I thought it would be hard to top Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but this franchise just keeps getting better. The latest edition, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is not just the best movie of the summer, it is the best summer movie of the summer, with its smart script and direction from Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects who has a long-standing relationship with star Tom Cruise having penned Valkyrie, Edge Of Tomorrow and Jack Reacher(which he also directed).
This fifth go-around for the IMF squad doesn’t just rely on trying to top itself with one outrageous stunt after another like many of these franchises attempt. But as I say in my video review (click the link above), don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of mind-blowing action sequences here beginning with the James Bond-like pre-credits sequence in which Cruise hangs from a plane as it rolls down the runway and takes off. (That has been much publicized for the fact Cruise did it himself with no green-screen help.) But for me, it is the cat-and-mouse games and verbal sparring that really sets this film apart from others in the genre.
The plot has the IMF being shut down by CIA head Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin). Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji (Simon Pegg) have basically turned into “suits” now, but Ethan Hunt (Cruise, of course) enlists them both, and eventually Luther (Ving Rhames), in helping him in one more secret operation as he must fight to eradicate the dangerous terrorism and antics of the mob-like “Syndicate” who are out to destroy him and IMF and to get their hands on a very classified piece of information that threatens global security and at least one major world leader.
Problem is the CIA doesn’t believe there is much of a threat. Wrong. So shortly after the derring-do in jumping the plane (basically a sideshow to the main attraction), Hunt finds himself strung up for a torturous session but is able to get out of the scrape thanks to Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a British agent who has seemingly infiltrated the group (or joined it?) and may be double dealing Hunt — or not — as the movie moves on to various locales eventually winding up in Casablanca for a car motorcycle chase to end all chases.
But before that there are two simply thrilling set pieces. First is a sequence staged on the rafters high above the stage of an opera house where a performance ofTurandot is taking place. Hunt must fight the shadowy bad guys and dodge several would-be assassins who have also staked out the theatre as the show is going on. It’s reminiscent of the brilliant concert sequence Hitchcock staged in the 1956 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much but in addition to it being an obvious homage, it truly stands on its own. Then there is a nail-biter taking place in the underwater secure tank of a building where Hunt must switch a code in order to gain entrance to the impenetrable facility for Benji. These are the kinds of missions that really do seem “impossible” and make this such a satisfying franchise, and in the case of Rogue Nation such a kick-ass, top-notch entertainment.
Cruise continues to defy age, and at 53 may be the movies’ most impressive action hero. The film also provides great moments for the IMF gang — Renner, Rhames and the amusing Pegg. Ferguson is perfection in the tradition of secretive movie heroines who may not always be what they seem; I see a real film future for her. Also very fine and deliciously creepy is the key villain of this piece Sean Harris as the determined and lethal Solomon. And special mention as well to Simon McBurney, a key British government operative who also may — or may not — be who you think he is. That seems to be the point of all this: a crafty game of deception, disguise and deceit. And soooooo much good old fashioned movie fun dressed up for contemporary audiences.
The Skydance/Bad Robot production will be released by Paramount on Friday. Producers are J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger.