REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

30 07 2015

The “Mission: Impossible” series, now spanning nearly two decades with its five installments, somehow manages to sustain a childlike sense of adulation for its leading man.  Tom Cruise, perhaps the biggest movie star in the world when the franchise launched in 1996, has seen his ups and downs both personally and professionally in the years that followed.

But watching “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” it seems like his star has miraculously managed to lose no shine.  These movies see no parallels between the furious arm-pumping intensity of Tom Cruise’s movie run and the limber legs that propelled him to jump on Oprah’s couch.  Never does his stardom feel laced with irony or constrained by public perception.  The film treats Cruise like the greatest thing since sliced bread … or at least since Harrison Ford.

Cruise makes his first on-screen appearance by dashing into frame after a quick cut on his unexpected opening line, and it feels triumphant.  This is the cinema’s closest approximation to the kind entrance that Bernadette Peters or Idina Menzel can make when they walk on stage – which is to say, it mandates a pause to let the audience applaud simply on sight.  Cruise, working on assignment for writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and co-writer Drew Pearce, so thoroughly owns his superstardom here that he gains the power to push “Going Clear” completely out of mind for two hours.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

While perhaps not the pure adrenaline kick of 2011’s “Ghost Protocol,” “Rogue Nation” provides a plenty generous helping of thrilling action set pieces.  Topping yourself on scaling the world’s tallest building is tough, but stuntman extraordinaire Cruise brings his A-game to executing some seriously impressive physical feats.  To know he hangs on to a plane at takeoff or holds his breath underwater certainly enhances the excitement, though it would all be for naught without the expert lensing of cinematographer Robert Elswit.

McQuarrie and Pearce opt for more plot than the last installment, setting up a compelling espionage tale that provides commensurate thrills to compensate for going smaller on chase and fight sequences.  Cruise’s Ethan Hunt meets his match (or something close to it) in Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, a former British intelligence agent caught in the crosshairs a shady organization known as “The Syndicate.”  She often faces the choice between protecting her own hide with the group and rattling the world with a shocking act of violence … or protecting Ethan and those who seek to carry out missions to protect the globe.

Ilsa slips in and out of the narrative, but Simon Pegg’s sidekick Benji Dunn is thankfully a mainstay.  The British comic has seen his role in the “Mission: Impossible” movies steadily increase since the third chapter in 2006, and “Rogue Nation” finally gives him the share of the spotlight that he deserves.  He makes one irresistible half of an epic dynamic duo: Cruise makes jaws drop with his death-defying stunt work, leaving the mouth appropriately agape to immediately let out a belly-laugh in reaction to Pegg’s dialogue or facial expressions.  B+3stars



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