Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation‘s sign outside reads like this. Welcome to the Tom Cruise show. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to walk into Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation without an ounce of cynicism or pre-existing opinion of Cruise’s off screen persona and just enjoy a good old fashioned spy flick.
Let me tell you right now. The reason these films work so well, no matter the director, is the star. The face on the poster. The man carrying all the marbles and the boulders of pressure on this summer blockbuster scale. Cruise doesn’t just do his own fight scenes. He also hangs off the side of departing airplanes as they take off. He also rides motorcycles around roads hanging off steep cliffs. He also dives into large bodies or water and does all this at the ripe age of 50. When I think of Cruise and Mission Impossible films, the pursuit of authenticity comes to mind. He wants to make it as real as possible and he wants the audience to have as much fun as he did filming it.
The plot isn’t too distracting and has just the right amount of juice dripping from the grill at this cinematic barbecue. Cruise’s IMF team(Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames) are being hunted by a rogue “Syndicate”, who wish to destroy the unit and also make a lot of money in the process. This is a film where the bad guy isn’t really noteworthy. He’s got an accent, a nasally voice and an ability to tuck the bottom part of his face into a snarl. He wants to take Cruise’s Hunt down and do it all flashy like, which makes for amazingly rendered action sequences.
You don’t come to a Mission Impossible film to be wooed by Oscar caliber acting. You want to see what these guys do this time. They didn’t disappoint. Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie(who wrote a past Mission film and is the creator of Usual Suspects) ups the ante here with Cruise and company. Leading up to the release, the scene where Cruise literally hangs off the side of a plane carried all the energy of the marketing campaign. That stunt is pretty cool and sets off the pre-credits sequence. It pales in comparison to the other stunts.
The sequence that takes the cake is a scene where Hunt dives into a government facility that is guarded by 100 feet of concrete and protected by a pool of water that whips around like a hurricane when you are in it. Hunt’s desperate plea to extract a chip, card or whatever is revealed slowly and raises the stakes as the three minute timer on his watch counts down. Folks, we all fear drowning but what the filmmakers do here is create a truly harrowing yet fun experience. We are sucking the oxygen out of our own lungs watching Hunt try to dangle.
The motorcycle chase is filmed extremely well, and all the gun fights sound authentic, ringing off a Michael Mann like echo in your ears. It’s almost as if the Fast and Furious gang challenged Cruise and company to create the most outrageous action set pieces, and the veterans just winked and went to town. I’m sorry, Vin Diesel, but when it comes to real action stunt work, Cruise has you beat big boy.
Rogue Nation is just smart enough to make us forget about the outlandish stunts, plot threads and somewhat uneven pacing at times. It’s alert, confident and delivers the goods you come to expect when seeing the trailer.
The cast is cool as silk, with Renner and Baldwin providing some levity with biting one liners and humor. It’s good to see Rhames back and Pegg is always a reliable comedic presence. The steal here though is newcomer Rebecca Ferguson, a gorgeous Swede who takes turns helping and betraying Hunt’s crew. Ferguson isn’t just a pretty face. She’s athletic enough to fulfill the action duties and has a naturally beautiful body that doesn’t seem anything overly fancy or anywhere near ordinary. Whether she’s climbing up her opponents to wrap her legs around their neck and stab them in the chest or she is racing on a motorcycle, Ferguson holds her own and then some and her co-stars know it. There’s something about a pretty lady with an European accent who can throw a punch and take one as well that just knocks me out. You’ve been warned, Emily Blunt and Kate Beckinsale.
While it’s not as polished as the first one or as slick as the last, this 5th round of Mission Impossible daredevil work is a worthy piece of summer entertainment. Whenever the plot starts to spin out of control and everybody is wearing fake masks and throwing kicks and shooting all over, Cruise grounds it all with his hard work and dedication to the character and the series. He’s a thinking man’s action hero and is all the fuel this Mission needs.
Also, Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t hurt.