From the very opening minutes of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, you find yourself questioning just why this movie, and the four before it in this exhilarating franchise use that title. Are these really impossible missions? Then just how does Tom Cruise, still easily the world’s most popular action star at 53, make it look so easy…even when he’s hanging off the side of a plane during takeoff? In this age of CGI and green screen-trickery, of costumed superheroes who let their stand-ins sweat the hard stuff, it’s (pardon the pun) impossible not to cheer for Cruise as he insists on doing these stunts himself.
By his own admission it’s the adrenalin rush these moments provide that makes Cruise return repeatedly to play Ethan Hunt, the indefatigable Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent, who dives in to save the day. Make no mistake; that giddy excitement is contagious. As far as heart-stopping thrills go, Rogue Nation is up there with the impressive Burj Khalifa stunt in Ghost Protocol, and that edge-of-the-seat rock-climbing opening scene of M:I2.
When it comes to plot however, this film, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is convoluted and weighed down by uneven pacing. It opens at a point where a grim CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) calls for the disbanding of the IMF, because its operations are too dangerous and irresponsible. Ignoring the orders, Hunt goes rogue to track down The Syndicate, a nefarious international organization of renegade spies.
Hunt’s faithful band of brothers in the IMF – tech-wiz Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames) – work secretly to help him in this quest. There’s also a mysterious femme fatale (a terrific Rebecca Ferguson), who tangles with Ethan at every turn, bringing that can-we-or-can’t-we-trust-her element to this tale of double-crossing action and intrigue.
McQuarrie’s set-up appears sprawling and elaborate, but a closer examination reveals that the screenplay is far from tight, and in fact a bit of a stretch. It’s one of those plots that you needn’t think too hard about. Suspend your logic and enjoy the action sequences instead. Like that jaw-dropping bit where Hunt free dives into a gigantic computer cooling whirlpool…or the furious motorcycle chase through the lanes of Casablanca.
It helps too that the actors are evidently invested in the film. Jeremy Renner takes a backseat this time, allowing Simon Pegg to shine in a few comedic moments and in his lighter exchanges with Cruise.
Rogue Nation could have been a crisper film, but it nevertheless serves up a deliciously thrilling experience, especially if you watch it in IMAX. It’s a given that we go into these films, wondering what Tom Cruise will pull off next. The star-producer keeps that curiosity going and that charisma alive, and delivers blockbuster bliss.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. There’s no sequel fatigue with these movies…bring on the next one!