Tom Cruise is still an international movie star. Want proof? Look no further than the rousing success–critically and financially–of the latest entry in the “Mission: Impossible” features, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. Five movies into the 19-year-old series, and these missions have really hit their stride. Quite possibly, this is the finest of the quintet. Oh, alright-flip a coin between this and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”. They both work marvelously. And suddenly, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has a challenger for best blockbuster ride of the summer. This could’ve been a case of an aging action star appearing in a sputtering franchise. Not even close! Love him or hate him, this Scientology-following, couch-jumping, superstar…has still got it.
You want plot? Really? Look elsewhere then, because I’m not about to break it all down. This mission, like the previous one, gets a sterling recommendation due to its rousing set-pieces. I will tell you that the screenplay is a rich and intricate one, and that the direction is the most streamlined of all of the five. Christopher McQuarrie supplied both, and he’s an obvious talent. He last directed Cruise in 2012’s “Jack Reacher”-a modest hit at the box office, that I still have yet to see (rectified soon…I promise). What does McQuarrie orchestrate? The fantastic opening involving a plane taking off–a stunt that Cruise himself actually performed. There’s an underwater scene, that is timed to perfection, and even wields an unexpected outcome. How about that battle above the stage during a performance at the Vienna Opera House (a production of “Turandot”!), where Cruise is brave and wise enough to riff on his relatively diminutive stature. Plus, there’s an absolutely killer motorcycle chase. It almost makes you forget that “Mission: Impossible II” ever existed (possibly the nadir of the series, so far). It’s pulse-pounding stuff. And in IMAX, it’s a BIG thrill.
What a cast this installment has. In addition to Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, there’s the returning Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell–the only actor and character, outside of the star, to appear in all the features. 2-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner is back for his 2nd go round (after “Ghost Protocol”) as IMF agent William Brandt. And it’s a hat trick of appearances for multiple-franchise (“M:I”, “Star Trek”, and “Cornetto”, just off the top of my head) talent Simon Pegg, as IMF technician Benji Dunn. Alec Baldwin is on board as CIA director Alan Hunley. And Sean Harris is an awesome baddie, as creepy Solomon Lane. Of course, the breakout of the picture is Swedish knockout Rebecca Ferguson, as the duplicitous Ilsa Faust–she’s amazing. Do I wish that McQuarrie had lingered a bit longer on certain “comeuppance” scenes? I guess. Does the centerpiece partnership/romance have a somewhat tentative resolution? Sure. Minor quibbles, though. Overall, this is delightful stuff. Years back, when Bruce Willis was getting ingrained in his John McClane role from the “Die Hard” series, I remember him being labeled, a sort of American “James Bond”. John McClane has been supplanted. It’s Ethan Hunt that will leave you shaken and stirred.