After five movies and nearly 20 years of playing Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” movies, I think it is safe to say Tom Cruise has settled into a role that lets him play to all of his strengths.
There’s always lots of running, he gets to be incredibly earnest and he gets to look superhuman as the focal point of some eye-popping stunt piece (this time, they strapped him to the side of a cargo plane as it takes off. Go Tom!).
“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is fastidiously cut from the same cloth as its predecessors and features all the requisite punching, heisting, and double-crossing you’ve come to expect from Cruise and Co.
In a lot of ways, this is an underappreciated franchise in that it often goes unrecognized for being consistently, dependably cool.
Much of the credit goes to the slate of skilled, stylish directors that have played with spy-movie tropes with the same reckless glee of a high school kid given the keys to a Ferrari.
Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird have all risen to the occasion while injecting enough of their own special sauce to make each movie, as formulaic as they are, somehow stand apart.
“Rogue Nation” is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, whose directorial pedigree falls way short of his predecessors, with only two previous shaky attempts, “The Way of the Gun” and “Jack Reacher,” under his belt.
But McQuarrie is a Hollywood veteran and accomplished screenwriter who scored an Oscar for “The Usual Suspects.” As far as I’m concerned, the dude who created Keyser Soze is allowed to get as many cracks at directing as he wants.
McQuarrie handles the reigns pretty well in “Rogue Nation” with some cool action sequences and solid pacing. He doesn’t have the flair of the other “Mission: Impossible” directors, but his extreme competence gets the job done.
The “Mission: Impossible” franchise has been picking up supporting players along the way like a lint roller going over a Christmas sweater.
Ving Rhames has been around since the beginning as hacker extraordinaire Luther Stickell. Simon Pegg is back as comic relief tech-wiz Benji Dunn, along with franchise heir-apparent Jeremy Renner as the formidable William Brandt.
New to the cast is Alec Baldwin, who adds some gravitas as CIA Director Hunley and Rebecca Ferguson does a solid job as the female lead, which is usually the glaring weak spot in these movies as the ladies are interchangeable and only asked to be sexy, deadly and mildly attracted to Tom Cruise.
The plot, while fun to follow, doesn’t really matter. The screenplay is as clever, exciting, and action-packed as you would expect from a “Mission: Impossible” movie, involving spies, exotic locals, and ridiculously high stakes.
This movie is pure summer entertainment and, when that iconic theme song starts cranking, it’s hard to keep yourself from getting sucked right along into it. Just sit back, go along for the ride, and promise not to think too much about it. Mission accomplished.
“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence and brief partial nudity.