Monday, August 3, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation -- Impossible to Dislike

     Not sure how much more needs to be said about the subject, but Tom Cruise--at older than 50 years of age--still produces and stars in some of the most fun-loving action films of recent memory. I really enjoyed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a funnier and more light-hearted Mission film after the third incarnation (which I also am a huge fan of, particularly of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's brilliant turn as the villain, Owen Davian). And Rogue Nation is really no different--it's just a continuation of Ghost Protocol, building upon the relationships of Ethan (Cruise), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) as they attempt to take down a terrorist organization named The Syndicate (lead by a creepy and viscious man named Solomon Kane) that is orchestrating world disasters in the name of anarchy. Cruise, as ever, is game to initiate crazy stunts in the name of entertainment, and it all works in a funny and very-entertaining summer blockbuster that stands above most of what has come this year.
     Rogue Nation is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who already had the Cruise connection: he co-wrote last year's awesome Edge of Tomorrow and directed Cruise in the "okay" Jack Reacher. His noticeably-impressive credit was being the screenwriter of 1995's The Usual Suspects--he also co-wrote this film. He knows Cruise's strengths and puts them to good use: if you've seen the trailer for the film, you know there are incredible action scenes where Ethan hangs from a plane, speeds down curvy roads on a crotch rocket, and jumps into a dangerous waterway. Sure, the Mission Impossible films are all about wowing us with boisterous action, but Rogue Nation's plot moves along at a speedster clip that is invigorating even without the million-dollar set pieces.
     There was a trailer for the new Bond film, Spectre, before this new incarnation of Impossible, but I'd be surprised if the new 007 had the same amount of energy and humor as Rogue Nation. This is one of those 'us against them' spy films (every series has one or two): Ethan Hunt seems completely and utterly obsessed with discovering the inner workings of the Syndicate that everyone--even his teammates at the IMF and especially CIA head Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin, always great at portraying a dickish, cocky man)--thinks that he's gone over the edge with his infatuation.
     But maybe Ethan has met his match in the gorgeous and transfixing Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman playing so many sides that you're never quite sure if you want to trust her or fall in love with her. Throughout the film, Ethan crosses paths with Ilsa: is she British Intelligence? A member of The Syndicate? Or neither, a much more dangerous option? Throughout Rogue Nation, Ethan's main goal is working his way up the food chain of the terrorist organization, until he can reach the boss, Solomon, and he'll stop at nothing--not even the alluring Ilsa--to race his way to the top.
       Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is full of the amazing action scenes that the Mission films are known for (such as the incredible sequence on the side of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai in Ghost Protocol). You probably saw flashes of them from the trailer that's been showing for the past few months. But it's the surprises in Rogue Nation that hold the most tension, particularly a long Opera scene that builds and builds into an excitement that is rare in modern summer blockbusters. After five incarnations, Cruise's Mission Impossible films show no signs of slowing down--you could make a valid argument that Rogue Nation is the best of the whole series (though I am also partial to the third and Ghost Protocol), and rumor is that the 6th incarnation will be filming next summer. Like most summer action films, there's no point to worry too much about the plot. But Rogue Nation succeeds where other films fail: it's fun, entertaining, and 2 thrilling hours well spent at the theater.     (B+)