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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A-

I think most of us can agree that in real life, Tom Cruise is nutso. Onscreen, however, even at the age of 53, the man has undeniable movie-star quality. He's handsome, he's charming, and you can't take your eyes off of him. And somehow, over the course of his singular career, his signature Mission: Impossible film franchise has actually gotten more sophisticated, rather than less.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) breathed fresh air into this series, and it must be noted: nothing in Rogue Nation surpasses the several breathtaking action sequences in that film. Much of Rogue Nation is thrilling in its own right, however; much has already been made of the opening sequence in which Ethan Hunt (Cruise) hangs off the side of an airplane as it's taking off. It's certainly an attention-getter, and an eminently satisfying way to hook us just before the opening credits.

I was a little afraid the rest of the movie might be a bit of a letdown, as often happens when the best set piece is what opens a film -- that kind of thing should be reserved for the climax. But writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (who also wrote last year's Edge of Tomorrow) keeps the action coming -- so much so that, in fact, there are fewer dull moments of exposition than in the previous film. And yet, there's a perfectly suitable story happening here, not too complicated and not too simple, with a healthy helping of humor. I laughed pretty hard several times.

Rogue Nation simply delivers on its promise of being the exact kind of solid action entertainment people go to the movies for. Most movies like this, even if their action set pieces and stunts are as good, are far worse. One could say this movie is far better than it should be, especially being the fifth in a series. At least the producers came to their senses after Mission: Impossible III and ditched the numbers for titles in subsequent sequels. This series is moving into James Bond territory, something we can easily see going on in perpetuity, although the Bond films these days are still better than these. It's just that the gap is narrowing.

As with just about any spy action movie, the plot matters little. The big "change" here is that the enemy is The Syndicate, a rogue organization of former spies intent on decimating the Impossible Mission Force (here always referred to as the IMF, because that sounds less dumb). The IMF has also been discredited as outdated, and when Ethan Hunt insists on continuing to pursue the Syndicate, he becomes a fugitive himself -- hardly original stuff here. That said, a striking element of this film is its use of the female lead, British spy Ilsa Faust. This character may be played by a sexy, smouldering Rebecca Ferguson, and it's typical the primary woman cast is still between 10 and 20 years younger than the men around her, but here's the difference: Ilsa is never used as a romantic interest. Sure, her sex appeal is exploited a bit, but not really any less than Tom Cruise's. And more importantly, there's not a single sex scene in this movie. There's not even a kiss -- near the end, when plenty of other movies would have Ethan Hunt plant one on her, they opt instead for a platonic hug between people who happen to do the same thing for a living. It's nice to see even properties like Mission: Impossible treating female characters as fully realized humans with all the same capabilities as men. In fact, in this movie she saves Ethan's skin more times than he saves hers.

This is all in the broader context of a movie that, while not exactly replete with original concepts, keeps the audience on its toes with increasingly clever plot turns. But let's get right down to it: the action is still the reason anyone is going to see this movie -- and the action is indeed still what makes it worthwhile. There's genuinely gripping suspense here, with all the preposterousness you might expect, and yet in scenarios somehow more believable than they were in the franchise's earliest films. A task is declared, of course, "impossible," and then Ethan Hunt, with the help of his cohorts (played again by Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames), manages to get it done. In one case he even drowns. But only for a minute!

Even the chase scenes are filmed in unusual and interesting ways, again making us marvel at how the stunts were done -- such as in the sequence with multiple motorcycles, the camera swooping above, behind and beside them as they weave between traffic on a winding mountain two-lane highway. Much of Rogue Nation is stunningly shot, even outside the action sequences; the very opening shot is of a beautiful field with a skyline of trees in the background, immediately establishing that, if nothing else, this movie will be pretty to look at. Granted, as always with movies like this, the acting is by definition merely good; in spite of this being as much fun as it possibly can be, the actors still have to utter their fair share of dumb lines, and beyond the physicality, it's not much of a performance challenge. But who cares? No one comes to a Mission: Impossible movie for the acting. The come for the movie stars doing their own stunts in impressive set pieces. From that point of view, there's nothing disappointing about this movie.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Overall: B+
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