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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) movie poster Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Theatrical Release: July 31, 2015 / Running Time: 131 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Christopher McQuarrie / Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (story & screenplay), Drew Pearce (story)

Cast: Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Jeremy Renner (William Brandt), Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn), Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust), Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell), Sean Harris (Solomon Lane), Alec Baldwin (Alan Hunley), Jens Hultén (Janik "Bone Doctor" Vinter), Hermione Corfield (Record Shop Girl), Tom Hollander (Prime Minister), America Olivo (Turandot), Simon McBurney (Atlee), Zhang Jingchu (Lauren), Robert Maaser (Officer Assassin), Wolfgang Stegemann (Flautist Assassin)

 

When first announced, a fourth Mission: Impossible struck many, myself included,
as an unnecessary sequel and a desperate attempt by a tired franchise to keep Tom Cruise in possession of movie star status when nothing else could. That 2011 installment ended up surprising. Not only did it demonstrate that Brad Bird could indeed direct live-action, but it revitalized the spy action series based on the '60s TV show by grossing over $200 million domestically and nearly $700 million worldwide, buoyed in part by an aggressive IMAX campaign at a time when audiences were tiring of 3D.

That hit Christmastime fourquel restored some of the spring to Cruise's step. While Rock of Ages, which downplayed his involvement, bombed, Cruise rebounded with 2012's well-received star vehicle Jack Reacher. Then rather than being an underperforming tentpole, the sci-fi movie Oblivion became an off-season surprise in the spring of 2013. Then, last summer's Edge of Tomorrow overcame a generic title, an unpromising marketing campaign, and a tepid third place opening to narrowly surpass the $100 M domestic mark that Cruise spent most of the '90s and 2000s crossing.

Now, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the fifth and latest chapter of Cruise's only saga, doesn't feel like a last-ditch clutch to recreate past glory but a potentially highly enjoyable addition to a fun franchise with some life to it.

Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote Cruise's Valkyrie, Edge of Tomorrow, and Jack Reacher (which he also directed), becomes the fifth man to take the helm of this series, directing from his own screenplay based on a story by him and Iron Man 3's Drew Pearce. McQuarrie has flipped the script of his own career, overcoming the stigma of being a one-hit wonder for his Oscar-winning second screenplay (The Usual Suspects) to reinvent himself as someone who could work well with Cruise and keep the actor a popular icon for a fourth consecutive decade. Rogue Nation extends the winning streaks of both the star and the series. It consistently offers a good time, whether or not you remember more than fragments of it by the time the inevitable next sequel comes around.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) repeatedly finds himself in danger, with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) by his side in "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation."

Like its predecessors, Rogue Nation is chock-full of action. Its opening scene provides its first of many setpieces, this one seeing Ethan Hunt (Cruise) jumping on a plane to relieve it and its Chechen operators of the stolen weapons onboard. Hunt's top secret organization, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), is soon dissolved over incendiary allegations from a disapproving CIA director (Alec Baldwin). The IMF's claims of a network evil called The Syndicate are questioned and ridiculed. The gang is broken up, with William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) being asked to testify before Senate and tech expert Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) being subjected to weekly polygraph tests at his boring desk job.

Of course, we know that the Syndicate is real. We see our proof in a London record store, where Ethan gets a message taunting him while his contact is killed before his eyes by a mystery figure (Sean Harris). Ethan finds a reluctant ally in Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), a formidable young woman whose allegiances are always in doubt. Tickets to the Vienna State Opera House bring Benji back into touch with Ethan. While Benji scours the concert's crowd for the mystery killer, Ethan tries to stop an assassination attempt.

As always, the specifics of the action may not mean a whole lot at the end of the movie. What does matter is that the movie conveys its stakes and gives you enough to follow along knowing an immediate goal. The series' signature action sequences could potentially seem old-fashioned amidst the fantastical visual effects-driven antics of its contemporaries being served on a practically weekly basis in summer. When staged as creatively and authentically as these, though, such stunts easily get your adrenaline pumping and your heart racing. Probably the best set piece of all is an underwater mission, in which Ethan must hold his breath for more than three full minutes in order to infiltrate an extremely secure facility housing an incriminating Flash drive that our villain desperately wants. We weave between Ethan dodging machinery and braving strong water pressure and Benji, who needs Ethan's work to succeed to not meet a swift, painful death during a security scan.

Simon Pegg makes his third straight appearance as tech expert/comic relief Benji Dunn. Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) provide some support from the fringes to the dissolved Impossible Missions Force (IMF).

Other scenes, like a Moroccan car chase turned motorcycle dash, look nice and keep the film exciting. There really isn't a lull to be found as our heroes repeatedly cheat death by narrowly outwitting the lethal opposition. The only fault you can find with the movie is that there is too much of it.
Trim ten minutes out of the movie's final half-hour and you'd have the textbook definition of a near-perfect 2015 action movie. Even if the film slightly overstays its welcome, it seems effortlessly more involving and investable than its contemporaries of the same genre most of the time. You'd think that seeing Tom Cruise trying to elude, outsmart, and knock out bad guys who always outnumber him would eventually lose its appeal. Somehow, it doesn't, with Cruise in his fifties still looking like an action hero with his shirtless scene-conducive physique, impossibly full head of gray-free hair, and evident willingness to embrace death-defying stunts fearlessly.

You may not be able to remember the specifics of Rogue Nation's plot for more than a few weeks and yet you will remember how much fun you had letting it take you on its ride of high-octane spy action for which there is clearly still a place in today's CGI and green screen-heavy Hollywood.

Related Reviews:
Tom Cruise: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol • Oblivion • Top Gun • Knight and Day • Vanilla Sky • Rock of Ages
Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie and Starring Tom Cruise: Jack Reacher
Written by Christopher McQuarrie: Edge of Tomorrow • Jack the Giant Slayer • The Tourist • The Usual Suspects
Written by Drew Pearce: Iron Man 3 | Now in Theaters: Ant-Man • Terminator Genisys • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Simon Pegg: Hot Fuzz • The World's End | Jeremy Renner: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters • American Hustle • Avengers: Age of Ultron
Salt • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit • This Means War • Survivor

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Reviewed July 31, 2015.



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