwin, and there's even an expanded role for Benji (some surprisingly good work by Pegg). Ving Rhames doesn't get a lot to do, but its good to have him on the team. It's a rock-solid cast of characters in service of a decent story- this time involving an anti-IMF counter organisation hell bent on sowing global chaos; and Cruise on the run (disavowed, as usual) from his own organisation. I never got bored once watching it and thought it was superbly structured and paced- as well as looking stunning.
Action & set pieces are top of the line- and the trailer shows nothing. Best of these are a thrilling underwater set piece that will literally leave you breathless; and a highway bike chase that leaves Furious 7 in the dirt. It's seriously thrilling.
It's mission accomplished then for MI: Rogue Nation, a film that for me challenges Mad Max: Fury Road as the year's action highlight. If director Christopher McQuarrie doesn't get to direct at least one Star Wars film after this, something's wrong!
Spectre is going to have to be damn good to top this.