When movie fans hear the words Mission Impossible, the first thing that always comes to mind is Tom Cruise. It could be Tom Cruise fighting bad guys, Tom Cruise running away from bad guys or Tom Cruise scaling a skyscraper. Either way, he basically is the living, breathing embodiment of the MI series.
And with good reason. The guy is completely out of control, in the best way possible. When you're doing your own stunts well into your 50s, you deserve the recognition. The latest installment of the franchise, Rogue Nation, is no different. Cruise is your typically heroic Ethan Hunt, foiling secret terrorism plots and also casually hanging off of flying planes and holding his breath for six minutes while filming underwater scenes. And yet, rather surprisingly, he was totally upstaged in the flick. And by who, you may ask? By his female sidekick, played newcomer Rebecca Ferguson. Go girl.
The fifth movie's plot follows the same basic formula as the rest of the Mission Impossibles, lady secret agent part included. In Rogue Nation, Ethan is pursuing an underground network of agents-cum-terrorists called The Syndicate, where he meets the illustrious Ilsa (Ferguson). She's a member of the bad guys who's quickly revealed to also be working for British Intelligence but also kind of working for Tom Cruise but also kind of still working for The Syndicate. Confusing, sure, but it wouldn't be an MI movie unless you needed to take notes.
And since this is a spy movie, it should also be noted that Ethan totally falls for her (shocking, right?). In their sometimes-mutual goal of saving the world, their paths cross all over the world and they develop a very close relationship. (Again, shocking). But if it seems like she's just your run-of-the-mill Bond girl-style character with a pretty face and a purpose of simply playing out the romance storyline, think again. Ilsa is more than that—so much so that she actually outshines Ethan himself. In our humble opinion, that is.
Most importantly, she finds herself saving Ethan's life a lot. The two meet when she risks exposing herself as an undercover agent to those nasty Syndicate guys to help Ethan escape from their custody. And that just so happens to involve Ilsa taking on approximately half a dozen trained killers with nothing more than her limbs. She also comes to his rescue by jumping into a giant swirling tank of water and reviving him during a reconnaissance mission gone wrong, only to then...well, we won't spoil it. But just know it was awesome. And don't even get us started on the knife fight she dominates against a man twice her size.
When she's not saving Ethan's life, Ilsa can most often be found...kicking his ass. Remember the aforementioned good side/bad side debacle? That results in several spy-on-spy pursuits that all end in Ilsa's favor—a completely impressive motorcycle chase through the winding mountains of Morocco comes to mind first.
As impressive as Ilsa's secret agent skills are, what deserves even more praise is that performance that Rebecca Ferguson gives. Landing her first major film role in the fifth installment of a much-loved (and very expensive) franchise opposite one of the most veteran spy movie actors out there had to have been intimidating, but she handled it with grace—and a whole lot of girl power. She's gorgeous onscreen, sure, but her feistiness and adventurousness shone through more than anything. Pick out any of Ilsa's scenes and a viewer would be hard-pressed not to be left open-jawed at the sight of her fights and stunts. Just check this chick out.
Oh, and it's worth mentioning that her charm makes the character insanely likeable. It's not often we find ourselves cheering for someone to foil Ethan Hunt, but yet here we are. Bravo, Ilsa, bravo.
We're probably a long way from seeing a female-fronted Bond or Mission Impossible-style film (and no, a comedy like Spy doesn't count), but we can rest a little bit easier knowing that we've got characters like this in the meantime.