Action Adventure

'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation' Film Review: Impossibly fun

July 30, 2015Ben MK

Following the Impossible Mission Force's last assignment, 2011's Ghost Protocol, it was briefly speculated that star Tom Cruise might be leaving the Mission: Impossible films behind. That scenario, however, has yet to pan out. And if you're looking for a reason to be thankful for that, look no further than the series' fifth and latest installment, which serves as an excellent reminder of just what makes the 53-year-old actor such an on-screen force-of-nature, and why the spy-action franchise just wouldn't be the same without him.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation sees Cruise once again reprising his role as Ethan Hunt, IMF's most dedicated agent, who has a habit of getting himself into situations where the odds are strongly against him. This time, it's no different, as his efforts to put a stop to a shadowy terrorist organization known as the Syndicate have led hard-nosed CIA head Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) to shut down the IMF, leaving Ethan with little recourse but to go rogue in order to complete his mission.

On the lam and tirelessly hunted from one continent to another by the CIA, Ethan enlists the help of his ever-faithful cohorts — fellow agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), computer hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and tech expert Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) — in an attempt to track down the elusive and dangerous mastermind behind the Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Luckily, their mission is made a little less impossible thanks to the presence of a mysterious femme fatale named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an extremely lethal MI6 operative who may or may not be playing both sides.

What follows is by no means a mind-blowing reinvention of the nearly-two-decade-old franchise, but don't take that to imply that it isn't a helluva lot of fun to watch. As you might expect, the action unfolds at a fast and furious pace, beginning with a jaw-dropping stunt that has Cruise hanging perilously to the outside of an airborne Airbus A400M, as his character tries to stop the terrorists onboard from making off with a payload of VX nerve gas rockets. From there, we're treated to a string of high-octane set-pieces, including a daring infiltration of a highly-secured computer storage facility (one that makes a similar scene from the first Mission Impossible look like a cakewalk), as well as a speedy motorcycle chase through miles and miles of twisting and turning Moroccan highway.

The point is, if you come to Rogue Nation seeking thrills, you definitely won't be exiting the theater disappointed. But even during its less-bombastic moments, the movie isn't one to leave audiences wanting. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who teamed with Cruise for 2008's Valkyrie, 2012's Jack Reacher and last summer's grossly underrated Edge of Tomorrow, the storyline delivers all the high-tech hijinks and international intrigue viewers have come to expect from the M:I franchise. But perhaps more importantly, it pulls it all off with a sly wink and a nod, never once forgetting to inject a heaping dose of fun into the proceedings.

That's what separates Rogue Nation from films like the ultra-gritty James Bond and Jason Bourne movies: it never takes itself too seriously. And Cruise deserves a good chunk of the credit, for he brings a tremendous amount of old-fashioned movie star charisma to the screen. Whether it's leaping from catwalk to catwalk trying to put the kibosh on a would-be assassin backstage at the Vienna Opera House, or getting in the driver's seat for a car-and-motorcycle pursuit mere moments after being brought back from the brink of death, Cruise's ability to deftly sell the implausible action on-screen while cracking a half-smile is unparalleled. And he's a huge part of what makes the whole endeavor work.

Of course, that's not to say the rest of the actors don't pull their own weight. On the contrary, Rogue Nation's ensemble cast is one of the best in the franchise's history, with the standouts being Pegg, who's responsible for much more than just comic relief this time around, and Ferguson, whose kick-ass secret agent character might as well be cut from the same cloth as Charlize Theron's Mad Max: Fury Road protagonist, Imperator Furiosa. Then there's Baldwin, who once filled the shoes of Jack Ryan but has now graduated to being the director of the CIA. His role here is small, but just when you think it's a thankless one, he goes and delivers the movie's most memorable (and most hilariously scenery-chewing) monologue. And it's glorious.

Yes, there's certainly a lot to love about Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, not the least of which is its ability to inspire genuine awe in its audience. In an age where we as moviegoers have become all but desensitized to the tricks of Hollywood's big budget spectacles, here is a film that is quintessentially and unapologetically that — a summer blockbuster franchise that defies expectations by remaining deliriously entertaining, even four sequels in. It just goes to show that with the right actors in front of the camera and the right talent behind it, nothing is impossible.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation releases July 31st, 2015 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 11 Mins.

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